Did I Skin/Stretch My Fox The Right Way?

Discussion in 'Michigan Trapping and Varmint Hunting' started by franky, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. Well, I skinned out my first fox today, the one I got 2 days ago. We let it hang for a couple of days to dry out, as it was all wet and muddy. Then my brother and I started skinning. Everything went well, even the ears. Only hiccup was the eyes. Well, and maybe the ears. Read online that the cartilage had to come out of the ears, so we gave it a try. I think we did it right. We started about a 1/4 inch too early on the eyes, so both the eyes have a couple of new "eye brows". Other than that, we did pretty good. Next we started fleshing. We made our own beam out of a 2x6, which I think is too big for a fox. We couldn't get the fox down the beam past the shoulders. I think a 2x4 would work better. I think we got most of the flesh and fat (there wasn't much). Gave the pelt a good bath using baby shampoo. Sewed up the bullet hole, and slid it on the stretcher that we made after David Duncan's pic of his adjustable one. Worked pretty good for just guessing on the shape. Seemed to be good everywhere except the neck area, which was a tad loose. I think we will buy some stretcher boards to make sure we have the right shape. Hung the fur in the basement for tonite because it's so dry down there to help get the extra moisture out. Will put it outside in the garage tomorrow where it's a bit cooler.Questions: 1. Do you normally sew the eyes shut - or leave them be?2. Any certain kind of thread? I used heavy cotton.3. How much fleshing is normally done around the head area?4. Any ideas, tips, or suggestions?Did I do anything that I shouldn't have? Did I not do something that I should have? Thanks.

    Wanna kill these ads? We can help!
  2. i didnt read anything about splitting the tail. did you split the tail. that is very important or all the hair will slip out of the area.


  3. Yeah. We did that. I guess our main concern is the order in which we did things - like did we wash the fur at the right time, or should we have done it at some other point. Also, in reading online it says that there is really very little fleshing involved for fox. We didn't find hardly any fat, but there was a very thin film-like substance. We got as much as we could. Also, the skin in the head area has a pink hue to it, not white like everywhere else. I'm not sure if that is something that can be scraped off or not. I'm concerned with fleshing too much for fear of ripping the hide.
  4. Franky,

    It sounds like you did pretty good, but I'll comment on a few things from my limited experience....

    You dont need to get all that thin, pink membrane off. Thats called the "saddle" where it occurs over the neck and shoulders, and you should leave it on. All fat and meat chuncks need to be scraped off, but leave the thin, clear membranes. If you scrape too hard and thin, you'll expose the hair roots and this will reduce pelt value and cause hair to slip.

    I have never heard of anyone sewing eyes shut. This is unneccessary....but if thats what you want to do, I dont think its going to hurt anything.

    I have never taken all the cartilage out of the ears, I just cut it off flush with the skull while skinning, then later (when on the drying frame), trim off any excess. This results in hard spots on the tanned pelt, but I dont think its any big deal. In fact, for a "wall hanger" pelt, I would rather have the cartilage provide some support/shape for the ears....rather than have them dry up into little balls, because they had no support.

    I think your biggest area for improvement is the fleshing beam. Using dimensional lumber like a 2x4 or 2x6 may not have been a big problem on an easy thing like a fox, but it will be a nightmare for most other critters. You should buy a real fleshing beam or make one. I'm sure that some people on here, including me, could post some pics of their beams taper and width, etc....if you want to make one. But really, theyre not very expensive in the catalogs.

    Another area for improvement is the drying/stretching frame. If youre going to sell your furs, you will want to use "real" frame sizes and shapes to get the best price. I tinkered with many methods last year, since I was just tanning for myself, not the fur market. Heres a pic of some misc drying schemes and equipment....


    In repsect to washing and drying your fur, I think that if I were to give the pelt a shampoo treatment or other soaking, I would have really wrung out the water or slicked it out using a "rolling pin" of some sort, then hung it fur out to dry for awhile, before boarding. My fear would be putting it on the frame with a really high moisture content, espcecially fur-in. The problem is the that slow drying will promote/extend bacteria activity. Use a gentle fan in your drying room, whenever possible.
    I'm no expert, but these are my opinions.
  5. I wash all canines that I put up. Always wash the animal after you flesh it. This does two things for you. First it will remove any fat that may have gotten on the fur while fleshing. Second if you wash before fleshing you will have a slimmy mess on the leather while you are trying to flesh. Always wash with cold water this way you don't cause any shinking to occur. After washing wring out as much water as you can by hand and then grab the critter by the nose and pretend you are snapping a towel (do this outside, voice of experience talking here). The ringing and snapping will remove most of the water. Then hang pelt up by the nose with a fan blowing to circulate the air around it. Don't point fan directly at the fur as this will tend to dry out any exposed leather. The next morning comb the fur to get rid of the matted apperance and put on a board fur side in. Keep the hide that way until it gets a slight glazed look to it. Then it is time to turn it fur side out. Before I turn the hide I will rub some borax on the ear butts and in the arm pit area as these are hard areas to get dried. When the animal is on the board and turned fur side out hang it so the nose points down. Then comb the fur towards the nose. This will fluff the fur up real nice. Doing it this way it is almost impossible to get the fur to lay down after it is taken off the board. Your hide will look like you are one of the few that take great pride in handling your fur to achieve maximum results.

  6. franky,

    It sounds like you did a good job with your first attempt at fox skinning and stretching.

    Fleshing fox or coyote on a beam is totally unnecessary in my opinion. It also could result in some damage to the leather if you are not very careful.

    I do all my fleshing of my fox or coyote pelts after I have them on the stretcher. It is only necessary to trim off the big chunks of fat or flesh, leaving any thin membranes or flesh on the hide. This thin material will be removed during the tanning process.

    Sewing up any bullet holes with some white tread, works best once you have the pelt on the stretcher. No need to sew up the eye holes.

    In my opinion, it is not necessary or advisable to wash the pelt of fox or coyotes that are taken by trapping.

    Before skinning, if necessary, I use paper toweling to blot up any blood or mositure from the fur. Sometimes I will dampen the paper toweling with a little cold water before bloting the furs, but only if there is excessive blood. Don't use hot or warm water!

    Also, I remove any burrs before skinning the animal.

    I believe that keeping the fur as dry as possible is better and will speed up the drying process.

    Once the pelt is on the stretcher, a little trick is to tie the front legs of the fox in one over hang hand knot. Then after one day of drying, untie the front legs and they will stand out straight, to allow them dry the rest of the way.

    After a couple of days you can turn the fox pelt fur side out and place it back on the stretcher to complete the drying process. It is good at this point to brush the fur at this stage in the opposite direction from the normal direction that it grows, to make it stand straight up. Then, when the fox pelt is completely dry remove it from the stretcher and give it a good shaking. Hold it by the nose and the base of the tail and shake it well. This will make the fur fluff out and make it look like a million dollars!

    If you are going to get your furs tanned for your personal use, they are going to be getting a good washing during this process, so there is no need to get your pelt soaking wet before you stretch them, at least IMO.
  7. I'm going to disagree with Dave on the fleshing of coyotes, they all vary but some of them have a lot of fat under the membrane the full length of the pelt and I have had them mold real bad after I had some on the boards turned fur out. Fleshing coyotes takes the fun out of coyote trapping, this year I just skinned(using a winch) put them in the freezer until it was full than took them to the fur buyer. Wish he lived a lot closer he would get them in the round. Now if they are going to be tanned real soon you wouldn't have to flesh them. Jim
  8. Jim,

    Obviously you have the use of a fleshing beam down pat :).

    The difference between how you and I flesh, stretch and dry coyote pelts might be in where we do the drying. I have an area where the temperature is about 65 deg. with a dehumidifier running. So it is possible for me to get the pelts dried in a fairly short period of time.

    So I have never had any problem with mold. But if a person needs to dry their furs in a less than ideal location, like in an unheated garage or barn, then it would be absolutely necessary to crape their fat coyote pelts, to permit them to dry properly.

    I quess I am just lucky to have an ideal pelt drying setup. So take special note of Jim's experience and perfect your beaming beam skills, if you have any doubts about the your drying setup. Besides you will need those fleshing beam skills to put up your coon and skunks for sure!

    Jim, do you give your coyote pelts a bath or just brush them out?
  9. Thanks for the input, guys. That's what I needed - some clarification on the finer details. However, that last post just raised another question. Everything I have read said to dry in 50 - 60 degrees. Well, we know how difficult it is to control that! I put the fur up in the basement rafters where it is about 68 degrees, but there is a dehumidifier in the basement and it is very dry down there. I left it there overnight, and then put it outside yesterday to take advantage of the breeze and to give it some cool down time. After a total of 24 hrs, the hide felt dry and sounded like paper when we turned it - is that about right? It was still semi flexible and turned ok, and slid over the stretcher alright.

    Again, thanks for advice so far - it really helps!
  10. Dave: My shed is my basement, decent temperature but sometimes a little damp but with fans going it works well. Some coyotes have 1/8" to 1/4" fat under the membrane even with perfect conditions it is almost impossible to dry that out . I have looked at other people pelts when we were at a fur pickup and there are sometimes a big difference in the looks on the inside, sometimes it doesn't seem to bother the buyer as some seem to pay as much for in the round as put up. Most people don't even look inside after they get them turned fur out. I don't wash them but hardly ever have any blood or mud on them lots of sand here. I did build a tumbler that will really fluff them up. I think like me you were gone for a couple days, I did give you an answer on my two predators post. Jim

Share This Page