By now, most of our attention turns to the upcoming fall and our hunts. The draws may not have gone exactly in my favour but I’m confident that I will be able to put some meat in the freezer and hopefully find a wall hanger in the general season(s).
In my past few blogs I wrote about firearms and performance; this one I will gear towards care of the game. It is paramount that once you have recovered your animal to get it field dressed ASAP. On larger animals once you get them quartered and hung it may be necessary to open up the quarter itself to let the heat out from the bone to avoid bone sour. (I only know this from a bison hunting instructional video I watched from Alaska Fish & Game.) The quicker you can get the carcass cooling the better for the quality of the meat.
If you plan to mount it getting the hide off is vital. Once the hide or cape is off, you need to turn the ears and split the lips. This allows the salt to penetrate the flesh and inhibit bacterial growth that causes the hair to slip and these are usually the first areas where the hair will slip.
After the initial photos have been taken, I will take a few critical measurements and then cool off the ears and eyelids with water from an extra water bottle I carry just for this purpose. (If you don’t have water for this, you can get some from a nearby creek.) Splitting the lips and turning ears can take some skill and a great way to gain experience is to practice on any antlerless animals you may bag. Until you are well versed in the methods, if you get a heavy with the knife, there is no great loss.
Once the hide is off and all the skinning is done it is time for a liberal layer of salt. Rub it into all areas and folds of the hide. Don’t worry, you can’t use too much! With the hide salted for the first time, fold the flesh side in on its self and let it sit in the shade for a day, then open it up and dump all the salt off. When possible, I will try to hang the hide over something for a couple of hours so it can drip out. After cleaning off the initial salt and after you’ve let it drip out, it is time to salt it again with another generous layer. Refold the hide and this time, if possible, put it on an incline so that the moisture can run out. At this point the sooner you can get it to the tannery or taxidermist the better. If you have access to a freezer, you can freeze it but make sure you don’t try to salt it AND freeze it, do one or the other. It is very important that if you are going to freeze a hide and the head is still on it (such as a bear) that you allow the head and hide to cool before putting it in the freezer. If you don’t, the heat will stay locked in the center of it and by the time it freezes there is a very good chance it will have spoiled (I have personally seen it happen). Good luck, and remember: It’s always cheaper to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own.