Disclaimer: Although these methods of tanning are tried and sourced from a published paper from a well known university, by proceeding you acknowledge the risks associated to both your pelt and your own health with both tanning and the chemicals involved. Some chemicals may be toxic to your health and/or extremely flammable. By proceeding, you release smallgame.ca and all associate individuals and organizations from any liability or responsibility. The following information is for educational purposes only and by proceeding you do so at your own risk.
Fur Bearing Small Game | Turkey Fan, Beard, and Spurs
Fur Baring Small Game
(Rabbit, Squirrel, Coyote, Raccoon, Fox)
If you are new to Tanning, Squirrel pelts are best to practice with as they are thicker and relatively easy to tan. Rabbit pelts are thinner skinned and damaged much easier.
With Small Game such as Rabbit or Squirrel, it is sufficient to air dry the fur by stretching it out fur side down, and pinning it in place on a flat surface such as a piece of wood. Keep the fur off the ground and away from anything that may want to run off with it. For larger fur baring game such as Coyote and Raccoon rub non-iodized salt over the skin to draw the moisture out. Rock salt and Kosher salt are not recommended as the granules are too large to really get into the skin. If salting, leave to dry for 2 to 3 days. Air dry may take longer depending on the weather and humidity. Once dried, scrap off all salt.
For small pelts such as Rabbit and Squirrel, mix together equal parts of wood alcohol and turpentine in a non metallic container such as a 1 gallon glass jar and submerge pelts. Plastic jars and lids are not recommended as some plastics will melt. Make sure the pelts are completely submerged in the mixture and screw on the lid. This will need to be mixed at least twice a day as they alcohol and turpentine will separate very quickly. Leave submerged for 7 to 10 days. Remove from mixture and wash with detergent to remove grease and smell. Turpentine odor will be strong and the pelt will require several wash and rinses. Squeeze the pelts, do not wring them.
For larger pelts such as Coyote or Raccoon, mix together in a large plastic garbage pail or can 1 pound of brains (Either from the animal harvested or pig brains from your local butcher) and 2 gallons of either rain water or spring water. Do not use tap or chlorinated water as treated water will diminish the effectiveness of brain tanning. Submerge the pelt in the solution overnight. The next day remove the pelt and remove all excess solution by squeezing it, not wringing it. Gently stretch and pin the pelt fur side down to a flat surface such as a board or table. Work the pelt by rolling a canoe handle or rolling pin over it, stretching it further and drying it out.
Visit your local hunting supply store and pick up a bottle of "Deer Hunter's & Trapper's Hide Tanning Formula". These are available at such places as Pass Pro Shop and Cabela's for $15. Apply the solution with a paint brush or with rubber gloves you can rub the solution into the skin side of the pelt. Fold the pelt so that the skin side is touching and the fur side is out and leave it for 12 to 16 hours depending on the size of the pelt. If it is a case skinned pelt, after you apply the solution turn it fur side out and hang it for 12 to 16 hours. After this time open the fur to expose the skin (or if Case Skinned turn it skin side out) and leave it to dry for 2 to 3 days depending on the size of the pelt.
If you want a softer skin, tie a coarse rope between two objects such as two trees and slowly rub the skin side of the dried pelt back and forth along the rope. Do not use to much force. Working the pelt like this will break the fibers or the skin, making it flexible again.
Turkey Fan, Beard, and Spurs
Grab the Turkey around the base of the tail and cut the fan off. Turn the fan over and remove all excess flesh and feathers from the underside. Make sure not to cut into the fan feathers. Turn the fan over and remove as much excess flesh and meat from the base as possible while leaving all feathers attached. Leave the bone that the centre feathers are attached to alone.
Lay the fan on cardboard (such as a broken down cardboard box) and rub non-iodized salt into the base of the fan. Get as much salt as possible onto any exposed flesh or meat. Pin the center of the fan down. Find the right most fan feather and pin it down by putting the pin beside the main vein of the feather. Finding the left most feather, spread the fan so it is open 180 degrees and pin the left most feather down. Evenly spread out the fan and pin each feather down. Spread out the second and third row feathers, pinning if necessary.
Find the beard and pull gently until it pulls out from the body but do not pull beard off. Cut roughly a quarter of an inch below where all the hairs come together. Rub as much salt as possible into the flesh end of the beard.
Cut the legs of roughly a 1/2 inch below the knees using a hacksaw or meat saw. Rub as much salt as possible into the cut sides of the legs. The claws will have a tendency to curl as they dry. You can avoid this by pinning them into a desired "pose".
Because the claws are included it may take from 14 to 21 days to dry. If the claws are not included, it may take 7 to 10 days to dry. During the drying process, place in a clean and dry area off the floor and away from anything that may run off with it. You can check to see if it is ready by testing the base of the fan and the claws. If the base of the fan is hard and the claws are hard to the touch, then it has dried and is ready to mount.
Mounts are available are your local hunting store such as Bass Pro and Cabela's for as little as $25.