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The Easiest Way to Tan a Deer Hide

Tanning a deer hide is a rite of passage, cementing blood ties to our hunting forebears who depended upon skins for warmth and who respected slain animals by never letting any part go to waste. Using an alum solution (you can find ammonia alum at pharmacies) departs from tradition—ancestral hunters used brains for tanning—but will render your hide soft and supple. The reward is a memento that serves a dual purpose as a beautiful wall hanging or a comforter for a winter night. —KEITH MCCAFFERTY

STEP ONE Skin the deer and bone out the tail. Scrape every particle of fat and flesh from the hide with a knife. Begin the tanning process or preserve it with a generous layer of non-iodized salt. Salted hides can be air dried until the onset of warm weather, or frozen.

STEP TWO Soak the skin in water in a plastic garbage can until it softens, changing the water often. Drain, then pull the skin back and forth across the edge of a board. Scrape it with the back edge of a knife or an old hacksaw blade with dull teeth. Do not expose the hair roots.

STEP THREE Dissolve 2 ½ pounds of salt in 4 gallons of water in the garbage can. In a plastic bucket, dissolve 1 pound of ammonia alum in a gallon of water. Slowly pour the alum solution into the garbage can, mixing thoroughly. Soak the skin for four days, occasionally stirring to make sure the hide is well coated. Rinse thoroughly with running water.

STEP FOUR Tack the hide, hair side down, to a piece of plywood. Partially dry it in a sunless place, then rub in a coat of fat liquor oil (3 ½ ounces of neat's-foot oil combined with 3 ½ ounces of warm water and 1 ounce of ammonia). Work in half of this mixture, allow it to stand for an hour, then repeat. Cover with plastic overnight.

STEP FIVE Remove the tacks, dampen the hide with a wet cloth, stretch it, then rub it back and forth over a sawhorse. Redampen it and repeat, applying additional fat liquor sparingly. When the hide is perfectly supple, smooth the surface by chafing it with fine-grit sandpaper.

SEPTEMBER...

Jerry's Tips (p.54) Pemmican Snacks (p.56) Fire Starters (p.60) Deadly Snakes (p.62)

Comments (15)

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from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

i may try this

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from 270WSM wrote 4 years 38 weeks ago

I WILL TRY THIS NEXT SEASON. BEEN WANTING TO DO THIS FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS NOW.
THANKS.

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from Fishman5 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Thanks for posting this information. If your ever looking for tanning in maine, check this place out.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken@deerhide.net wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

tanning a deer hide easy as a b c http://www.youtube.com/user/tanningABC

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken@deerhide.net wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago
from survivalman wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

i just like to know how long it takes to tan a deer hide and can you tell me what things i need to do it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from survivalman wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

i just like to know how long it takes to tan a deer hide and can you tell me what things i need to do it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rprahl@gmail.com wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I would like to know how to get ahold of ken@deerhide.net with his tanningABC his website and email are disabled.

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from missedit wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I will try it, thanks!!!

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from thefarmingdaughter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Does anyone know where I can buy the ammonia alum mentioned in the article? Thanks!

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from Nick Romanov wrote 1 year 21 weeks ago

i will use this

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from DSand80214 wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Answer to Farmeringdaughter's Question. I order my Alum From Nuts.com The Neatsfoot Oil I oreder off of Ebay.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from daddyo2 wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

While time-consuming in a good way, I followed the steps to completion and have an impressive heirloom deer pelt. Found lots of helpful advice elsewhere but this article was spot on.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from StephaniandChas... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

In step 4, when you "Partially dry it in a sunless place, then rub in a coat of fat liquor oil (3 ½ ounces of neat's-foot oil combined with 3 ½ ounces of warm water and 1 ounce of ammonia)," is the ammonia used the same as the ammonia alum used in the other steps, or is it straight ammonia?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from StephaniandChas... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

In step 4, when you "Partially dry it in a sunless place, then rub in a coat of fat liquor oil (3 ½ ounces of neat's-foot oil combined with 3 ½ ounces of warm water and 1 ounce of ammonia)," is the ammonia used the same as the ammonia alum used in the other steps, or is it straight ammonia?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Fishman5 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Thanks for posting this information. If your ever looking for tanning in maine, check this place out.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken@deerhide.net wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

tanning a deer hide easy as a b c http://www.youtube.com/user/tanningABC

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSand80214 wrote 1 year 19 weeks ago

Answer to Farmeringdaughter's Question. I order my Alum From Nuts.com The Neatsfoot Oil I oreder off of Ebay.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from GiantWhitetails wrote 4 years 41 weeks ago

i may try this

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 270WSM wrote 4 years 38 weeks ago

I WILL TRY THIS NEXT SEASON. BEEN WANTING TO DO THIS FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS NOW.
THANKS.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken@deerhide.net wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago
from survivalman wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

i just like to know how long it takes to tan a deer hide and can you tell me what things i need to do it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from survivalman wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

i just like to know how long it takes to tan a deer hide and can you tell me what things i need to do it?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rprahl@gmail.com wrote 2 years 18 weeks ago

I would like to know how to get ahold of ken@deerhide.net with his tanningABC his website and email are disabled.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I will try it, thanks!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from thefarmingdaughter wrote 1 year 22 weeks ago

Does anyone know where I can buy the ammonia alum mentioned in the article? Thanks!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nick Romanov wrote 1 year 21 weeks ago

i will use this

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from daddyo2 wrote 1 year 18 weeks ago

While time-consuming in a good way, I followed the steps to completion and have an impressive heirloom deer pelt. Found lots of helpful advice elsewhere but this article was spot on.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from StephaniandChas... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

In step 4, when you "Partially dry it in a sunless place, then rub in a coat of fat liquor oil (3 ½ ounces of neat's-foot oil combined with 3 ½ ounces of warm water and 1 ounce of ammonia)," is the ammonia used the same as the ammonia alum used in the other steps, or is it straight ammonia?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from StephaniandChas... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

In step 4, when you "Partially dry it in a sunless place, then rub in a coat of fat liquor oil (3 ½ ounces of neat's-foot oil combined with 3 ½ ounces of warm water and 1 ounce of ammonia)," is the ammonia used the same as the ammonia alum used in the other steps, or is it straight ammonia?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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