On our Bushcraft courses we teach game preparation and get students to prep their own food so they know how to, should the need ever arise in the wilderness.
This is a walk through guide on how to skin and butcher a rabbit for food. You can learn more techniques like this by signing up to a Wildway Bushcraft course. Using this method will also allow you to keep the pelt in the most useful condition so you can use it for making items such as slippers and bags.
We will start at the point where you have got your hands on a rabbit. Assuming the rabbit looks fit and healthy, you will need to kill it.
You will want to do this as quickly and as painlessly as possible, showing the utmost respect to the animal. You are aiming for a humane dispatch, this can be achieved by giving the rabbit two sharp strong blows to the back of its head. This can be done with either your hand in a chopping motion or by using a good solid round of timber. Take your time and be firm to ensure you get it right the first time. To check the rabbit is dead, check the corneal reflex. You do this by poking the animal in the eye. If you get any reaction from the eye, the rabbit is not dead. If this is the case, hit it again, hard.
So we now have a dead, healthy looking rabbit. Now what?
Empty the bladder of the animal by pushing down on the rabbits belly and moving downwards as you do so. You may see urine being expelled; if the rabbit went to the loo before you caught it you may not!
Take a knife, place the rabbit on its back and using the tip of your knife, carefully cut upwards from the rabbits belly button area to its ribcage. Be careful not to nick the rabbits guts, this is a sure fire way to taint the meat.
Once you have made the cut, use your hand to remove the offal and guts of the rabbit. Good. Job done!
Now snap the rabbits back legs at what would be the knee on a human. Once you have broken the bone cut it off with your knife.
Do the same with the front paws. You now have 4 lucky rabbits feet!
Turning the rabbit on its back, use your fingers to separate the skin from the meat. Keep pulling and working the skin away until you have got to its back. Now do the same from the other side. You will now have a rabbit hand bag!
Continue removing the skin towards the back legs and pull the skin off the back legs. This can be quite tough so be firm.
Once you have done this, do the same with the front. Again be firm and and it will come off.
You should at this point have a naked rabbit with its own fur as a cloak. Remove any last bits of skin until you are up to the neck area. When you are, firmly twist off the head and pull it away. You will now be left with a rabbit hand puppet.
Using your knife, cut the shoulders off of the rabbit. They are not attached by a bone or joint so they will come off easily.
Next, spread the hind legs and break the ball and socket joint. Cut the animals “bottom” out using a V shape cut where the tail was. This will remove the anal passage and any droppings yet to be passed plus the scent glands which if left in can smell foul when the meat is cooking. When you have done this, you will be able to cut off the legs at the joint just as you did with the front legs.
Remove the skirts from the animal – these can be turned into rabbit jerky by adding salt and drying them out over the smoke of your fire. You will now be able to break the spine just after the rib cage and cut through the rabbit to remove the loins – these are the best bits in my opinion!
Use the ribs to create a stock and slowly boil up the joints to create a rabbit stew.
I hope you found this useful. If you wish to learn more about game prep and other bushcraft skills then check out our bushcraft courses held in Dorset and Hampshire.