A good portion of your deer's live weight is made up by the hide. Having a tanned hide from a deer that you have taken can add to your sense of accomplishment. It is also a good feeling to know that nothing has gone to waste.

Tanning Deer Hides

Skin your deer keeping the hide in one piece. Make cuts on the insides of the legs if possisble: This will add to the attractiveness of your finished hide. While skinning your deer try not to cut holes into the skin because this will be difficult to repair and can be hard to work around.

After the hide is removed from the carcass, be sure to skin the tail as well. The bones should be removed by making a cut along the underside of the tail.

Follow the 7 steps outlined below:

Step 1
The first and most important step in tanning your deer hide is to remove the fat, membranous tissue and any remaining flesh from the deer skin. This is done by laying the hide on some type of raised surface such as a sawhorse and scraping the flesh side with a long bladed knife. It is important that your knife be sharp and that every last bit of tissue is removed from the skin. If any tissue is left on the hide, it will not tan in those areas. If you plan to tan the hide with the hair on, skip steps 2&3 and proceed with step 4. If you plan to remove the hair and tan the hide into a "buckskin", go to step 2.

Step 2
To remove the hair from the hide and make a buckskin, do the following:
In a large plastic garbage can mix: 1 gallon of hardwood ashes
2 pounds of household (slaked) lime
5 gallons of warm water

Stir the above mixture until it is dissolved. Completely immerse the deer skin in the mixture. Stir the mixture 2 or 3 times a day until the hair comes off easily. This will take 2 to 3 days. If the hide is left in the mixture too long, it will begin to deteriorate. After you remove the hide,
proceed to step 3.

Step 3
Rinse the hide with water. Place the hide on a raised surface with the hair side up. Use the back of a knife blade to scrape off the hair. Rinse the dehaired skin several times with clean water. Soak the hide for 24 hours in the garbage can in a mixture of 10 gallons water and 2 quarts vinegar. Stir this mixture with the hide in it every few hours. At the end of this 24 hour period, empty the garbage can and fill it with clean water. Soak the hide in the clean water overnight. Go to step 4

Step 4
In a small plastic bucket, dissolve 1 pound of alum in one gallon of warm water. In the garbage can, dissolve 2 1/2 pounds of salt in 4 gallons of water. Pour the solution from the small bucket into the garbage can and mix thoroughly. Immerse the skin and soak for 6 to 8 days. Stir the mixture 2 times each day to make sure that all parts of the hide are exposed to the mixture. After the soaking period, remove the skin and drain it thoroughly. Rinse the skin with running water for approximately 15 minutes. Go to step 5

Step 5
Tack the wet hide to a flat surface such as a sheet of plywood. If you have opted to leave the hair on the hide, tack the skin on the surface with the flesh side facing out. Keep the skin out of the sun but allow it to partially dry. When the skin is almost dry, rub it with a light coating of warm neat's-foot oil. Remove it from the board and repeat the process on the other side. Remove excess oil from the hide with an absorbant cloth. Proceed to step 6

Step 6
Dampen the skin with a moist cloth. DO NOT get the hide too wet! Rub the skin over a dull edge such as a saw horse until it is supple and soft like a chamois cloth. As the softening progresses SPARINGLY apply some warm neat's-foot oil to the hide. If you are working with a hide with the hair still on, only work on the flesh side. Proceed to step 7

Step 7
After the hide has been softened, rub some fine grit sandpaper over every square inch of exposed skin to smooth the surface. Only do the flesh side of hides with the hair still on. When the hide takes on a smooth appearance, it is ready to be used as a rug, wall hanging, or sewn into some other type of useful item.

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