Field Skills: The Best Way to Skin a Squirrel

Field Skills: The Best Way to Skin a Squirrel

Follow these five steps to skin a squirrel. (Stock Image)

Most hunters learn how to clean a squirrel at a young age, with a sharp knife and strong arm muscles doing the hard work.

A common method involves cutting a notch under the squirrel’s tail, standing on the tail, grasping the hind legs, and pulling up to remove the fur from tail to head. Sometimes it works as planned, but other times the only thing that gets removed is the squirrel’s tail.

Another popular technique is to make a cut in the back of the bushytail, insert the index and middle fingers of each hand into the split, and pull in opposite directions to remove the skin. That requires some strong fingers.

squirrel skinner
This simple and easy to make tin plate takes a lot of the work out of skinning squirrels. (Photo by Colin Moore)

After using those methods for decades, Ronnie Coffey decided he needed a more efficient cleaning method. Once the trees in his neck of the woods have dropped their leaves, Coffey sets out to hunt gray squirrels with his bloody mountain, Little Stubby, an accomplished hunter who has caught many bushy tails for his master over the years.

A few seasons ago, after a particularly tedious squirrel-cleaning session, the 66-year-old Kentucky resident developed a contraption that makes skinning a squirrel much easier. Coffey says that his “Ronnie’s Simple Skinner” was the result of common sense combined with a desire to simplify the skinning process.

Taking a 1/16-inch-thick sheet of metal that was about the size of a plate, he drilled a series of holes in one end to attach the skinner to a tree or fence post at chest height with a pair of screws. . He then cut two notches in one side of the sheet with a power saw to support a squirrel’s hind legs and added a third notch between them to support its tail. Is that how it works:

Skinned squirrel steps 1 and 2
  • STEP 1: Hang a squirrel in the outer notches by the feet, with the animal’s belly toward the tree.
  • STEP 2: Cut the tailbone of the squirrel and remove some of the skin.
Skinned squirrel steps 3 and 4
  • STEP 3: Remove the legs from their notches and turn the squirrel over so its belly is facing out. Place the tail in the center notch.
  • STEP 4: Grasp the hind legs and feet and pull down so the skin comes off the squirrel.
Skinned squirrel steps 5 and 6
  • STEP 5: Cut off the feet and remove the intestines and other organs.
  • STEP 6: Remove the squirrel’s head and rinse the body with water.

Coffey does not sell the skinning contraption, although he has given several away to grateful family and friends who share his interest in squirrel hunting.

“It’s pretty simple to do,” the Columbia, Ky., farmer says of his skinner. “But each of the notches should be quite long and deep and meet at a point. Don’t make them too short or they’ll be too wide and won’t catch anything. You should make the notch and angle wide enough to catch what you’re trying to hold.”

With Ronnie’s Simple Skinner, the hardest part of skinning a squirrel is getting the squirrel in the first place.


Two new blades that are up to the task.

buck knives
Model 110 Hunter Sport (above) and Buck Knives Model 112 Slim Pro TRX.

The Buck Knives catalog currently includes more than 150 knives, and a couple of newcomers to the line are uniquely qualified to tackle the tough tasks of skinning squirrels. Both the Model 110 Hunter Sport ($144.95; and Model 112 Slim Pro TRX ($114.95) feature a clip-point blade made from S30V steel with a satin finish.

The 110 Hunter Sport has a 3 3/4-inch blade, OD green canvas micarta handle scales, and an aluminum frame to reduce weight. This lockback-style knife features dual thumb studs for ambidextrous opening and a pocket clip to keep it secure. The 112 Slim Pro TRX has a 3-inch blade, which can also be opened with either hand thanks to the double thumb buttons. Their handle scales are made from durable G10 material and are available in OD Green, Black, and Bright Orange. A pocket clip is also included. Both knives are covered with the company’s “Forever Warranty”.