Squirrel hunting is one of America’s favorite past-times, being abundant and from the soggy bottomlands of Mississippi to the high country of West Virginia. Thousands of squirrels fall each year to a shotgun or .22 rifle carried by young and old sportsmen alike.

While the majority of these furry critters end up in the crockpot, the hide and internal cavity usually becomes possum or vulture vittles, just like every other discarded animal part. Luckily for avid squirrel hunters, a portion of the remains can be traded for cash.

Sheldons’ Inc., makers of Mepps fishing lures, purchases squirrel tails to construct several of their prized spinning lures and has been for nearly 50 years. While Sheldons’ has experimented with various artificial and other animal fibers, nothing seems to match the unique characteristics of squirrel-tail material in the water.

Sheldons’ will purchase tails from all three species found in South Carolina — grays, reds and fox squirrels — year-round, but squirrel tails are fuller and considered the best if taken after Oct. 1.

Sheldons’ requests sellers leave the bone in the tail, keep the tail straight and salt the butt end of the tail before shipment. Store tails in the freezer and ship them wrapped in paper or cardboard packaging materials.

The purchase rate for tails varies somewhat but is based on the quantity and quality of the tails. Sellers can also choose to trade the tails in exchange for Mepps Lures at double the expected payment.

For more information about the squirrel tail purchase program, contact Sheldons’ Inc. at 800-237-9877 or visit www.mepps.com/programs/squirrel-tail/.