Hide Tanning at Home
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.
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:
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
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