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How to Field Dress a Rabbit or a Squirrel - Small Game

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Understand that supermarket meat is well-tested and ready for human consumption.

The same is not true of meat from animals you kill. On the contrary they can and often do carry diseases and parasites.

Getting a clean shot is the most important step in any field dressing.

With a messy kill internal organs can mix together, hair and parasites can enter the carcass and, depending on your weapon, you may not have much rabbit left to eat.

Understand the dangers of gutting a rabbit incorrectly.

Blood born diseases and parasites, along with spoiled food are some of the dangers of not field dressing or gutting correctly. Some of these dangers include:

  • Warbles a type of common parasite found in most wild animals. Warbles live under the skin, but outside of the ‘meat’ and are planted by Bot flies. They can infect humans, cattle, sheep and squirrels. Warbles on game are not harmful to humans. The only way to contract this parasite is with contact with an adult bot fly. Rabbits (etc) with warbles are completely edible and should not be discarded.
  • Tularemia or Rabbit fever is a decreasing but serious disease carried through the blood and the air that attacks the internal organs. Humans are often infected by a tick bite or through handling an infected animal. Ingesting infected water, soil, or food can also cause infection. Tularemia can be acquired by inhalation; hunters are at a higher risk for this disease because of the potential of inhaling the bacteria during the skinning process. Always carefully inspect the liver of your rabbit for white, yellow or any other spotting which can indicate Tularemia. If you even suspect you see spots, discard the carcass right away.

Field dress your Rabbit or Squirrel

  • Always field dress your rabbit immediately to greatly reduce your risks.

Keep everything clean.

    • Do not use dirty water.
    • Keep the carcass away from mud, dirt, twigs, leaves or other contaminants
    • Use a clean stick to hold the carcass open.
    • Use a clean knife.
    • Wear thick latex or thick rubber gloves. If Possible
    • Remove the head and feet of your rabbit, cutting at the ankles.

 

 Holding the back skin of the rabbit with your fingers make a cut through the skin and over the back, but not into the meat.

  • Peel back the skin of the rabbit, or hide, in both directions with your fingers.
  • Take care to not let the fur or hide touch the carcass.
  • Remove the complete skin of the animal, including the tail.

Remove the complete entrails of the rabbit using one of these methods:

Let the body hang and cool down for a little while.

  • You can also wash it. The carcass should be maintained at a temperature not exceeding 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit)

 Prepare the meat for consumption

Understand that processed and packaged meat goes through extensive testing to make sure it is safe for public consumption. Wild game that you have killed obviously does not go through such a process and therefore special precautions are called for:

    1. Always wash your hands before preparing food and keep raw meat away from other food.
    2. Thaw your meat in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter.
    3. Use a meat thermometer to check that it is cooked all the way through.
    4. Clean the thermometer after each use.
    5. Cook any meat you kill to well done. The department of health suggests indicates a temperature of 82 degrees Celsius (180 degrees Fahrenheit); or higher and the use of a meat thermometer.

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