After field dressing your deer, do you discard the skin? If so, you’re missing out on a useful and unique souvenir of your hunt. Here’s how to preserve your next deer hide.
Prepping: Using a fleshing tool or skinning blade, remove the flesh from the skin and cover the skin with non- iodized salt to prevent rotting. Let it stand for 12 hours or until all the moisture is absorbed.
Pickling: Rinse the salted skin in cool water and set it aside. In a clean plastic garbage pail, mix 100 litres of water with 11 kilograms of non-iodized salt and 75 millilitres of Saftee Acid (available from taxidermy suppliers). Soak the hide in the mixture for three days, stirring once a day with a wooden stick. Using a pH tester, check the mixture’s pH level once a day—you want to keep it between 1.0 and 2.0. If you need to lower the level, add 30 millilitres of Saftee Acid; to increase the pH, add water and salt. After three days, remove the hide and scrape off any remaining membrane with a dull blade. Soak the hide for another 12 hours, then place it in a neutralizing solution of 100 litres of water and 11/2 cups of baking soda. After 30 minutes, remove the hide and shake off the solution.
Tanning: Mix 100 millilitres of tanning oil, 100 millilitres of warm water and 30 millilitres of ammonia. With the hide lying fur side down, brush half the mixture over the skin. Leave it for 30 minutes, then brush on the rest. Cover the hide with a plastic sheet and leave it overnight. While it’s still damp, stretch the hide by nailing it, fur side down, onto plywood. Keep the nails 15 centimetres apart around the perimeter; remove them before the hide dries. Next, work the hide by pulling it with both hands and stretching it section by section over a wooden edge, such as the back of a chair. Dampen the hide with water and repeat until it is soft and dry.