We often see more and more things going to waist in this current world, from throw away electricals to disposable everything’s.
So one thing as a countryman I have a huge respect for is the artisan producers of craft items, reusing old shotgun cartridges, and spent brass, mixing in a few feathers or what knots to make hat pins, broaches, cuff links, clocks, and so much more.
Here at the diary its much the same, we have young sports, having a go at tanning deer, and even some of our writers make craft goodies.
But one thing we do promote is using as much of the animal as possible, so we are going to write a few guides on how to tan your hide, before somebody else does.
In part one we shall start to get ready to tan a deer hide, this time its a lovely roe doe hide, from the edge of Bodmin moor, she has a thick fluffy coat in almost a brown grey color, Ranging from russet red to chestnut in the summer most roe go to this ghost grey in winter, it blends in perfectly with the forest as very little of the greens are left and most tree bark as the sap resides back to the roots, almost turns a grey itself.
-to winter, the stark contrast is huge.
So the deer was killed and left to hang for a day, this allows some of the rigor mortis to relax, that is the natural process where an animal including us go rigid shortly after death occurs, but what most folks don’t know is it eases off after a few more hours and you can re animate the body, very handy if you say, need to butcher it up.
So I knew I needed to cool the carcass down so in the fields, I had already taken the 1st 3 inches of hide off the rump. This allowed the air to pass through the body cavity and up the anal area to cool quicker, so pulling the hide back a bit more helps cool those big rump muscles down.
So hanging does a few things, and they are important.
it allows the muscles to relax after rigor motis, it allows the adrenaline to break down from the muscles, this is what gives the animal its flight response, the adrenaline basically super charges the animals natural instincts, and makes them well super, they can run longer and jump higher and every muscle is zapping electric charges to the brain, which in turn is making more good stuff hence why you can shoot a deer and they can just run, some over hundred yards, and when you look you find it was a perfect heart/lung shot, and should of dropped on the spot.
So rigor starts upon death as the muscles cool, and they contract through various chemical changes, but it only lasts around 24 hours in deer, and its peak is around 12 hours.
This gives you an idea on how long to hang your deer. a minimum of 12 -24 hours. So now the issues most seem to struggle with, taking its coat off, I started preparing the deer to be butchered, 27 hours after death, I have a old concrete outhouse which when its below 10c is a good makeshift chiller area.
So on to the guide, now many domestic animals are skinned just after death to allow the clean plant process, that means all the dirty stuff like feet and tails, the head and hides are removed before it is chilled, like lamb and beef, even pigs have a bath and shave before being processed, but with deer its always been coat on in the chiller, as there is very little fat they can dry out rather quick in that blasting cold air.
So the leather symbol that world known is actually the shape the hide comes off the animal, and that is roughly what you are aiming for when skinning, so a cut across the pelvic area up both back legs and then down the front of the animal ready to eviscerate it then follow on down the breast, and across both front legs.
If you follow the orange lines you will follow the natural lines of ease to help you skin.
Use the blade to just free up the skin, there is a thin white membrane that holds it on but will just pull off.
Keep pulling gently.
just let the weight of the blade free any bits that wont pull with ease.
Here you can clearly see the membrane pulling away.
This is the muscles that run under the skin, these allow the animal to shake and shudder ,like when flies land they shudder to dislodge them.
Around the back you will need to let the blade do the work.
This is it, from middle of the back you can use your weight to pull the hide down off the shoulders and neck.
In the next article we shall show you how to de flesh and start the preserving process on your hide.