Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cottontail Dinner

Megs is always hounding me to “take pictures for the blog, take pictures for the blog”. This event was no different but she did add the caveat… don’t make it gruesome. Although I think hunting helps to sustain a healthy habitat, the act is not for the light of heart. So when I showed Megs the action shots of cleaning said animal she was concerned for our viewers. Please note that this blog post contains pictures and descriptions of responsible hunting and if you are not interested please join us again on our next posting!

A few months ago Megs and I started to notice a trend. When I was able to get out early on Saturday morning for some “woods” time, I was a lot more enjoyable to be around during the rest of the weekend. I love my job but it comes with a lot of desk time and I really need to get out into the fresh air as much as possible to balance my sanity.

One of my absolute favorite spots to spend time outdoors recently is my buddy’s mom’s place. It is 120 acres of rolling woods and fields, northeastern Iowa cliffs and river valleys. It is a great spot all year round. My buddy AA introduced me to squirrel hunting last year and I have grown to love the activity. Most people, including myself would never dream of eating the garbage-fed tree rats in the city suburbs, however around here country squirrels are considered free range in most people’s minds.

Not an attractive woods selfie, it doesn't get much better
The idea is to get out to the woods in the dawn hours and find a grove of oaks to sit quietly and wait. Getting out early is important because you want to be in place before the squirrels wake up and come down from their nests because once they are on the forest floor they are impossible to see or shoot.

I have been out to hunt squirrels 8-9 times but only have come back with a squirrel in hand once or twice. There are always squirrels out there but grey squirrels are small and not worth the effort for the most part. Red squirrels are where it is at, but more accurately, the hunting part of the event is overshadowed by sitting quietly out in the woods and watch the world transition from night to day. Birds start to chirp, turkeys cackle, deer grunt and spit (not a majestic creature the deer), and all the nocturnal animals head to their dens.

On this outing the weather had turned cold and not much was moving around, including the squirrels. I was the only idiot not tucked up in their respective beds staying warm and dry that morning. After about an hour of meditation I stood up, stretched and decided to take a meandering valley out of the woods and back to the car. Bushwhacking through scratchy terrain is most people’s idea of torture, especially my sister, but I was having fun. Suddenly there was a flash of fun nearly under my feet. During my heart attack I realized it was a decent sized rabbit… good enough for dinner. Pop!

Once ol’ fluffy was bagged up I headed home. Megs always told me she was fine with my hunting as long as I didn’t bring anything home. Rabbit, however, is one of those animals that show up on high class menus so I thought I could swing it, and to my excitement Megs was on board. She even picked the recipe, beer braised rabbit with rosemary gravy. I set out to prep the beast for cooking. Some water, gloves, my knife and a plastic bag for the offal. I decided to lay down a spare scrap of house wrap to catch all of the what-have-you’s and keep my shop floor clean. I won’t go into detail how to clean a rabbit, you can look online…I did.


Once prepped and washed thoroughly in the sink, I cut it in 6 major components then drenched it in egg and rolled it in flour.  I heated some olive oil in our favorite La Cruset dutch oven and browned the rabbit chunks, in batches on both sides. Once that was complete I added all the chucks back into the pot and covered it with salt, pepper, rosemary, a bottle of dark beer, and a container of chicken stock. An hour later yielded a cooked rabbit, and it was now time to use the cooking stock to make gravy… I love you gravy.  Make a rue, add it to the stock, ka-pow, gravy!

Looks a little more store bought now

I liked the rabbit flavor and the gravy this recipe made was outstanding but I think the cooking instructions for the rabbit made it tougher than it could have been. We all ate it but I was the only one who ate the leftovers. One of the ladies at work makes a rabbit “McNugget” that are fabulous and I will plan that for my next foray into loveable edibles. My next foray could fairly come soon as I just found a rabbit superhighway in the back part of our property.

Stay tuned to hear all the antics of my first deer season and the 3 projects I am behind on writing about!


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