Jan. 5, 2022
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
CASSCOE — With squirrel season in full swing until the end of February and the statewide Big Squirrel Challenge this weekend, Wil Hafner, facility manager for the AGFC’s Potlatch Cook’s Lake Nature Center in east-central Arkansas, has pulled a page from his wild game cookbook to pique the interest of hunters and home cooks alike. This time he’s giving up the goods on a bayou classic: boudin.
“Boudin is a popular Cajun sausage consisting of meat and rice,” Hafner said. “Traditional boudin consists of pork shoulder, pork liver, Cajun spices and the trinity (equal parts bell pepper, onion and celery). Boudin also is a great use for many wild game species, including the highly abundant squirrel.”
Other wild game meats can be substituted for the squirrel, and Hafner has a particular fondness for waterfowl in the dish. The recipe makes big batches, so it’s a great rainy-day activity to prepare and freeze for later. Just be sure to save a little sample for the night you prepare it. A quick roll in breadcrumbs and a dip in some hot grease will have you digging into the storage bags quicker than they can freeze.
Boudin eggrollCook’s Lake Bushytail Boudin
12 squirrels, cleaned and quartered
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
2 jalapenos, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 cups long grain white rice, cooked
Place squirrels in a crock pot. Add the yellow onions, celery, garlic, bell and jalapeno peppers, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and chicken stock. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours until the squirrel begins to fall off of the bone. Remove the squirrel and separate the meat from the bones, place the meat in mixing bowl, discard the bones, strain the broth. Add the warm cooked rice to the meat mixture as well as the green onion, parsley, 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and 1 cup of the reserved broth. Wearing gloves, mix until consistency is almost paste-like. Meat can be stuffed into hog casings and poached, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried or wrapped and fried in an eggroll wrapper.
Don’t forget to sign up for the AGFC’s statewide Big Squirrel Challenge, a fun event where participants can bring their biggest three squirrels from the day’s hunt to a weigh-in (field dressed, but with the skin on), to have a chance at prizes and medals. Visit www.agfc.com/bigsquirrel for more information.
FORT SMITH — Despite hunters from eight locations in Arkansas bringing in squirrels to be weighed for this weekend’s inaugural Big Squirrel Challenge, it was bushytail fanatics from western Arkansas who claimed top honors in this year’s statewide squirrel-hunting contest put on by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The contest, which had more than 600 individuals register online through the AGFC’s Facebook page, saw 75 teams bring in their results of an evening and morning hunt for gray and fox squirrels. Each team of two people was allowed to bring in three field-dressed squirrels to be weighed, but the father/son team of Jeff and Aiden Armer took home the top prize with a bag limit weighing 3062.8 grams (slightly heavier than 6 lbs. 12 oz.). Not only did they win the statewide youth division, but they also brought in the biggest squirrels for any team, statewide.
“We hunted a little Friday night, but we got most of our squirrels on Saturday after the wind stopped blowing around Van Buren,” Jeff Armer said. “We got six fox squirrels and weighed in our heaviest three. Four of the six came out within 10 to 15 minutes of the wind dying down.”
Armer said he and his son hunt and fish regularly, and enjoy squirrel hunting fairly often.
“We’re fortunate that we have access to some great private land through family and friends, and we also have great public opportunities with the National Forest right here.”
In the open class, Fort Smith hunters Eiichrio “Jack” and Jayden Ishii brought in the top spot behind their squirrel dog with 3013.2 grams (6 lbs. 10 oz.) of squirrels. And in the adult class Clayton Reano and Israel Kennedy edged out competition throughout the state with 2430.4 grams (5 lbs. 5 oz.) of squirrels taken during the two-day event.
The top three teams at each of the eight weigh-in locations received medals featuring an acorn to remember the event. The overall winners in each division also received a pair of Gamo Swarm hunting air rifles and a special engraved Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun.
“We had a good response from participants, and in many places hunters were hanging out after the weigh-in talking about getting together for future hunts and exchanging phone numbers,” Eric Maynard, AGFC assistant chief of Education, said. “We also had quite a few hunters who harvested their first squirrel this year and received “First Squirrel” Certificates.
One participant even said they hunted squirrels for the first time this year because of the event. “Maybe it was the prizes, the friendly competition or maybe it was just a good excuse to get out and try something new,” Maynard said. “Whatever the motivation, it’s great to hear about someone taking up squirrel hunting for the first time because of our event.