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Title: SKINNING AND FUR HANDLING
Source: mntrappers.com
URL Source: http://www.mntrappers.com/skinning.html
Published: Jun 14, 2006
Author: unattributed
Post Date: 2006-06-14 22:28:35 by A K A Stone
Keywords: None
Views: 15282
Comments: 13

Proper fur handling is very important. It can bring much personal satisfaction from doing a job well and it can also result in a better price from the fur buyer. Fur handling starts at the trap site. If trapped in the water, the fur bearer should be rinsed clean of any mud or vegetation. Next, attempt to remove as much excess water as possible. Muskrat can be held by the head and shaken to remove much of the water. Fur bearers can be stroked with your hand from the head to the tail to squeeze out water, or rolled in dry snow to clean and soak up excess water. In cold weather, do not lay a wet animal on ice or any metal surface because the guard hairs will freeze to the surface and the pelt may be damaged when the animal is picked up. If animals are carried in a vehicle, they can be placed on newspaper. If the animal's fur is still wet, it should be hung up by the head or forelegs in a cool place to finish drying. Be sure not to hang too long since the pelt may spoil in warm weather. All pelts must be dry before being placed on a drying frame. If the fur bearer is trapped on land, brush or comb it to remove any burrs or dirt before skinning. The trapper should be cautious of parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites that may be on the animal's fur (especially land Fur bearers). If fleas or ticks are a problem, the animals can be placed in a plastic garbage bag and dusted with flea powder when they are removed from the trap. It is advisable for trappers to wear plastic gloves when skinning. Fur bearers should be skinned as soon as possible after they are killed. The skin is easier to remove when the animal is fresh and damage to the pelt is less likely. There are two recognized ways of skinning animals called "cased" and "open." All furs except beaver and badger are prepared cased. Cased furs are removed from the animal by slitting the fur across from one hind foot pad to the other and pulling it down over the animal's head the way we take off a pullover sweater. Open pelts are prepared by skinning down the belly and tacking the pelt out flat. Animals with furred tails have the tail split on the underside and left on thepelt. Hairless tails, like those of muskrat, beaver and opossum are removed at the hair line. Return To Index NOTE The Tail bones of the following animals should have the tail bone removed and then split open to the tip and dried: Mink, otter, skunk, racccoon, red fox, fisher, gray fox, coyote, weasel, fisher, bobcat, badger and lynx. Spread the tails of these animals open and nail, tack or pin open until dry. Use plenty of nails or pins to be sure the edges are even. This will give it a better appaerance. Many trappers and buyers prefer to tack open the tails of all the animals above. CASED FURS Muskrat: The muskrat is a good example to describe the procedures on skinning cased furs. The first step is to cut the pelt around the tail and all four feet at the fur line. Next, the pelt is cut from the heel of each hind foot to the anus. By pulling the pelt and by cutting connective tissue where necessary, the pelt is peeled down from the hind legs and the tail. Aside from the initial cuts around the feet and tail and down the hind legs, the muskrat pelt can be removed from the body without using the knife. Cuts will be required to remove the pelt at the ears and eyes. click drawing for enlargement If desired, the carcass can be hung by the hind legs, using a gambrel at a convenient height. The pelt is pulled down the carcass as far as it will go, exposing the base of the forelegs. Pass a finger between the foreleg and the pelt; then using a push and pull motion, strip the skin from each leg. When both forelegs are free, pull the pelt down the carcass, past the neck to the base of the ears. The head of the carcass should be partially exposed. Locate the cartilage that attaches the ears to the skull and cut as close as possible to the skull. Pulling the pelt lower should reveal the connective tissue around the eyes. The tissue should be cut close to the skull using a sharp knife. If done properly, no fur should be left on the carcass around the ears and eyes. The pelt is pulled down again, finally exposing the loose flesh around the lips. The pelt is freed from the carcass by cutting around the lips and through the nose cartilage. The pelt is now ready to be fleshed, "stretched" and dried, or it can be frozen fur side out in a plastic bag. Do not roll up pelts before freezing. Heavy pelts are extremely good insulators and rolled pelts may begin to spoil and warm in the center before the cold can penetrate, particularly if several pelts are placed next to each other. Return To Index Raccoon: Another good example of skinning a cased fur is the raccoon. The first step in skinning a raccoon is to cut the pelt around the "ankles" and "wrists" where the long fur ends. Next, the pelt is cut from the heel of each hind foot to the anus and around the anus. Finally, a cut is made from the anus straight down the tail about 4 inches. Start peeling the pelt down the hind legs by pulling the pelt and by cutting connective tissue where necessary. After the pelt is removed from the hind legs, the carcass can be hung at a convenient height by its hind feet. Peel the pelt off the carcass around the anus. If the raccoon is a male, reproductive organs will be connected to the pelt. These are cut off as close to the pelt as possible. Now peel the pelt from around the base of the tail exposing a couple of inches of the tail bone. Clamp a tail stripper around the tail bone with one hand and hold the base of the tail with your other hand and attempt to pull the tail bone out of the tail by pulling the tail stripper (see drawing). If the tail bone does not pull out, extend the cut several more inches toward the tip of the tail. Free more of the tail bone from the pelt by cutting the connective tissue and then try to pull the tail bone out as described before. Once the tail bone is pulled, extend the cut on the tail straight to the tip. A tail slitting guide may be helpful, but is usually unnecessary if a sharp knife is used. Click drawing for enlargement>>> The pelt should now be pulled down the carcass as far as it will go exposing the forelegs. Further expose the forelegs by cutting the connective tissue. Wrap fingers from both of your hands around the raccoon's foreleg and support it while pushing the pelt down. Keep pushing until the raccoon's forefoot passes through the pelt and the pelt is free. Repeat this process with the other foreleg. As with the muskrat, the ears, eyes, nose and lips should be cut free without leaving any fur on the carcass. The pelt is now ready to be fleshed or placed fur side out in a plastic bag to be frozen. Return To Index

Fleshing Cased Furs: Fleshing is the act of removing the fat and muscle from the skin. Before the pelt is ready to be fleshed its fur should be dry and free of any mud or burrs. Pelts with a lot of fat, such as raccoon, skunk or opossum pelts, should be allowed to hang fur side in and cool until the fat stiffens or hardens. If the pelt is frozen, it should be removed from the plastic bag and thawed completely but slowly (don't leave it next to a stove or heater). The fleshing job is made easier by using a fleshing beam or fleshing board (see diagram). The trapper should try to match the shape of the beam or board with the type of fleshing tool used. One-handed scrapers, hog scrapers and two-handed scrapers with a straight blade work well on the flatter beams and boards. A two-handed scraper with a curved blade works well on a rounder beam or board.

Regardless of the equipment used, care should be taken not to apply too much pressure on the pelt. This could cut the hide or the roots of the fur and lower the value of the pelt. To start fleshing, the pelt is slipped over the fleshing beam or board with the fur side in. If the animal has a tail that is left on the pelt, the tail is usually fleshed first. It is important that all the fat be cleaned from the tail because if any is left on it may spoil or get into the fur. Many trappers like to flesh a narrow strip around the bottom of the pelt after fleshing the, tail. Next, start at the head and flesh a strip down the length of the pelt. The pelt is turned or rotated on the beam or board so that the trapper can flesh another strip alongside the first strip. The pelt is turned until all of it has been fleshed. A sharp knife can be used to trim around the lips, eyes and ears. Forelegs should also, be checked for fat and fleshed if necessary. A clean dry rag, feed bag or a paper towel can be used to soak up extra grease or loose fat. Some Fur bearers, especially red fox and weasel, will only have a small amount of flesh or fat on the pelt and it will only be necessary to scrape where the trapper sees flesh or fat. Return To Index Wire Stretchers - Raccoon Pelt Click drawing for enlargement Cased furs are always arranged on stretchers in such a way that the forelegs and belly will be centered on one side of the stretcher and the eyes, ears and back will be centered on the other side. Place the pelt fur side in on the stretcher, centered as described, and pull the pelt down the stretcher until snug. Wire stretchers usually have two or more arms that move up and down the stretcher. These arms are attached (pronged) into the edge of the hide in the center of the stretcher. Muskrat pelts are attached at the tail and belly portions of the pelt each on a separate arm. All other cased pelts have the tail portion of the pelt attached to one arm and the two hind Iegs attached to the other arm. The arms are pulled toward the bottom of the stretcher until snug. The pelt is then wiped clean again and is ready to dry. The fur side of the pelt must be completely dry before it is placed on a wire stretcher, or the stretcher may rust and damage the pelt. Wooden Stretchers Place the pelt on the board fur side in and center as shown on page 48. The pelt should be placed smoothly and evenly on a board with the tail well cleaned and opened. Pull snug but do not overstretch as this will cause the fur to look thin. It should be fastened to the board with a few tacks or push pins around the skirt and a few along the edge of the tail. Cut off the lower lip or use one tack to hold it in place. Let the skin of the front legs stick out free from the pelt, but trim them so that they do not hang down against the pelt. Do not fold the front legs together nor turn them back inside the pelt as either way can cause rot and hair slip. The back legs of the pelt can be fastened with one or two tacks. With the one piece drying board, a belly board is necessary. The belly board is 5/16" x 5/16" x 30" and sloped or tapered from one end to the other so it can be removed after the pelt is dry. Place the smallest end between the drying board and the pelt on the belly side and push it ahead until the belly board goes up to the head of the pelt. With an adjustable wooden drying board, no belly board is necessary. Again wipe clean. Return To Index DRYING CASED FURS The pelt is now ready for drying. After the pelt has been boarded, it should be hung to dry in a place away from the stove, sunlight or strong, hot winds. If it is dried too fast the leather will be ruined. A temperature of 55 F to 60 F is about right. Pelts of foxes, cats, fisher and coyote are only partially dried then turned fur side out, as described later, to finish drying. The pelts will dry in 24 hours to one week, depending on the amount of air movement passing through the drying place. They should be wiped with a dry, clean rag occasionally to take off sweat and any fat that might work out of the leather. When the pelts have been on the drying board long enough to dry, they should be taken off and hung by the nose until the head and legs are fully dry before selling. Cased pelts should not be folded, but should be packed flat, one on top of the other. Folding makes a crease and takes away some of the good appearance. Return To Index SPEClAL INSTRUCTIONS BY SPECIES -- CASED FURS Mink: Market Fur In The following step-by-step procedure illustrates an alternate method of handling a "cased" fur. Fasten a small steel trap firmly to a solid support. PIace the right hind foot of a mink in the trap and it will be held solidly, yet remain movable while the animal is being skinned. First, cut the front feet off at the top of the foot pad. The next cut is made by holding the left hind foot of the mink straight out toward you and making the cut from foot pad to foot pad along the back legs just in front of the anus on the belly side. Take the right hind foot of the mink out of the trap and put the left hind foot of the mink into the trap and hold the tail out toward you. Cut down the tail past the anus to meet the first cut. Now slice down the opposite side of the anus and the pelt is open with no fur being wasted and the anus not cut open to free scent and oil glands, which would be harmful to the fur and result in strong odor. Next work the legs and tail out. This is done by simply pushing down with thumb and fingers between the skin and carcass near the has of the tail on each side and moving outward toward the foot, separating the pelt from the carcass in quick, easy movements. The pelt is pulled down the hind legs to the foot and cut off to leave the claws on the carcass. The bone is then pulled out of the mink tail. Next the mink is placed with both hind feet in the trap and the pelt pulled down over the head as the front legs are pulled through. Skin carefully around the head cutting the ears off close to the skull and using great care not to cut the eyes and lips. Otter: Market Fur In The otter is one of the most difficult Fur bearers to skin. The otter has more connective tissue holding its pelt to the carcass so the pelt must be cut free more than pulled free. Once removed, the pelt is placed on the scraping board and thoroughly cleaned of all fat, flesh and blood. Though difficult to scrape, care should be taken not to use too sharp a knife or scraper that will expose the hair roots through the leather. If the otter is not well cleaned, the remaining fat will quickly burn and discolor- the leather side, thereby reducing its market value. When well cleaned, place on a standard drying board, pull tight and nail into position. The tail should also be opened and nailed on the board. Skunk: Market Fur In Skunk should be skinned the same as raccoon. Most of the trouble from skunks is their smell, which creates a problem while skinning and in storage as well. Also, because of the possibility of skunks having rabies, always wear rubber or plastic gloves when skinning and do not skin animals that appear sick or are behaving abnormally. Hang the skunk by the hind leg and open the pelt by slitting from one hind foot pad in a straight line past the anus to the other foot pad. Much care should be taken in skinning around the anus to prevent cutting it open to release the scent. Leaving a small patch of fur around the anus helps prevent cutting the scent gland ducts. Split the tail open on the under side and remove the tail bone. Skin as described for the raccoon or mink. All flesh and fat should be fleshed from the leather on a fleshing beam or board. When fleshed, the entire pelt can be soaked in vinegar for one-half hour to remove most of the scent from both the pelt and your hands. Rinse, turn the fur out and hang loose by the nose in an airy place, until the fur side is dry. When dry, turn fur side in and place on a standard drying board or wire stretcher. Fasten with closely spaced nails around the skirt. Spread the tail open and nail that way. Use a belly board. Hang in a cool, dry place until dry. When dry, remove from the board and again store in a cool, dry place. Gray Fox, Red Fox, and Coyote: Market Fur Out Hang the animal by one hind foot. Two cuts are made, one from each hind foot to the anus following the line where the belly fur and back fur meet. Then cut from the anus up the tail 2 or 3 inches and finally around both hind feet. The tail bone is removed as described for raccoon. Skin out the hind legs and continue to pull the pelt down over the front legs, cutting free any connective tissue while doing so. A little extra pressure is needed to pull the small neck part over the head. but when this is done, the ear cartilage shows, and this should be cut off close to the skull. Using great care, cut the eyes, lips, and nose free, and the fur is then free of the carcass. Check the leather side closely, and remove all excess flesh and fat. Do not forget to spread the tail open and clean it in the same way. Place the pelt on a standard drying board or wire frame fur side in. Use a belly board. Fasten with nails along the bottom. The neater the job, the better looking it will be to the buyer. Allow to dry in a cool, dry place. When partly dry (not sticky but flexible) remove from the board and turn it fur side out, where it should remain until fully dry. If the pelt gets too dry to turn fur side out, it can be re-softened by wrapping in a damp cloth. Do not try to force an over-dry pelt inside out or it may tear. When completely dry, remove it from the board, and hang it nose up in a cool, dry place. Then, brush the fur lightly or hold it upside down and "snap" it to give a good appearance. Weasel: Market Fur In Weasel are very easy to skin. Skin as described for the mink. Take care not to pull the pelt too hard or it may tear. Weasel pelts dry rapidly, and should be placed on proper drying boards as soon as skinning is completed. Blood stains should be removed by light washing with clean water. When the pelt is on the drying board fur side in, a tack at each hind foot and one at the base of the tail will hold it in place. Excess fat and flesh should now be carefully removed. Pelts should remain on the drying boards until completely dry in order to prevent wrinkling after being removed. Wrinkling spoils the appearance and reduces size and value. Use a belly board as you do for mink. This permits easier removal from the board when dry. Dry away from heat. When fully dry, remove the pelt carefully from the drying board to prevent tearing. Store pelts in a cool, dry place. Lay flat, or hang on strings through the eye holes. Do not fold the pelt because this may cause cracks and always leads to a poor appearance. Split open all tails and always remove the tail bone. Fisher: Market Fur Out Skin as for raccoon or fox. Remove all flesh and fat. Be sure to flesh large male fisher well, as they have a tendency to get stiff when dry. The pelt should be placed on standard drying boards, fur side in. The tail on fisher should be spread open, cleaned, then fastened open to dry. When partly dry, remove from the drying board and turn fur side out by starting at the nose. When turned, return them to the drying board until fully dried. Bobcat and Lynx: Market Fur Out Although the claws are sometimes left on bobcat pelts, there is no necessity for this. Unless you have a special order for claws on, be sure to remove them from the pelt. It is sometimes a good idea to slit the skin of the front leg rather than try to pull the paw through. Bobcat have small necks and big heads. Much pressure is necessary to pull the pelt down over the head, so take your time to prevent tearing. Cut the ears off next to the skull, and skin carefully around the eyes, nose and lips, until the pelt comes free. Remove all flesh and fat from the leather. Place on a standard drying board with the fur side in. Pull it down and nail around the skirt. Use a belly board. Spread open the hind legs and nail them open to dry. When the leather side of the pelt is partially dry, remove it from the drying board and turn fur side out by starting at the nose and working to the rump. Return it to the drying board, nail and then hang in a cool, dry place until it is dry. When dry, remove the drying boards, brush the fur out lightly, and hang by the nose in a cool, dry place until it is to be marketed. Return To Index OPEN FURS Beaver are handled "open" and can be skinned either clean or rough. Clean skinning takes longer, but little or no fleshing is required. Some trappers like to rough skin beaver on the trap line or at home and then flesh the pelt on a beam. The fur should be clean and dry before skinning. The first step is to remove the front and hind feet. Some trappers chop these off with a hatchet, but with a little practice they can be removed easily with just a knife. Some trappers remove the tail while others leave it attached and use it as a "handle" while skinning. Lay the beaver on its back and mark a straight line in the fur from the lower lip to the base of the beaver's tail with the tip of your index finger. Slit the belly skin along this line, being careful not to cut into the body cavity or to damage the castor glands on either side of the cloaca (anus). Begin to pull and cut the pelt free along this midline cut. Beaver are difficult to skin and knives must be kept sharp. Work toward the back of the beaver. one side at a time, keeping the hide taut to avoid cutting it. Do not slit the leg area but pull the hide off over the legs. When the skin is loose on the underside of the animal, flip it over and cut the skin loose from the back up to the head. Cut carefully around the ears, eyes and nose to free the pelt from the carcass.

Fleshing Beaver The skin should be hung in a cool place to allow the fat to stiffen or “set.” This will make the fleshing job easier. Some trappers flesh beaver by tacking the pelt out tightly on a board with at least eight nails and using a knife or flat fleshing tool to remove fat and flesh from the outside edges of the pelt toward the center. Pelts that were skinned very clean may not require fleshing. Beaver are most easily fleshed on a beam with a two-handled fleshing knife. A nail head sticking out slightly at the tip of the fleshing beam will hold the pelt when the trapper leans his body against it. Flesh a strip of the pelt down the midline of the back and another strip at right angles across the pelt. Each of the “quarters” remaining can then be easily fleshed. Any holes made while skinning or fleshing should be sewn shut with even stitches before the pelt is nailed to a drying board.

Boarding Beaver Beaver pelts should be nailed to heavy plywood, the end of a cable drum, or on some other flat surface in a round or wide oval shape. It helps to have permanently drawn concentric circles or ovals of various sizes marked on the board to serve as a guide when nailing. Be careful not to overstretch the pelt. Place the nails according to the sequence shown in the accompanying illustration. When finished, the nails should be no more than 1 inch apart. Use nails at least 2 inches long and, once the pelt is nailed up, pull it away from the board up onto the nails so that air can circulate behind it. Pelts can also be sewn onto a hoop frame of metal or wood. The pelt should be sewn loosely using stitches one inch apart. Once it has been attached all the way around, the stitches can be pulled tight all around. Some metal hoops are adjustable and the stitches can be tightened by increasing the hoop size. Some trappers hoop beavers using metal hog rings rather than heavy thread or cord. Leg holes should be trimmed and sewn or nailed closed. Beaver should be dried in a cool place away from direct sun. As the pelt dries, wipe it from time to time with a clean, dry cloth to remove grease or oil coming out of the leather. After the pelt is dry, remove it from the board or frame, brush the fur, and hang or stack the pelts leather to leather, fur to fur.

Badger Badger is the only other Minnesota furbearer which is sometimes dried and stretched “open.” However, it is easier to hang badger and initially skin them “cased,” as described for raccoon or fox. They can be fleshed on a beam, then the belly fur is slit down the midline from anus to lip, and the pelt is tacked out in a rectangular shape. Some buyers prefer badgers stretched and dried cased on a wire or wooden frame similar to raccoon. It is best to check with you buyer to see which he prefers before stretching badger pelts.

Recommended Stretcher Sizes Recommended wooden stretcher sizes for various furbearers are listed on page 60. If homemade wooden stretchers are constructed, the edges of the boards should be rasped or sanded round and smooth after cutting to shape. Proper Cuts for Skinning Beaver

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Poster Comment:

This could come in handy.

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#1. To: A K A Stone (#0)

Good article. Fleshing is a bitch. Must haves these days are a shaaaaaaaaarp knife and surgical gloves.

"When they come for your guns, it's time to use them."-Anthem

continental op  posted on  2006-06-15   22:00:40 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: continental op (#1)

I've never skinned anything. Have you?

A K A Stone  posted on  2006-06-15   22:06:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: A K A Stone (#2)

Trapped and skinned sinc't I wuz a kid...

"When they come for your guns, it's time to use them."-Anthem

continental op  posted on  2006-06-15   22:11:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: continental op (#3)

I bet your good at filleting fish too then.

A K A Stone  posted on  2006-06-15   22:12:31 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: A K A Stone (#4)

I bet your good at filleting fish too then.

Any knifework at all. I studied under the masters...

"When they come for your guns, it's time to use them."-Anthem

continental op  posted on  2006-06-15   22:14:39 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: continental op (#5)

If you get a chance how about some lessons. Or how about some trapping knowledge. Survival skills is an area on this site that needs more articles.

A K A Stone  posted on  2006-06-15   22:18:00 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: A K A Stone (#6)

Soons I get some time, I plan to post some pictures and videos I've made on survivalism, snakehandling, ect...

"When they come for your guns, it's time to use them."-Anthem

continental op  posted on  2006-06-15   22:20:01 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: continental op (#7)

I plan to post some pictures and videos I've made on survivalism, snakehandling, ect...

Sounds interesting. You ever eat the snakes?

What about ferrets, you ever skinned one? I'd love to have a ferret jacket.

A K A Stone  posted on  2006-06-15   22:21:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: A K A Stone (#0)

The skinning part is easy.. Just apply alcohol.

Now the "Fur handling" part take some practice.

Democracy was getting old anyway...

Jhoffa_  posted on  2006-06-15   22:57:57 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#10. To: A K A Stone (#8)

You ever eat the snakes?

Perish the thought...

"What about ferrets, you ever skinned one?"

Never skinned rodents. Skunks, coons and bobcats mainly.

"When they come for your guns, it's time to use them."-Anthem

continental op  posted on  2006-06-16   15:49:01 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#11. To: continental op (#10)

Where are you at? You having fun?

A K A Stone  posted on  2008-08-04   1:26:30 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#12. To: A K A Stone (#0)

Action Handling Equipment Ltd is one of the most trusted names in the UK when it comes to material handling equipment, lifting equipment, office supplies, industrial weighing equipment, packaging and warehouse equipment.

Lifting Equipment

action  posted on  2010-09-21   10:47:17 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#13. To: All (#11)

Bump this thread.

A K A Stone  posted on  2011-02-27   10:36:58 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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