As a beginner in the area of tanning a pelt at home, here are some simple steps.

As a beginner in the area of tanning a pelt at home, here are some simple steps.

The first step to removing the skin from the body or carcass of the animal is to tie both of the back legs to a tree limb at just about head height. Use a sharp knife or stone to make an incision from the hock (the tarsal joint of the leg) to the vent (the excretory opening). Cut the tail beginning at the vent, to its tip on the underside of the animal. Begin now to gently pull the skin away from the leg with the knife.

Cut the membrane holding the skin and meat together. Use only the knife to remove the hide from the carcass completely. If the animal has been freshly killed and is still warm, the hide and membrane will separate easily, but if the animal carcass is cold, this will prove to be challenging.

Work carefully around the head, neck and tail area. The meat and fat tend to want to come off with the pelt, but it's important to leave as much of that on the carcass as possible. Next, cut through the cartilage located beneath the ears and nose.

Fleshing is the next step. Slice the hide open from the belly to the "chin". Flatten the hide and tack it down over a smooth log or a piece of plywood. Using a knife that is crescent-shaped and held at a 90 degreea angle to the pelt, remove all of the fat, membrane and meat by scraping and pushing.

If the hair pulls back through the underside of the skin, don't worry about it, just move to another area of the hide and work there. The head area is the most difficult to scrape, so be patient. If you want to preserve the tail, use soap and water to clean it up. However, if the tail happens to become separated from the body, it can be easily reattached.

You'll begin the tanning process now. Brain tanning is the most natural way to treat a green hide and the finished product is soft and feels natural. Remove the brain from the animal carcass and mix it with about 1½ cups of water. After cooking this mixture for 10 minutes or so, mash it into a liquid (it will appear oily). Divide this mixture into two equal amounts.

To prepare the hide, use sandpaper, granite rock or sandstone to buff the pelts' surface. Put the brain mixture on the hide and rub it in with your hands. Once it dries overnight, buff the surface again and give it a second coat with the brain mixture. Cover it this time with a warm towel and allow it to sit overnight.

The next morning, you'll stretch your hide (wooden chairs are great). Pull the skin down, stretching and buffing it, until it is dry. If the skin has rough spots, mix another brain solution, apply it, let it soak and then stretch it until it is dry. Once the pelt is dry and doesn't feel cool to the touch, it is ready to be smoked. At this juncture, a teepee comes in handy. Hang the skin at the top of the teepee. You only want to smoke the skin, not burn it, so use rotten wood and allow it to smolder slowly.

Enjoy the finished product, which should be a soft, fluffy pelt that is great for a showpiece or for keeping warm on a cold night.

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