Subsistence hunting is nothing new, nor was it ever limited to just aboriginal people. My father told this story from the Great Depression:
by Leon Pantenburg
The farmer was mad as hell when he caught Dad on his property. Dad, probably about 11 or 12 at the time, had only shot his .22 rifle, loaded with shorts, twice. But as he was coming out of the cornfield (not far from the “No Hunting” sign) with two squirrels in hand, the landowner was thoroughly hacked off and waiting with a shotgun.
“I’m calling the sheriff! You people just come on my land and kill any damn thing you can!” the big, red-faced man yelled. “What’s your name, boy? What’s your daddy’s name??!!”
“Charles Pantenburg. My dad is Pete.”
A pause. The farmer’s face seemed to lose some of the angry flush as he looked over the poacher. The man was, after all, confronting a skinny, hungry-looking kid in ragged clothes.
“Your family lives a couple miles away? ”
Another pause, as the farmer was calmed down.
“Your daddy was one who lost his farm.”
The farm, 160 acres south of Ames, Iowa, had been in the family since my great-great-grandfather, James Hollowell, settled there after the Civil War. But the ripple effect of the 1929 stock market crash created a tsunami that wiped out thousands of small farmers. When Pete couldn’t pay the back taxes, the family was evicted from the house Pete’s dad built. It hadn’t taken long to go from prosperity to homelessness.
Pete tried to find any kind of work, and every day after school, my Dad hunted small game. Sometimes, all the family had to eat was what Dad killed.
The farmer looked around and swore again, but this time, at nothing in particular.
“You follow me up to the house!” he ordered, and marched back through the standing corn. Dad trailed along behind, sure that he was in deep trouble. The farmer went inside the farmhouse, and re-appeared with some eggs.
“Here. Don’t you come back here sneaking around,” he ordered. “Next time you go hunting, you go in through the front gate so I know who is out there!”
Squirrel In Cream Sauce (from “Linda Stephenson’s Wild Game Dutch Oven Cooking)
2 squirrels, cleaned and cut into serving pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 (4 oz) can mushrooms, sliced and drained
1 c beef broth
1 c sour cream
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs flour
In a large bowl, soak squirrel in salted water overnight. Remove pieces and rinse. Combine squirrel, onion, thyme, mushrooms and broth in Dutch oven. Cook for two hours.
Remove meat to a platter and keep warm. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice and flour, stir well. Add sour cream mixture into Dutch oven and stir until thickened. Spoon sauce over meat.(Linda recommends using a 12-inch Dutch oven, with a temperature of about 325 degrees.)