Preparation for Tanning
Once I cut the hide from the animal, what do I do next?
Fresh skins deteriorate very quickly, so it should be said that any hunter who has just taken a hide from an animal should treat it as if it were a piece of meat. An animal hide can go off just as quickly if it is not given the TLC it needs in preparation for the tanning and taxidermy processes. If not treated with the care it requires, a skin will go rotten anywhere between taking the hide from the animal right up until the tanning process. With the above said, the hide needs to be salted as soon as possible and therefore I advise, for anyone that asks, that salt should be taken with them on their hunting trips. The sooner the hide is salted the better. Aside from salting a hide, the next most important step in the process is to get the hide cooled down as quickly as possible.
The reason salting a fresh hide is important, at this early stage, is to extract the moisture from within the hide. The salt draws the moisture out. If the moisture remains, and the hide is at or above room temperature for a period of time, bacteria will grow . This bacteria affects the hair follicle resulting in hair slip. That is, the hair begins to fall out in clumps. Salt is also an anti-bacterial agent that helps to preserve the skin.
The best salt to use for preparing the skin is fine salt (not rock salt). This is easy to obtain as you can generally get it from your local supermarket.
What steps should I take if I'm not going to tan immediately?
Step 1: Lay the skin flat and cover the hide in approximately 1-2cms of salt on the pelt/leather side in a cool and dry place. Try and have the skin sloping downward if possible. This helps drain away the moisture being extracted from the skin by the salt. Don't hang the skin as you may find that the salt falls off.
Step 2: After about 12 hours or less, the salt will have drawn out as much moisture as it possibly can and the hide should be shaken and more salt reapplied. Lay the hide out flat again in a cool dry place for about 2 days. If you have caped an animal to be mounted, ensure you salt around the eyes, nose, mouth and pack the ears with salt. Remember, it's better to have too much salt than not enough. It is important to keep reapplying exhausted salt if you are not able to get it to a freezer in the next 24 hours.
Step 3: Roll up the hide and put into a bag in the freezer until it is ready to be tanned. A hide can last a few years in the freezer as long as it is frozen solid.
Some hunters choose to leave the skin lying out flat to dry in the salt completely. I do not advise this as the hides are harder to tan when prepared this way.
What steps should I take if I want to tan immediately?
If you are going to tan the hide immediately, you should do the following:
Once you have the skin home, put it into a brine bath of salt and water (20grams of salt per litre of water). Wash the pelt and let it then re-hydrate back to it's normal and original feel. It is only necessary to put a skin into a brine to re-hydrate the skin. It should not be left any longer as there is a risk that the skin can rot in the water. Once re-hydration is achieved, you are ready to tan using the Pizzari's Home Tanning Kit.