You should gut furred small game as soon as possible, especially rabbits and hares, because there’s something about their innards that allows them to sour very quickly. In warm weather, it only takes an hour or so for the thin abdominal muscles to start turning greenish blue. It’s easier to skin rabbits or squirrels before they’re gutted, as the hide comes off more easily if the animal is completely intact. But leaving the hide in place is a great way to keep the meat clean, so it’s generally better to gut an animal immediately after harvest and delay skinning until you’re in an environment suit- able for processing.

I handle squirrels and rabbits in only one way, by parting them into five pieces—four legs and a ribless back. Virtually all species of furred small game, including oddballs such as muskrats and porcupines, can be parted out in similar fashion. Remove the back legs at the ball joint that sits on the upper end of the femur. The front legs are connected by ligaments; there are no ball joints, so they slice away easily. The legless body can then be chopped crosswise into two pieces. Make the cut just below the rib cage.

For a more detailed pictorial breakdown of both a squirrel and a rabbit, get your hands on The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Small Game & Fowl by Steven Rinella.

To watch Steve skin and clean a rabbit, click here: