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Wisconsin home to 10 species of squirrels

Two species of chipmunks are among the 10 species of squirrels that inhabit Wisconsin.

Gray squirrels are a frequent visitor to bird feeders. Some folks consider them a pest as they frequently feed on seeds placed specifically for the birds.

Long ago, Sal and I decided that any animal that came to our feeders in search of a handout had an equal right to the food placed there. Over the years we have enjoyed the antics of both the gray and red squirrels as they made their daily stops. We also feel that flying squirrels will visit our feeders over night as we have seen sets of small tracks set in newly fallen snow which are different than those left by mice.

Wisconsin is the home of 10 species of squirrels. Besides the gray and red squirrel, we have the fox squirrel, two species of flying squirrels (Northern and Southern), two species of chipmunk (Eastern and Least), the 13 lined ground squirrel, the Franklin's ground squirrel and the woodchuck. Black squirrels are considered a color variation of the gray squirrel. All squirrels are members of the rodent family.

The fox squirrel prefers older wooded areas and is frequently seen high up in some of the larger trees. Flying squirrels are not really flyers but gliders using the web-like folds of skin stretched between their front and back legs to glide from tree to tree. Chipmunks will hibernate in cold weather but will wake to feed during winter warm spells.

During the last stretch of warm weather, I noticed a chipmunk that was sitting in our drain spout at the rear of our house. It moved to a piece of large PVC pipe that I had placed on the ground next to a retaining wall. This was where he/she was apparently overwintering. I placed a pile of sunflower seeds at the edge of the pipe and over the course of that afternoon, the energetic animal scurried from seed pile to the pipe, each time stuffing his cheeks to overflowing. He repeatedly made the cycle until not a single seed remained. That must have been one happy chipmunk as it replenished its winter food supply.

Sausage Making

Following the opening weekend of the deer gun season, some members of our hunting group get together to quarter and butcher our harvest. We cut chops, steaks and roasts plus grind the venison trimmings into burger. We salvage the suet and fat for the birds.

The proceeds from the sale of the deer hides go into a kitty used to supplement some of the next year hunt's social activities. A few of us take the deer carcasses to hang for the birds and I take the trimmings from the burger meat and process that in the slow cooker producing some nutritious dog food. Every part of the deer is utilized with nothing wasted.

Two years ago, we decided to expand our horizon a bit and made our own sausage. My brother-in-law had purchased a commercial grinder and stuffer so we now had the equipment to give the sausage making experiment a try.

We started out slowly, settling on an Italian blend which we mixed up and stuffed into natural casings. We purchased some pork roasts on sale to provide some moisture to the lean venison mix. To our surprise the end product was extremely delicious and rivaled anything one could purchase in the local supermarket. When cooked on the grill, there was no shrinkage and little, if any, spatter. We were on our way.

Last year, following a successful deer season, we concocted a regular bratwurst blend and also made up a special batch using Mexican peppers provided by my nephew who lives in Arizona. The peppers came with the guarantee to rank at the top of the hotness scale. They did not disappoint and again we had a product that we felt exceeded our expectations.

This year, buoyed by the success of the last two years, we decided on ratcheting it up another notch. We blended up a batch of Polish sausage, Sheboygan brats, pepper brats and one of our own concoction of onions, peppers and just about every type of spice we had available in my sister's spice rack. As in the past, my sister, Sally, and wife, Sally, made sure we followed proper sanitary procedures on culinary preparation. The Sals also handled the packaging and quality control to assure a uniform product.

Following the preparation of each sausage batch, we made up a large patty of our product and upon completion of the process we grilled each patty to test the texture and taste. Washed down with a cold Leinies Original, all four proved exceptional. We had a hard time deciding on which one we liked best.

Our sausage preparation has proven to be very easy and enjoyable along with providing a change of pace that will be enjoyed over the coming year on the grill. We are looking forward to our 2012 sausage preparation outing if the deer will again cooperate this fall. Who knows what delectable fare we might come up with?