One of these animals is best left alone unless you are absolutely starving. Guess which one.
This week we are going to continue our breakdown of trapping and eating small game for survival, and what to look out for before digging into a nice raccoon stew. Skunks, groundhogs, and raccoons can be considered a bit more exotic than standard small game fare like squirrels and rabbits. They also have a reputation for being gamey and have an unfamiliar texture.
As we touched on in the first article of this series, hunting for meat is one of the last things you should do in a survival scenario (shelter, fire, and water procurement should always come first). This scenario also assumes that you are cut off from the wider world, have almost no supplies, and no way to contact rescuers. You can also read our guides on:
First ask yourself why. If there are any other animals in a given area, skunks will inevitably be one of the least desirable when it comes to food. Not because it tastes bad, but because it is usually not worth the effort, or stinking like skunk spray for days on end. Sometimes, however, all those snare traps you’ve set up may land you a skunk ready for the taking, so you may just consider roasting one against your better judgement.
Like almost all other small game, trapping is the best way to harvest a skunk without a gun. If the skunk is still alive and active when you come to collect it, the odds of you getting sprayed are pretty high. Even if you kill it, it is still likely to spray, so make sure you approach it carefully. If you’re feeling really impatient and don’t mind smelling like rotting garbage, than you can try Bear Grylls’ approach below:
Skinning a skunk and removing its glands can be a complicated and time-consuming process, but necessary. Here is some basic instruction on how to do that, but if you’re in a survival situation, odds are you won’t care much about the extracting the essence. The fur, however, may come in handy.
After the skunk is cleaned up, make sure to cook the meat thoroughly. Wild skunks can carry a lot of parasites, so you’re going to want to cook it until you’re certain everything is dead, and possibly even a little bit burnt.
These little devils may be the bane of your garden, but if you’re starving for meat, they’ll start looking pretty good. Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are the largest members of the squirrel family and are commonly found across North America. They generally have a lean, chewy meat that can be very nutritious. Catching them is also relatively easy, as long as you know how to build snare or other small game traps. It must be noted that groundhogs are pretty resilient creatures and may be too big and tough for most deadfall traps. A good rule of thumb is to keep the weight of your deadfall more than five times the weight of your target prey.
One way to trap a groundhog, just make sure it can’t bite through it.
Compared to other wild game, groundhogs actually have a fairly “clean” taste. This is due partly to their vegetarian diet. They also have scent glands as well, so make sure to remove them before you start cooking.
Raccoons are just about everywhere, easy to trap, easy to clean, and provide a decent amount of meat. These qualities have made raccoons a delicacy in certain places, and certainly a good choice for survival trapping. Their biggest downfall—and the reason why many people avoid them—is their reputation as carriers of rabies. It is true that raccoons can carry rabies, but most of the time, you can easily distinguish those affected by their behavior, odd movement, and lack of fear when it comes to humans. The foaming at the mouth may also be a solid indicator.
When trapping or hunting for raccoons, make sure you don’t get bitten. Fewer things spell a bad time in the wilderness than an infection, and trapped raccoons can be especially vicious.
Here’s one way to skin a raccoon:
Cooking a raccoon without seasonings or other ingredients can be a tall order. Raccoon meat will taste better if it lives in an area far away from humans, but it can still have a distinctive gamey flavor. Try roasting it or putting it in a stew. Odds are if you’re starving, you won’t mind the taste one bit.