Georgia Pellegrini Votes for Gourmet Squirrel Table Fare
Bob McNally 03.01.16
Georgia Pellegrini was wise moving to Dixie–not for the weather, but for the squirrel hunting.
Pellegrini has made a fast name for herself as a chef, book author, and now hunter. Raised in New York and educated at prestigious private schools such as Wellesley College, Pellegrini’s first career was a Wall Street banker. But she ditched the city suits when her love for cooking turned her to become a chef in New York City, then in France.
She quickly learned that wild game meat was superior to all domestic fare, so she became a hunter to harvest her own feast. Now she is an author with a top-selling book called “Girl Hunter,” which has brought her significant media fame.
“Some consider squirrel to be the best meat in the woods,” states the long-hair blonde with Hollywood looks who now lives in Texas. “On my journey as a chef, I have come to think that it [squirrel] may be the best meat period.
“If you were to tell that to a group of my stiletto-heeled pals on a Manhattan evening, which I have done, you would be met with textbook female gasps and sideways glances. But the truth is that squirrel hunting is more American than apple pie, than Babe Ruth, than a twenty-dollar Manhattan. Whole traditions have formed around squirrels; guns have been crafted in their honor. Few things are more intertwined with American history and tradition.
“The texture of squirrel meat is denser, the color grayer, and the flavor more complex because of this.”
And that’s why Pellegrini made a good decision in moving to the South where the squirrel seasons are long, and in some states there even are spring seasons. Plus the daily bag limits are remarkably liberal, some states allowing a dozen per day.
Moreover, there is plenty of public hunting for southern squirrels.
Squirrels are ideal targets for young sportsmen learning about the woods, guns, and hunting. And success is usually good, with plenty of game for the larder.
Dusted in seasoned flour and fried slowly to a golden brown like chicken, squirrel has few equals on a dinner plate. Many Dixie squirrel hunters and cooks make gravy for accompanying rice or potatoes and a green vegetable on the side.
Late-season bushytails usually are out-and-about foraging for much longer periods then earlier in the year because they have a more difficult time locating ample food. Not only are acorns scarce by February, but because it’s cold, squirrels must consume more food to maintain body heat. So they’re out of nests and dens for longer periods–frequently through a day, especially during overcast weather.
Another plus for hunting squirrels now is trees are beginning to bud. When this happens, squirrels head to the timber tops to eat tender new green tree shoots. Squirrels are easy to spot during these conditions because many leaves have fallen.
Maple tree buds are like candy to squirrels, and often a hunter sitting under a healthy maple tree at dawn can shoot a limit of squirrels in a very short time.
Yet most of the time still hunting is best for late-season squirrels instead of sitting for long periods in a hardwood grove or creek bottom. Waiting beside hickory or oak trees rarely is productive late in the year because nuts are not in abundance, so squirrels aren’t drawn to selected spots. They seem more scattered late in the year, so it makes sense to stalk.