One of many first steps after a profitable deer hunt is skinning your deer, after which the pores and skin itself usually turns into an afterthought as you attend to the vital strategy of filling up the freezer with meat.

Certain, there are providers you’ll be able to ship your deer conceal to and pay for it to be taxidermied or became a wall hanging, which make good mementos of your hunt. However for those who’re something like me, one of many joys of looking is getting to actually be part of the method of creating one thing and offering for your self with your personal two fingers. So why hand over a possibility to be taught a brand new and helpful talent?

Studying easy methods to tan your personal deer hides is a rewarding approach to make use of each a part of the animal and ends in a stupendous, high-quality materials that can be utilized for every kind of thrilling initiatives. I’m not going to fake it’s fast or straightforward—it takes time and a good quantity of labor—however turning a uncooked deerskin into sturdy and supple leather-based is extraordinarily satisfying.

Instruments and Supplies

On this article, I’m going over the steps for tanning utilizing a tanning answer, which is straightforward to purchase on-line or at looking gear shops. You could have heard of mind tanning or vegetable tanning, that are totally different processes. And although they’re extremely cool, they require much more specialised information, time, and materials gathering, which is why I take into account tanning with a store-bought tanning answer the right “gateway” tanning course of.

Along with your tanning oil (we use NuTan), you will have a number of totally different substances to change the pH of your conceal all through the tanning course of. Fortunately, most of those are frequent home goods straightforward to search out on-line or at {hardware} shops: white vinegar, salt, baking soda, hydrated lime or lye, and a big (5 gallons or extra) plastic tub or bucket.

For those who get into tanning and plan to do it quite a bit, there are some specialised instruments that can make your life simpler. A fleshing beam is a chunk of thick wooden put into the bottom at an angle in order that the rounded finish is about waist peak. This offers an excellent work floor for processing your conceal by providing you with the leverage to exert lots of drive, however a sawhorse will work in a pinch.

A fleshing knife is a large, boring knife with handles on both aspect so you should use each fingers to scrape it down the size of your deer pores and skin simply. We don’t have considered one of these, so we use a hatchet with a really boring blade as a substitute, which works simply effective. A tarp can also be helpful to maintain your conceal clear, and any drips contained.


In fact, step one is getting your conceal off your deer, ideally in a single piece. By hanging your deer and utilizing gravity to drag the conceal off of the physique when you’ve reduce down the middle of the animal, you’ll be capable of keep away from chopping into the conceal.

If you might want to reduce at sure factors to get the conceal free, maintain your knife as near parallel to the flesh as doable so that you don’t by accident puncture by way of the pores and skin. Upon getting your conceal free, it’s a good suggestion to trim off any dangling or uneven edges in addition to the notably powerful neck portion of the conceal so it’s all of comparable thickness and tans evenly.

In case you are planning on tanning your conceal instantly, simply proceed to the fleshing step. However in case you have different issues to take care of, like butchering the remainder of your deer or harvesting the tallow for deer tallow cleaning soap, it can save you your conceal for later in a pair other ways.

The simplest approach to do that is solely to roll it up in a plastic bag and put it within the freezer (you’ll want to label it to keep away from any disagreeable surprises down the road!). In case you are quick on freezer area, you’ll be able to salt the conceal to maintain it from rotting earlier than you get to tanning it. Cowl the flesh aspect of your conceal with a thick layer of non-iodized salt and roll tightly with the fur aspect on the skin. Retailer in an hermetic container and rinse totally earlier than continuing to the following step in tanning.


When you’re prepared to actually get into the meat of tanning, step one is fleshing your conceal. This simply means scraping all of the bits of flesh and gristle off of your conceal to get a pleasant clear floor. I’ll be trustworthy, this could be a pretty messy and smelly activity, so I like to recommend sporting acceptable protecting clothes.

For those who don’t have a device particularly for fleshing, any very boring blade will work. Some individuals even use the shoulder blade from a deer as their fleshing device, which is a pleasant approach to make use of much more elements of the animal. A very powerful factor is that you’ll be able to exert a good quantity of downward strain in your conceal along with your device with out by accident chopping or puncturing it.


After you’ve gotten all the flesh off of your conceal, it’s time to get the hair off. The simplest approach to do that is to place your conceal in a “bucking” answer. That is simply an alkaline answer that causes the conceal to swell and the hair fibers to slip out of the pores and skin simply. You should utilize hydrated lime or lye to make your answer alkaline. We often use lye as a result of we now have it readily available already for soap-making, however I’ve heard from others that lime is a bit of simpler to work with as a result of it makes the conceal much less rubbery.

Both approach, these are caustic substances so you’ll want to put on gloves and security glasses/goggles when including them to your water, and do it exterior. For a single deer conceal, a 5-gallon plastic bucket works nicely with a ratio of 0.4 ounces of lye or 1 oz of hydrated lime per gallon of water.

Ensure that your conceal is totally submerged within the answer and weigh it down with a stone if wanted. Agitate the answer a minimum of twice a day, transferring the conceal round (put on gloves or use a stirring stick) to verify the answer is entering into all of the nooks and crannies. After a pair days, begin testing your conceal by pulling on a small part of hair. If it comes out simply, you might be prepared to maneuver on to the following step.

Graining and Membraning

Put your conceal again on the scraping beam, hair aspect up, and use your fleshing knife to scrape all of the hair off of the conceal. Now work over the identical aspect once more with agency strain to get off the grain beneath the hair. The grain is a skinny, grayish translucent layer that sits simply beneath the hair. It may be arduous at first to get beneath this layer, however attempt totally different areas of your conceal and angles along with your fleshing device till it begins to drag away from the conceal, after which it ought to come off fairly simply in skinny sheets. The realm the place the grain has been correctly eliminated can be paler and brighter than the elements of the conceal with the grain nonetheless on. Now flip your conceal over to the flesh aspect and work it over with the fleshing device once more, getting off any remaining bits of flesh or membrane you might have missed within the fleshing step.

You’ll discover the conceal may be very swollen at this step from the alkaline answer, so that you need to get it again to a extra impartial state earlier than transferring on to the following step. Dunk your conceal in a bucket of recent water and stir it round a pair instances a day. Change out the water as soon as a day till it returns to a comfortable and versatile state. If you wish to velocity this course of alongside, you’ll be able to add 3 ounces of ammonium sulfate to your water as a deliming agent, which ought to return the conceal to its unique state in about 5 hours.

Pickling, Neutralizing, and Rinsing

Now that you’ve a clear, scraped conceal, it’s time to protect it so it should final for years. Any hide-tanning oil you purchase will doubtless have its personal directions on this course of, however the fundamental premise is that you simply submerge your conceal in a “pickling” answer of an acid and salt.

We use white distilled vinegar in a 1:1 ratio with water (often about 4 gallons whole is sufficient to cowl a single deer conceal). We additionally add 2 kilos of salt per gallon of answer. The answer ought to have a pH between 1 and a couple of, although to be trustworthy we now have by no means truly examined ours and it has all the time labored out effective. Depart the conceal submerged within the pickling answer for two to three days, or till a mark stays after you press into the conceal along with your fingernail.

Now we need to as soon as extra get our conceal again right into a extra impartial state in spite of everything that acidity. Take away your conceal from the pickle tub and put it into an answer of 4 gallons of water and a couple of cups of baking soda. Depart for about half-hour, stirring each 10 minutes, then take away and rinse totally in recent water. Wring as a lot water as doable out of the conceal, then depart it hanging over your fleshing beam or a sawhorse to dry till it’s nonetheless moist however not dripping water.


It’s lastly time to use your tanning oil. Lay your conceal out on a tarp so it’s flat and easy and pour a beneficiant quantity of the tanning oil into the middle. With gloved fingers or a brush, unfold the oil evenly over the floor.

Let it sit for thirty minutes after which flip over and apply oil to the opposite aspect. Wait one other thirty minutes for the oil to soak in, then fold your conceal right into a small sq. with the flesh aspect on the within. Wrap within the tarp and depart in a single day. The subsequent day, unfold your tarp and use a clear rag to wipe off any extra swimming pools of oil.

deer hide

Drying and Softening

You’re not fairly performed working but! For those who apply your tanning oil and let your conceal dry by itself, it should find yourself very stiff and arduous to work with, particularly if you wish to use it for any form of clothes. As a substitute, you might want to transfer the conceal round to open up the fibers and preserve your conceal comfortable and versatile because it dries.

We like to hold ours up within the basement by chopping small holes across the outer edges of the conceal and tying strings by way of them which we connect to the ceiling and partitions. It’s also possible to nail your conceal to an enormous sheet of plywood or simply use your fleshing beam. Each 5 to 10 minutes, stretch and work your conceal in various other ways. Pull in each instructions, rub it over the nook of one thing, or push on it with a rounded piece of wooden (that is best to do if it’s hanging or with the assistance of a accomplice to carry the conceal up). The objective is simply to maintain these fibers versatile. Because the conceal dries, it is possible for you to to simply see which elements nonetheless must be labored over as they are going to be darker and stiffer than the elements which were correctly loosened.

Ultimately, will probably be utterly dry, and you’ll have a comfortable however extremely sturdy piece of deer leather-based. Congratulations! Now the enjoyable half begins as you devise methods to make use of your deerskin. Due to its toughness and adaptability, tanned deerskin can be utilized to make every kind of issues, from baggage and gloves to device straps, knife sheaths, and ax strops. So have enjoyable experimenting, figuring out that every 12 months you’ll be able to add to your assortment and really feel the satisfaction of utilizing much more of the deer you harvest.

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