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Skin ‘Em!

Skin ‘Em!
Small Game Folders.

Aman lost in the vast wilderness of Australia declared he would not trade his big survival knife for a rifle. He went on to back it up with multiple uses and his eventual return to safety. Knives intended for heavy-duty outback chores, especially folders and fixed blades for big game, are the most appealing. But for every time a big blade comes forth to shave a piece of wood into kindling, build a hasty shelter, or make a buck, bull or boar field ready, the little one surrenders myriad services. The pocket or jackknife is named for Jacque (Jack) De Liege (so the history lesson goes). The Swiss Army knife was invented in 1881 when Karl Elsener made a wooden handle model with screwdriver, punch and can opener. The rest is, as they say, history, and both types serve well for small game and birds.

And then there is the small game knife, alone in its own niche. It’s not as romantic as the Bowie, nor as serviceable as the big survival blade, and less efficient than the larger fixed blade or folder for big-game work. But for the hunter who goes for rabbits and squirrels, as well as bullfrogs, possums, game birds of all stripes, and other small edibles, the little knife is just right.

For me, make this special knife a small folder. On a recent woods hunt for the colorful and totally edible Abert’s tree squirrel, I had along a duo of special little knives that did the job to ultimate perfection. Its designer named them the Spike and Rover, two selected as examples of the small-game knife family.

Compact Performance

The responsible company, Knives of Alaska, is now located in Dennison, Texas, a little warmer clime over the previous location in the Great Land. Charles Allen, Alaska big-game guide, bush pilot and outfitter, came up with the set. He hand-tests all of the company’s products and built the foursome with D2 High Carbon Tool Steel (RhC: 59-61) with tough Micarta handles. Both use the friction lock system and are USA-made with a limited lifetime warranty.

Along with the Spike, there is the Model 400, a Spike on steroids, but still only 6.20″ open at 2.0-ounces (the Spike is 5.25″ open at 1.4 ounces). The Ranger, sized like the 400, but with a drop point rather than spear blade, is an option too. Of course, all the knives are widely suitable for everyday carry as well as small-game/bird work.

For rabbits, my choice is the Spike solo or similar knife with spear point blade. For squirrels, make it the Spike plus the Rover, or a similar combination spear and drop point. The rabbit wears his fur coat in relaxed looseness corresponding with its sedate nature. The squirrel prefers the more stylish sleek fur coat fit close to the body matching its frenetic lifestyle. One slit amidships on the rabbit and the hide peels off from middle-to-head, middle-to-tail. But the bushytailed often requires actual skinning and that’s why I like the duo. The pointed blade eviscerates — rounded blade skins.

Small-Game Winners

The rabbit is number 1, tree squirrel number 2 in the small-game world, and both have fed prehistory man to pioneer to astronaut. There are a few wrinkles turning these worthy edibles into superb table fare. Field care is first, of course.

For Mr. Rabbit, make a circular belly cut, and pull the hide off fore-and-aft. Slit the belly skin open from anus to neck. Whirl the opened carcass swiftly to expel innards via centrifugal force, and scoop out the rest. Remove the head and lower limbs. Let the meat cool, but don’t leave it unattended in the snow bank I chose once — only to find all the tasty loins eaten by magpies.

For Mr. Squirrel, it’s much the same field job, with a little skinning to remove the tighter hide. At home, larger knives go to work. Both edibles cut easily into five pieces: two front legs, two back, and the “back strap” or loin section. Vital on the rabbit is to slit down the backbone, then peal the tough cover tissue off and discard.

To make tender, parboil the meat, which for me means 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Make sure the water fully covers the meat and add 4 to 6 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 of Worcestershire, a couple cloves of garlic if you want, along with some salt and pepper and seasoned salt — exact ingredients are your choice, and certainly not specific. Remove the meat from the cooker. Heat a frying pan about medium with canola oil. Brown the pieces nicely, while finishing to cook to done, just through. Lower heat and add water to just cover meat, plus several bouillon cubes and simmer. A few condiments on the meat are okay, but no salt in the frying pan please. Those bouillon cubes are salty enough. Serve de-boned meat pieces over white rice. Slather all with broth from the frying pan and put veggies on the side. You can’t go wrong with this cooking method.

The lowly rabbit and second-class squirrel afford countless hours of enjoyable and healthy field life. Both are available with long seasons in most places, including that after the big-game hunt period when winter sets in. Neither rabbit nor squirrel hibernates, although the squirrel is prone to sit out bad weather in his den. I never attempt to hunt the bushytail in strong rain or wind, although I have had success during a mild snowfall.

Available, cheap to hunt, often close to home, good to eat — made totally ready with that small-game knife — we’re lucky to have both of these open season prizes in abundance! Don’t be afraid to try it out. It’s fun and a good reason to dust off that old single-shot .22 you no doubt have.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/knives-of-alaska, (903) 786-7366

By Sam Fadala

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