When people picture themselves in a survival situation, the image normally depicts them sitting by a fire with a rabbit on a spit. That’s great, if you can catch one! Without a trap, net or snare you’ll have little chance; even then it may well be a few days before you’re rewarded. Assuming that you’ve caught your rabbit, what are you going to do with it? You could roast it over the fire, or better still, make a stew if you have a container. A stew is always better as you can add all of your other finds; in addition to this more of the goodness is retained.
Whichever method you use to cook your rabbit, you will need to prepare it first. You may not find this too appealing but nevertheless it’s necessary and once you’ve done one it’s really no big deal.
First Things First
Hold your rabbit with the head toward you, its belly up and its rear end pointing toward the floor at around 45 degrees. Slide your thumb firmly down the lower abdomen to release the contents of the rabbit’s bladder. If you don’t do this, it’s almost certain that at some point it will spray out all over you and it’s not a particularly pleasant fragrance, as you would probably expect. Now lay your rabbit out on its back and pinch the skin on its belly so that you have only the skin and not the flesh underneath. When you have this, make a cut about 15 mm long toward its head without puncturing the gut. Now push your middle finger between the underside of the skin and the membrane, once you have some space carry on cutting the skin toward the neck, again being careful not to pierce the membrane.
Continue around the rabbit until you have undressed it, cutting off each leg at the first joint will allow you to pull the skin off. You should now have an un-punctured rabbit with its skin attached only at the neck. Now remove the skin from the head leaving a totally skinned rabbit. By doing it this way you have kept your hands dry and no blood/fluids have yet been released. It’s not that you mind the stuff on your hands (if you do, you’re in the wrong job) but the fact that as the blood dries and goes sticky everything else will stick to your fingers making the more intricate work difficult.
I find the best way to do this, bearing in mind that we need some of the organs to eat is as follows:
Make an incision just through the membrane into the abdomen, now put your hand in and remove the contents; we need to retrieve the heart, liver and kidneys to roast or include in our stew. You may put aside the rest as bait to trap other animals. Clean the abdominal cavity with your fingers to make sure that nothing remains (lungs etc,), taking special care to clear what remains of the lower intestine. To do this simply push your middle finger from inside the abdominal cavity out through the rabbit’s anus until your finger is visible, this will push any faeces out with it.
Tophow Tip: If you’re thinking about giving up biting your fingernails, now’s a good time to start!
Cleaning the Carcass and Cooking
Wash the carcass, along with your hands in fresh water. I have assumed here that you will have a water supply nearby (stream, spring, lake etc.). If you haven’t and have little or no drinking water it may be wise not to eat the rabbit until you have; the reason for this is that your body will use fluid to digest the meat. It may sound harsh but you can do without the rabbit, the fluid is much more valuable. You now have your rabbit, its heart, liver and kidneys ready to cook. If you are roasting it over a fire, do it whole as it’s easier to skewer; if you’re making a stew, cut it up into the sizes required. Remember, small pieces cook quicker. Boil the head, the goodness from it benefits the taste of any stew.
What About Other Animals?
You can follow this general procedure with most animals, squirrels, hares, rats etc. Larger animals such as deer are best supported by their hind legs.
I have not included images of these processes being done for two reasons. The first is that the website is not dedicated only to survival and bushcraft subjects, as such I feel that it would be insensitive to display these images on a professional broad-based travel website; the reader having the option on whether to continue with the article after reading the title. The second is that I have been quite explicit in the descriptions and in doing so feel that images would be of little additional help.
As always, should any reader require additional information or advice on this or indeed, any previous articles, I am always more than happy to help.