Introduction: Curing Small Animal Pelts, Squirrels Rabbits Etc..
To preserve small animal pelts leading to tanning and finishing. In this Instructable I'm using to excellent Fox Squirrels shot Thanksgiving morning. Some pictures may be graphic :
" Sharp knife
" Large flat working surface such as an old work
bench or a sheet of plywood
" Non-iodized salt
This will not make the pelt soft like tanning, only preserve it in a pliable state.
Step 1: Go for the Head
If you decided to keep the head on, slowly work back the skin with your knife. Be careful not to cut into the hide or you may cause an unsightly gash in your pelt. As a reference, separate the silver skin from the hide. When you get past the eyes, cut around the check muscles then you can pull the rest off.
Step 2: Go for the Tail
The tail can be tricky, depending on the size of the squirrel (unless its a nice Ohio squirrel). Split the tail as far down as you can, slowly working out the tail bone/muscle as you go. Once you get to a reasonable spot, snap it off.
Step 3: Strech the Hide
Next, use a staple gun to tack the hide down. Try to keep the staples on the very edge of the hide.
Step 4: Salt the Hide to Properly Dry
Add a good amount of non-iodized salt to the hide. Be sure to liberally salt the edges and any folds in the skin. Work the salt into the head and tail. Any unsalted spot is unprotected. You should repeat this after the first application of salt becomes saturated with moisture, usually in two to three days. The curing lasts about ten to fourteen days. With a smaller animal like this (if you prefer) you can simply tack it down and let it dry if you have properly prepared it (i.e. scrapped, cut off any excess, no folds in skin).
Step 5: Cure the Pelt
Get a pickle jar and some denatured alcohol. The alcohol preserves the skin and locks in the fur. Mix it 50/50 with water and soak the pelt in it for a day.
Step 6: Finish
Wash with a mild detergent and dry (it may take a couple of times to get the alcohol smell out) the pelt then go to your local shoe cobbler (if there is one left) and get some Neatsfoot oil. Its a cow shin extract that will give the skin some pliability. Just work it in but don't use to much to fast. You can use a saddle soap or Mink oil too. Keep working it to make it more pliable.....
That's it, a quick pelt cure. Ive never tried this on a deer but have a hide in the freezer that I plan to give a shot with. Will post results!