If you’re a homesteader or small-scale farmer, you’ve likely engaged in varmint battles over the years. How many times have you gone out to your chicken coop, only to find a bloody pile of feathers? Or went to check on your garden, and found your zucchini crop gone, plants and all? Have you watched as all the walnuts on your trees seemingly vanished right before your eyes?
Varmint animals are smart, sneaky and can do a number on your homestead. Protecting your livestock and crops, and keeping local varmint populations under control, is a crucial task for most homesteaders. But maybe you can beat them at their own game, too. Many of the most common varmints are edible themselves and make excellent table fare. Here are three nuisance animals that might be your next meal.
Woodchucks are found throughout the Eastern United States and into Canada. They often wreak havoc on garden beds with their ravenous appetites. Their burrows are a hazard in fields, and they can even undermine earthen dams over time. People often pay exterminators good money to get rid of them. Fortunately, woodchucks are also delicious.
Woodchucks used to be eaten commonly a few decades ago. Their meat is tasty, and it can be prepared much like any other small game animals. Woodchuck pie is a hearty meal worth trying on an autumn day. Wash it down with a glass of fresh cider. Woodchucks are also great in stew as well.
Dispatching woodchucks is not particularly hard. You can trap them, or use a small caliber rifle to shoot one. If you plan on hunting them, be prepared to shoot quick, and from a distance; they are never very far from a burrow entrance they can duck in to. They are straightforward to butcher, too, although you need to remove their scent glands before cooking.
Chances are you have squirrels where you live and do battle with them from time to time. They can threaten fruit and nut crops, as well as garden beds. They sometimes gnaw their way into your home and nest in attics, making a real mess. And they’ll certainly take more than their fair share at your bird feeders if given half a chance. Fortunately, squirrels are easy to kill and tasty to eat.
Squirrels don’t fear humans too much, especially when they’re in trees. You can often shoot two or more with a small caliber rifle before they get the hint. They’re also quite easy to trap as well; a squirrel pole is simple to build, and one of the most effective traps out there.
It typically takes a few squirrels to make a good meal. Fortunately, they aren’t too hard to hunt or trap. Once you have killed a few, try serving your family some baked squirrel. Squirrel is also terrific base meat to use in a slow cooker recipe as well.
Depending where you live, crows can be a real nuisance. They can descend on your garden en masse and tear it apart. They will steal food from your poultry, and at times will even kill baby chicks. Fortunately, despite the old idiom about eating crow, they can be quite tasty.
Hunt crow in your fields like you would kill any small game bird. It’s best to use a 20 or .410 gauge shotgun. Crows are smart and often get out of range before you can shoot them. However, sometimes they get complacent when they’re living around humans for a while. Most crow recipes call for using breast meat, which is relatively small. Like squirrels, you’ll need to shoot a few crows to get enough for a meal.
Once you’ve shot and dressed a few crows, try cooking them up in a delicious blackbird pie. Alternatively, you could make a crow and mushroom stew as well. Pair either of these meals with a wine made from berries these crows would have eaten up in your garden had you given them the chance.
Make sure you check your local hunting or trapping regulations before you go after these or any other nuisance animals; always be a safe, courteous hunter, too. Once you’ve ensured that you’re okay to hunt these varmints, have at it! It is quite satisfying to make a tasty meal out of nuisance animals that would have terrorized your crops or livestock if given half a chance. Happy hunting!