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Storing a deer hide for later tanning

 
steward
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I want to try tanning a deer hide.  Deer season (gun) starts Saturday.  My plan is to skin it right away before it freezes.  From the many youtube videos I've watched, the method I think I'll try is where you:

1. Flesh out the inner side of the hide while stretched on a frame
2. Let the hide dry for a bit
3. Scrape the hair and dermis off the fur side while still on the frame
4. Cut the hide (now "rawhide") off the frame
5. Mix up a brain/water solution
6. Soak the hide
7. Wring the liquid out of the hide
8. Repeat steps 5 and 6 about 15 times
9. Stretch the hide as it dries the last time
10. Smoke it

My issue is that I'm assuming it will be below freezing here during the process.  The missus won't let me do this in the kitchen  I think I need to do steps 1, 2 and 3 while the hide is still fresh.  I think steps 6 through 9 will be hard to do if it's freezing and cloudy.  

Can I stop after it's cut off the frame and store it till spring?  Or maybe after step 2?  Is it shelf stable at either of those points?  

I know you can freeze a fresh hide but I don't have the freezer space to do that unless it's really the only way.

Thanks!
 
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You can salt the hide and store it in a container of some sort until spring.  This video is a good one to see how to do it.
 
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One of my brothers was an avid hunter and taxidermist. He had a separate deep freezer that he would store his hides in. Frozen solid, then thawed out when he was ready to work with them.
 
Mike Haasl
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Good point Brad, I knew about salting but forgot about it.  I'll give that a shot.  Thanks!

Thanks Miles but I don't think I'll be buying another freezer
 
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The way you prep the hide is to first soak it in 140 f water, this slips the hair for easier scraping, you will need a scraping frame made of 2x2's that is large enough to hold the hide when stretched.
You will poke holes around the outside of the hide and use strong cordage to lace the hide on the frame or you can use individual pieces to tie it onto the frame, use a square knot so you can untie it for re-soaking in the hot water as you remove the hair. It is better to untie than to cut the cordage since you might need to remove the hide and reinstall it on the frame a few times while scraping the hair from it.
Once you have the hide de-haired you will flip the frame over to scrape off any meat and fats.
Once you have this completed the hide can be salted on the flesh side (rub the salt into the hide well) and folded up for storage.
Do not put a hide that has been salted into any type of plastic bag, the hide will mold and be ruined, just fold it up and if you really want to cover it, use an old sheet or other breathable fabric that is natural fibers.
Check your salted hide every so often and re apply salt if needed.
When you are ready to start tanning a salted hide you need to soak it in cool water to get rid of the salt before you put it into the tanning solution.
If you want raw hide for moccasin soles or for a drum, leave it on the stretcher frame after you have it ready to be salted so it can dry completely.

All hide tanning and prep work is traditionally done outside or in a Tannery building because of the odors.
Oh, every animal has enough brains to tan their own hide.
For a more durable, stiffer leather you can boil oak bark to make a vegetable tanning solution.

When brain tanning it is best to stir the hide in the brain and water mixture between letting it sit periods. l use tepid water to make the brain solution (a potato masher is a good tool for making the mixture, it does a good job of mixing the brains in evenly)
The longer you leave it in the solution, the better the tanning process will work and the faster it will work.
you need a large diameter log with a rounded end, set at an angle of around 45 degrees to get the best stretching once the hide is mostly dry.
If you stretch it while very wet it will be subject to tearing, this stretching is to soften the hide not make it thinner.
I have seen many people ruin their hides until they get the understanding that the hide is only stretched to make it soft.

Redhawk
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Bryant!  I have two hides that are well salted and sitting in 5 gallon buckets (on a few chunks of wood to allow for drainage) with the lids snapped on for critter avoidance.  They're in my barn so they'll probably be frozen for the winter.  Once it's nice outside, I'll give tanning a shot.  

Am I correct in believing that once I rinse the salt off them the next step is to do the 140 degree soak that you mention?  How long do you need to soak for a good slip?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Yes the first thing to do if you want a no hair hide is to slip the hair. I dunk a hide for 15 minutes then scrape, it usually takes me 4-5 dunks to get all the hair off a hide. ( you can check for the correct timing by pulling on a small clump of hair, when ready it will slide right out of the hide)
You need to watch this step closely and not go over on time or temperature since those can set hair instead of letting it slip.

I use a galvanized #2 Wash tub set on a propane burner (like for a turkey fryer, in fact that would make a great set up for tanning hairless hides now that I think about it).
 
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It has been a few years since I tanned a hide. We used a traditional method, we fleshed the hide, then tied it on a big rock and submerged it in the creek for about three weeks (depends on water temperature). If possible you want the rock on the bottom and the hide in the water. If you do several at once they all lose the hair about the same time and you need only check one. The hair should slip incredibly easily. Then we would have a clean skin, ready to tan however you want, or you can salt and do it later, but they won't stink (much) because the flesh is off. If you miss a bunch of flesh you will regret it!

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