Skinning for Tanners & Game Processors
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Deer Skinning for Tanners & Game Processors

By Billy Metcalf
© 2000

Billy Metcalf brain tans for a living in the back woods of British Columbia (his contact info is in our Tanners Directory). He's also a frequent participate in The Hide Out!, our ongoing online discussion forum ... and he has a cool mustache.

Iíve been brain-tanning deer hides for about fifteen years. I collect about 150 hides a year, mostly from meat cutters who cut wild game for hunters. Some I get directly from the hunters themselves. Most of the hides that I get are skinned well, but could be better, a few are excellent and a few are sliced up and worthless. 

Unfortunately the man who showed me how to efficiently take a hide off a deer has retired now. He was great to watch. He used his whole body to do it: his hands, his elbows, his knees, even his feet. He told me, that as a meat cutter who gets paid by the pound for cut and wrapped meat, his main concerns when skinning were to get it done fast and to leave as much meat on the animal as possible. And for me as a tanner his hides were great to work with because he pulled the hide off --- instead of cutting it off with a knife. Which means a clean hide with no knife marks or holes.

The two main points I want to make are:

  • where to make the cuts so that you get the best usable shape when the hide is tanned.

  • how to separate the hide from the meat without using a knife.




Getting Started

This first picture shows a Mule deer hanging, ready to be skinned. Before hanging, the deer was field dressed and the lower part of the back legs were cut off below the main joint with a meat saw and the skin pealed back to expose the big leg tendon that we hang the deer from. Then after the deer was hung, the incision from the field dressing was extended up past the throat. The breast bone and wind pipe were removed to facilitate cooling the meat. The lower part of the front legs were removed at the knee joint as well.






Photo #2 shows where to make the incision on the back legs. Start at the anus or just below, and cut right up the line where the hair changes color to the tendon that the deer is hung from. Then repeat on the other leg.





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