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:
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.