Fox furs, or pelts, as the dried furs are commonly referred to, hold their value year-to-year and so are worth the trapper and hunter’s efforts to obtain them. Once a fox is taken, the first step is to skin the fox properly to make sure the pelt arrives at the fur buyer in perfect condition. The skin of a fox is thin and easily damaged or torn, so it is necessary to proceed carefully when skinning. A small pocket knife with a narrow three-inch blade is the best choice for skinning a fox.
Tie a length of cord to each hind leg of the fox, just above the foot; tie the opposite ends of the cords to a rafter or anything that is above your head. Lower the fox, head down, until the hind legs are at eye level and pull the hind legs as far apart as they will go.
Put on the gloves. Cut through the skin just above each foot, front and hind legs, going completely around each leg in a circle.
Stick the tip of the knife into the cut on one back leg and cut an incision following along the back of the leg, just below the anus and along the back of the opposite leg ending up at the cut around the foot.
Cut around the anus and then poke the tip of the knife into the incision between the anus and the tail. Slice an incision on the underside of the tail half way to the tail’s tip.
Peel the skin away from the tail bone with your fingers until the skin is free from the tail bone for the length of the incision. Push your fingers against the fur part of the tail at the end of the incision. Pull the remainder of the tail bone in the opposite direction, sliding it out of the uncut part of the tail.
Pull the skin away from the carcass at the hind legs and cut through the membrane holding the skin to the carcass. Keep skinning out the hind legs until the skin is free of the legs.
Slide the thumbs and forefingers of both hands between the skin and carcass and peel the skin down the body until the front legs are reached.
Pry the skin away from the upper part of the front legs with your fingers only, as a knife here can cut the skin. For each leg, push a finger through the opening made between the leg and freed skin, grip the leg and pull it toward the body while pulling the skin over the leg in the opposite direction. Pull until the skin comes free over the foot.
Skin down the neck to the ears using caution not to cut into the neck arteries. Cut the ears free by cutting against the skull and through the cartilage at the base of the ears.
Move the knife slowly, skinning down the face to the eyes. Press the knife blade against the eyes cutting through the membrane covering the eyes, being careful not to cut the skin around the eyes.
Pull and cut the skin free down the muzzle to the nose. Cut through the nose cartilage, freeing the nose. Cut the lips free by passing the knife between the skin and jaw bones. The skin is now free of the carcass and ready to be stretched and dried.
Items you will need
Rubber gloves – snug fitting
Much of a fox’s skin can be peeled off the carcass by hand. The skin over the face and around the hind legs will need to be cut free; cut slowly through the membrane holding the skin to the carcass.
In years past the feet were left on a fox skin as that was the demand of the market. Today, it is preferred by fur buyers to not have the feet on the pelt.
Cutting the arteries in the neck will release the blood which will run into the fur. This can be avoided by not pressing the sharp edge of the knife blade against the throat.
Wear rubber gloves for skinning to protect you from any health-related problems the fox might have had.
Pull the skin away from the carcass while skinning; do not cut near your fingers.
- “Trapping North American Furbearers;” S. Stanley Hawbaker; 1969
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