Hide Tanning at Home

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I am NOT an expert.  But I'm too cheap to pay for anyone else to do the job (local shop wanted $200 to tan my coyote hide). I've used this recipe for rabbit hides, deer hides, a moose skin, and a coyote pelt.  I've adapted this recipe from one I found online.  Feel free to use it but use this tip at your own risk and comply with all local laws wherever you are.
 
When butchering:
 
Cool the hide as soon as you can get it off the animal.  Remove the hide form the carcass with as little flesh and fat as you can.  Cut and scrape off all the fat you can from the flesh side then lay the hide out flat in a shady spot and cover it with salt.  I don’t think it matters whether you sue un-iodized or the slightly more expensive iodized salt.  You want the salt to draw all the moisture possible out of the skin, so removing all the extra meat and its moisture puts you a step ahead. 
Lay it hair down and coat the flesh side with salt at least a quarter inch thick.  You will need 3-5 pounds for a deer hide.
 
Let the skin dry for a few days and add more salt if needed to remove the moisture.  When you are ready to tan and the hides are completely dry peel off the layer of membrane closest to the salt.  
 
This recipe makes enough tanning solution to tan two large animal skins; or four medium-sized pelts such as raccoon: 
 
The recipe:
 
At least one hide to tan
3 ½  gallons water
A pail (optional)
1 pound (8 cups) bran flakes (from the cereal aisle)
8 cups plain or pickling salt (not iodized)
2 large plastic trash cans (30 gallon) and one lid
Something 3 or 4 feet long to stir acid with (a stick)
1 ¾ cups battery acid (sold for motorcycle batteries at auto parts stores)
1 box of baking soda
a screen or colander
some light oil and a paint brush or rag
A wooden pallet or shed wall to nail to
Hammer and nails
 
The process:
 
2 hours before tanning:
 
Throw the hides in a stream or pond and put a rock on them to keep from floating away until they become flexible again.
 
An hour before tanning:
 
Boil 1 ½ gallons of water and pour into a container with the bran flakes (use your pail or one of the garbage cans). Let this sit for an hour, then over one of the trash cans use the screen or colander to strain the bran flakes out save the brownish water.  Throw the soggy bran away and keep the brown water.
 
Boil 2 more gallons of water.
Add the 8 cups of salt into the boiling water.
stir until the salt dissolves.
Add boiling water to the brown bran liquid. Stir.
 
When this solution has cooled to warm, you are ready to add the battery acid.
 
Read the warning label and first aid advice on the battery acid container before you open it!
 
Wear gloves and a long-sleeve shirt. 
Pour the battery acid down the inside of the trash can into the solution - don't let it splash. Stir.
 
Add the skins to the solution, pressing them down and stirring until fully soaked.
Leave them to soak for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure all parts of the hides are exposed to the solution.
 
During the soak, fill your other trash can with clear, warm water.
After 40 minutes, use the stick and into the other trash can (watch out for splashing!).
Stir to thoroughly in the rinse water for about five minutes.
 
If skin or fur will spend a lot of time in contact with human skin, add a box of baking soda to the rinse water to neutralize some of the residual acid in the fur.  
 
DO NOT BREATH THE FUMES.
 
If the pelt will be used as a rug or wall hanging skip the baking soda since it may prevent some of the preserving effects of the acid.
 
Remove the hides from rinse and hang over a fence or such to drain until just damp (not soaking wet).
 
Spread out the hide hair side down and paint the still-damp skin side of the hide with oil.
 
Tack the hide to your "stretcher" – like a wood pallet or shed wall in a shady place to dry.
 
If you have not already added baking soda before removing the hides, add some now to neutralize some of the acid.  Dispose of the residue responsibly.  Be warned – it will kill plants.
 
That’s it.  You just saved yourself a taxidermy bill!

Coyote skin and skull

Comments

Thank you so much

I used this to tan my black bear and it worked perfectly. I even broke the hid while it was drying and now have a very nice and relatively soft hide.  I did this 4 months ago and zero problems I will be doing more bears with this as time goes on. Those because it was a bear I had to use alot of dish soap to get all the oil out of the hide before I tanned it. Other wise it probably would have stunk after a week.

niceshot_smitty's picture

wow, that sounds pretty

wow, that sounds pretty easy.  Might have to try that with my coyotes pelts. 

EddieK47's picture

Great tip I've got to try

Great tip I've got to try that.Been thinking of making a deer hide vest but the coct would be too high to have it done by a pro. 

sso glad to have found this

sso glad to have found this thank you so much for posting this up.  i will be using this next animal i get it. i always want to get hides done but it cost so much now that i have this recipe i will be doing it. to think it is fairly easy and i have tossed. thank you again.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

That is a really good tip.  I

That is a really good tip.  I have an elk hide that I need to tan.  Ma just have to give it a try.  Thank again for a very useful tip.

numbnutz's picture

Great tip, WOW!! you make it

Great tip, WOW!! you make it sound very easy to do, If i had this before i would have tried it, I'll have to try it this fall if i can get a deer or something. I couldnt afford a bill for a tanned hide so i would donate the hides to a shop that does it and makes gloves for the homeless. which is a goo cause but i would like to have a rug to hang on the wall. thanks for the great easy to fallow recipe.

Deer Slayer's picture

Wow! Thanks for the tip. I

Wow! Thanks for the tip. I know over the years my dad has had several deer hides done. He has also had some made into moccassins. These are all pretty cool things. I don't know if he would ever want to try this but maybe if we worked as a team we could work together and try this. I'm sure it would save us money, and it would also make us money because we have friends every year asking us for deer hides. So, instead of making a few dollars we could be making a fair amount on this. Thanks for sharing.  

arrowflipper's picture

WOW!

All I can say is "Wow"!!!  I have tanned several hides over the years and my son has done even more, but I don't think we've ever seen that recipe.  The hides I did came out pretty stiff but since I just used them for laying things on, that was OK.  My son has used some to make hats and other things. 

You recipe makes it look so easy.  I often turn down shots on coyotes because I didn't know how to tan the hide and I didn't want to pay the high prices at the taxidermist.  Look out coyote population!!  I am going to take the next one I get a chance at and try this recipe. 

Have you ever tried to tan one without the hair?  If so, what did you do to get the hair off?  I used to have lots of my deer hides tanned and it was fairly inexpensive.  At one time, I had several very nice full buckskins.  I made a couple of gun scabbards, a set of moccasins and a set of trousers.  My son and I were in a mountain man club and had a good time with the buckskin.

Thanks for the great tip.... it's one I will be using.

hunter25's picture

This is a great tip and one

This is a great tip and one I've always been afraid to try. Your directions make it sound like something I will be willing to try when I get the chance.

I have had on coyote tanned a long time ago but it was only 50 back then. I do know my dad was going to get an elk hide done about 4 years ago and the quoted price for an average sized hide was around 500 dollars. As a result we never got one done.

Thanks for the tip and I would like to try it with an antelope this year if I get one.

ManOfTheFall's picture

Thanks for the great tip. I'm

Thanks for the great tip. I'm not sure I want to try that but if I do I'm sure it will be a challenge. By the way my taxidermist charges $50 dollars to do my deer hides, which I think is well worth it.

jaybe's picture

Hey - now that sounds like a

Hey - now that sounds like a recipe that I might be able to follow. I have read others over the years that just looked to be too difficult or time-consuming, so I never thought that I'd tan a hide. I believe this one might be a possibility.

Funny - you said that a taxidermist wanted $200 to tan your hide - my mother used to tan mine for a lot less than that!

Thanks for this tip!