Preserve Small Animal Hides

After a successful small game hunt you may want to preserve the hides. This is a simple method to preserve hides with the fur on. This method does not tan or waterproof the hide.

I recommend that when hunting small game you should always try for a headshot. This not only preserves a greater portion of meat but also preserves the hide. Whenever I can I gut and skin the animals as soon as possible, preferably in the field. Make an incision across the underside on the back legs. Work your finger underneath and begin separating the hide from the body. Once you help Mr. Squirrel (or rabbit, marmot, whatever) out of their sweater put a little salt on it. This will give you some additional time before you have to begin the preservation process.

Gather your supplies:

  1. Morton NON Iodine salt. It is important that the salt contain no iodine or the hide will be destroyed. 3 cans will preserve 5 hides.
  2. A long board to tack the hides to.
  3. A skinning knife.
  4. Nails. The thinner the better. Do not use thumbtacks as they will trap moisture under the round top.
  5. Gloves.
  6. Hammer

Tack down the first hide with two nails. Put the first nail in the top corner of the hide and stretch it before putting in the second nail. Do not tack down the other two corners yet.

Pull the bottom corners of the hide while holding it flat against the board. Run the skinning knife along the flesh at a perpendicular angle. Work slowly and always watch the blade angle. I’ve accidentally put some massive holes in hides by letting the blade angle get out of whack. As you scrape you will notice a thin yellowish brown layer of fat accumulate on the edge of the blade. This is the layer we want removed. Make sure the hide is stretched and flat against the board. Moisture is the enemy and it can hide in all the corners and edges. Work the blade into all the crevices and edges of the hide to get at any hiding fat pockets. Keep scraping until all the yellowish brown stuff is gone and the hide looks white. It should feel almost paper like. Repeat this process on each hide.

Once all of the hides are scraped, leave the nails in place and flip the hides over. Pour a large amount of salt on the board where the hide will be tacked down. Flip the hide back over the salt mound and tack it down. The hide should bow up because of the hefty amount of salt underneath. Now cover the hide in salt. Cover it completely so that nothing shows. Be generous with the salt.Place the board outside in the shade. Make sure it cannot get wet and is out of any direct sunlight. Leave the hides to dry for a few days. The salt will pull the moisture out of the hide and begin to form a crust. Remove this crust by hand and apply more salt. Repeat this process until no more crust forms.

Now that all the moisture has been pulled from the hide, place it somewhere dry for storage. This method will keep a hide for a few years. If the hide gets wet the process must be repeated. Now stop reading the internet and go hunting!

-Richard Hammack