How to tan small hides

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If you hunt for small game, you probably know all about how to clean and dress and make a tasty stew from your haul. If you can add tanning to your repertoire, you'll be able to make good use of the pelts as well so that nothing goes to waste.

Wash the hide with dish soap, rinse well, then gently squeeze (do not wring) out excess water. Soak the hide in 1 gallon of water mixed with 1 cup of salt for an hour or so.

Mix 1 cup salt with 2 cups fireplace ash. Remove the pelt from the salt water, squeeze out the water, then lay it fur-side down and spread the salt/ash mixture all over the skin side until the mixture gets crumbly.

Fold the pelt lengthwise with the fur side out, then roll it up and place it in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Put it in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Remove the hide from the refrigerator, shake off the excess salt and ash, and place it fur side down on a solid surface. Scrape off the salt and ash with a dull knife--you'll also be scraping away a thin membrane covering the skin.

Mix 2 lb. of salt with 2 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket and stir well. Then add the 8 oz.. of battery acid--be sure to put on your gloves and goggles first. Add the hide, stir again, then weigh it down with a brick and let it sit in a warm room for a week.

Check to see if the hide is tanned by making a small slit in the thickest part with a sharp knife. If the tanning solution has penetrated all of the way and the color is uniform, the tanning is done. If not, let it sit another 3 days, then check it again. Repeat as necessary.

Remove the hide from the tanning solution, wash it in a mild soap solution, then squeeze out the excess water. Nail the hide to a board and let it sit until almost dry and stiff but not hard. If it does get too dry (hard), re-wet it with water from a spray bottle.

Work the hide over a chair back, clothesline, or something similar. Pull it back and forth with the skin side down until it is entirely dry and soft.

Toss the softened hide in a clothes dryer with a few tennis balls or sneakers. Let it tumble around on the fluff (no heat) cycle for half an hour so it gets even softer and the fur fluffs up.

Use a wire brush to scrape away any bumps on the underside of the hide.


  • Make sure the battery acid and the mixture containing this acid are kept in a room that is not accessible to kids or pets.
  • Be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles.
  • Do not let the hide stay wet for too long if you plan to leave the fur on--the longer it soaks, the more fur will fall out.
  • When drying the hide in the dryer be sure to use fluff cycle with no heat.

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