Introduction: How to Skin and Cook Gopher

Picture of How to Skin and Cook Gopher

Step by step instructions for going about skinning, primitively cooking and eating the Common Pocket Gopher.

Warning: The skinning and gutting of an animal is considered graphic by some. Pictures within this Instructable may be discomforting.

Disclaimer: A creature was harmed and consumed in this instructable. I will say that he struck the first blow by mercilessly eating my garden veggies. I'f you'd like to see how I trap these, by CLICKING HERE you can watch a video on how its done.

Step 1: Remove the Head

Picture of Remove the Head

Though this is inelegant and a distasteful task for some, the removal of the head is a step that all of our meat products must undergo. A knife should have no problem cutting through the skin and muscles of the neck. Your knife can find a joint between vertebrae and work its way through to sever the spine or, being a small creature, you can twist the head until it "pops" the spine apart.

Note: If this is being done for survival reasons, cooking and consumption of the head may be an option to consider.

Step 2: Removal of Guts and Organs

Picture of Removal of Guts and Organs

Once the head has been removed, it is time to open the abdominal and chest cavity in order to remove the guts and internal organs. An incision can be made with a knife starting at the genital opening and shallowly cutting up towards the chest and neck. This should open the body cavity of the gopher so that the internal organs are visible and accessible.

Note: Take care not to cut the digestive organs or bladder as meat contamination will occur if either is ruptured.

Remove all organs, again taking care not to rupture or tear the bladder and portions of the digestive system. The heart and liver are particularly useful for fishing/trapping as well as additional meat to cook and consume.

Step 3: Remove the Skin

Picture of Remove the Skin

Gophers are small creatures which can make skin removal relatively easy (no knife necessary for this step). Starting at the nape of the neck, pulling the loose skin from the back will begin to reveal clean muscle. Continue separating skin from muscle until you reach the arms or legs. With the limbs of the gopher, peel the skin off of the paws like you would a sock. The skin should release revealing smooth muscle and bare claws.

You can remove the claws if they bother you, but at this point it is assumed that you've already made some questionable choices making the decision to skin and cook this thing.... claws or no claws might be the least of your concerns at this moment.

Step 4: Spit for Cooking

Picture of Spit for Cooking

Once the meat has been washed, it is time to prepare it for the fire. There are many types of spit that can be used to cook over a fire, for this Instructable I have incorporated a two pronged spit. Regardless of spit design, all should be made from young living branches (spits made of dead wood will catch fire causing you to lose your meal). The spit is sharpened and pushed through the largest/thickest portions of the gopher to ensure that it will not fall off during the cooking process. Notice that the forks are also keeping the body splayed to increase surface area, thus insuring even and complete cooking of the meat.

Step 5: Place Your Meal Over the Fire

Picture of Place Your Meal Over the Fire

Cooking should be done slowly and steadily. Coals are ideal, but a small fire will do the job. The meat should be placed high enough to receive mild heat and smoke from the campfire, NOT IN THE FLAMES! It is better to cook meat slowly and thoroughly rather than searing and charring your potential meal. The small/thin nature of this meat means that it can easily dry out and become inedible quickly if exposed to intense heat. Be sure to turn your spit to allow for even cooking, but be patient. I will usually wait until browning has occurred before re-positioning. The more you move and handle the spit, the more chances you have of dropping and losing your meal to the fire.

Step 6: Eat Up!

Picture of Eat Up!

Once your gopher has been thoroughly cooked, it is time to eat this unique delicacy. To make sure that the meat is full cooked, check for blood or uncooked portions deep in thick muscle and within joints (I usually pull a limb off to do this). If the meat is cooked, begin pulling segments off and enjoy!

WARNING: Be sure to allow for the meat to cool after it has come off of the fire.

If in a survival situation, do not forget about the bones. The large bones of the gopher will contain nutritious marrow which can be ground up or cooked down in a soup for an additional meal.

Step 7: Watch This Video to See How It's Done

Not a step, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video ought to be worth at least a thousand
pictures. Click on the video above to see how it's done.

Check out my YouTube Channel to see more Videos like this one: HorseBackBob


GaleG1 (author)2015-09-18

This is one of the clearest, best written Instructibles I've read to this point (and I've read quite a few!). I appreciate the good writing & spelling. As well as the outdoor skills exhibited. Thank you for a concise, thorough approach, explanation of all the steps from setting the trap to eating. I am trying to explore and discover a consistent way to trap desert Pack Rats. I know they were used in survival situations by early settlers, miners, homesteaders, etc. If anyone has helpful info. I'd appreciate knowing about it. Thank you HorseBackBob, and others. . . .

HorseBackBob (author)GaleG12015-09-20

I'll see what I can do, though it might have to wait until January. I'll be shooting more videos in the coming weeks and continue through the holidays... but I will not have my camera man full time until January. I've added this to my list though, so say tuned, and thank you for the kind comment.

VernJones (author)2015-09-19

This Instructable is great :-D I absolutely love your Instructables and YouTube videos (one of my favorites is the use of a torch on cacti, I honestly never would have thought of it :-) )... Is there any chance I might be able to make a request for an upcoming Instructable or YouTube video? I would be appreciative for one done on your version of knife care in the field (it's an issue I've been dealing with for sometime and would love to hear your take on the subject). Either way, thank you for your work and PLEASE keep posting ;-)

ehynes1 (author)2015-09-19

Very well written,descriptive, and entertaining. It's refreshing to see someone willing to step out of the box and take advantage of local protein sources that are a less mainstream. Can't wait to see what you post next!

douggieman (author)2016-02-12

This is really understandable to follow, thank you

MisterTheory (author)2015-10-01

Great instructions. However, I can't help but think of the movie "O brother, where art thou", which involved cooking and consuming several gophers.

WilliamB6 (author)2015-09-28

I am not familiar with the common pocket gopher but have eaten groundhog or woodchuck as I believe they are called.The are much larger,getting 30-40 pounds.They were burrowing under my fathers garage and causing the concrete to crack.Beings I hate to kill something and then let it rot I gave them a try.Boy was I surprised,as good as any venison I ever ate,so tender you could cut it with a fork.There are quite a few edible species that are considered taboo.Do your research to avoid disease but think out of the box and you might discover many an enjoyable meal.

c7h7ris (author)2015-09-22

What a lovely video from a lovely woman thank you

CorgiCritter (author)2015-09-21

Maybe I am just wimpy, but I would cut off the feat before cooking. Looks almost human in the first pic, with the front feet looking like hands lol.

I'm surprised you haven't gotten a lot of hate from the "Oh, you KILLED and ATE a poor gopher?! You are evil!" croud.

I'm guessing that most people associate gophers with rats, which makes them slightly less intolerant. I've literally thousands of these guys on my property. I respect their right to live and do their thing, but not at the expense on my garden and fruit trees : ) Just thought I'd do something useful with them instead of turning them into compost.

They don't look that much like rats. I don't think they would much worse then a squirrel. It's good that they are going to good use.

So do you like to hunt, or do you prefer trapping?

I have grown up hunting, butI tend to let my daughters hunt these days. I do enjoy trapping and will be producing a series on a number of traps this coming fall. I'm also looking at a few of the more primitive hunting methods and think that I will be working to perfect those skills in the coming year. We shall see.

OK. I don't hunt. I would like to though. Not sure when I'll try but I would need a small game permit first. At a friend's house I had some squirrel, and it was so good! I only took a small piece since I didn't know if I would like it. I came back for more and it was all gone.

I have subscribed, so I can regularly check out any new instructables you put out. I also voted.

When I first saw the pic I thought it was a rat on steroids!!LOL!

WaksupiC (author)2015-09-21

Considering these little critters carry the fleas for bubonic plague, I would suggest this for a real survival situation only. The old way to handle small animals was to use sticks to put them on the fire, burn off the hair and cook them, so the fleas would be killed.

HorseBackBob (author)WaksupiC2015-09-21

If they have fleas, you'll know. A solution to this is to allow the body to cool for an hour or so. Once the body heat as left the gopher, the fleas will depart. Problem solved.

Big Projects (author)2015-09-20

I think i'll stick to fish.

But great instrutible!

Jafhar12 (author)2015-09-18

What does it taste like? Is the meat tough?

HorseBackBob (author)Jafhar122015-09-18

Sirloin. I've eaten alot of questionable things that I'd rather never experience again... but this gopher reminded me of beef sirloin.

Meat is meat protein is protein!It's a bonus when it tastes good!I appreciate the tutorial...BTW,I saw the one on the cactus.very cool...

clancy.moody (author)2015-09-17

beware rodents are the mammal that carries the plague. consult your local fish wildlife and parks department for plague out breaks in your area before eating gophers and other small rodents.

You should also cease shopping at Walmart as the number of diseases rampantly carried by their customers and staff are much more infectious and likely to cause you harm. Your concern is misplaced, or at least heavily skewed... thus the satire.

Actually I am trying to prevent someone who has never harvest any form of wild game from getting sick, I simply recommended getting information from your local game wardens about the health of the local wild animal population before consuming the meat. Same if you were to hunt deer you should know if the local population is experiencing a blue tongue out break, or if the local trout are having a whirling disease out break. Sorry that I grew up hunting and fishing, and recommended caution eating a rodent that has the capability of carrying one of the worse viruses know to man. I haven't been in a Wal Mart for 5 year and think I went in because it was the only store open at the time but I am sorry that in the 21st century if someone tries to agree with you but also flags caution and use of a local resources you attack them.

alpego (author)2015-09-18

I really like your instructable.

Where I can buy the trap. I have the same gopher problem.

If I'll catch one be sure I'll eat a yummy gopher.

HorseBackBob (author)alpego2015-09-18

The trap is made by Victor Trap and can be ordered online for a good price from their site.

alpego (author)HorseBackBob2015-09-18

Thank you

DCA (author)2015-09-18

Save you up sum a dem gofer heds an make ya up sum stew!

Panda_Creeper12 (author)2015-09-18

wow I love this! I live in Bozeman Montana, and thefe are a lot of Uinta Squirrels here, and I plan on finding a place to hunt them next year. But anyway this is a great tutorial for hunters, and survivalists as well.

Appreciate the compliment! I'm posting more and more videos concerning wilderness survival skill on my youtube channel, of which this fall will bring quite a few tutorials on hunting and trapping. Hope you keep watching.

geller6980 (author)2015-09-17

What brand knife is that?

susanli517 (author)geller69802015-09-18


HorseBackBob (author)geller69802015-09-17

It's a Leatherman WAVE. I highly recommend it.

pfred2 (author)2015-09-17

Step 1. Get really hungry. Skip this step if you are planning on feeding the cooked gopher to your dog.

About This Instructable




Bio: Just a former Biology Teacher that takes and makes opportunities to enjoy and learn outdoor skills. Have fun, respect nature, and if you've any ... More »
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