- Wanted: Squirrel Tails
By Jason Houser
The Mepps brand of fishing lures is best known for natural hair-dressed spinners. Over the years, they have tried many types of hair, including synthetic and other natural materials, as well as the hair from Angus cowhides, bear, and fox, coyote, and badger fur. But they have never found anything better than squirrel tails, and they buy more than 250,000 tails each year, mostly from squirrel hunters.
If you shoot enough squirrels to collect a sizable pile of tails, you can make a little cash selling those tails to Mepps. But the first thing the company (and I) want to emphasize is not to shoot squirrels just for the tails. The pay isn’t that good, and it would be a wanton waste of game meat. Instead, look at the tails as a harvestable by-product from the squirrels you clean for the table. Also, you need to make sure you are not violating state laws that govern the sale and shipment of sport-harvested wildlife. California and Idaho prohibit this, and Oregon specifically forbids the sale of the western grey squirrel.
Do not split and debone the tail. Just cut the tail and freeze it or salt the butt end for air drying. Table salt or a strong saltwater solution both work well. While a salted tail is drying, make certain it hangs straight. Mepps doesn’t want tails that dry in a curved shape. Make sure flies, and other insects cannot get to drying tails, and tails that go in the freezer must be laid straight and packed loosely.
To prevent spoilage, keep tails in the freezer until the end of the season when you can either deliver them yourself or ship to the company. Dried tails can be shipped any time of year, but drop the package on a Monday, so it is less likely to sit in a handling facility over the weekend, and only ship frozen tails (that haven’t been dried) while the weather is still cold. Never put tails in a plastic bag for storage or shipment, as this can promote spoilage.
If the package is less than 10 pounds, you can ship it First Class or Priority U.S. Mail. Over 10 pounds should be shipped UPS. Mepps refunds shipping charges for 50 tails or more. Make sure your name, address, phone number, and email address are included in a letter placed inside the package. Let them know if you are willing to trade the tails for lures. If you trade, Mepps doubles the value of the tails.
After Mepps grades the tails, they mail you a check. If you chose to trade the tails for lures, you will be contacted so you can place an order for the lures you want.
The type of squirrel, the quality of the tails, and how many are in each shipment determines what Mepps pays. Currently, a bundle of 100 or more premium tails may fetch as much as 26 cents each. Prices drop from there.
More information including pricing for specific tails may be found online at www.mepps.com if you click on the “Resource” tab at the top of the page and then click “Squirrel Tails” on the pull-down menu. A video that shows how to package and ship may be viewed on the Squirrel Tail page. Or you can address the package and ship to Sheldon’s, Inc., 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496.