Do-it-yourself deer hide tanning


September 15, 2006, 02:19 PM
Ok, so......
I shot my first Deer ever last year. HUGE doe(didn't look so big in the crosshairs) she had a beautiful dark dark coat and I wanted to save something as a trophy of my first deer ever. so... I wraped it in celophane and walmart bags and put in freezer. I just never got around to taking it to a taxidermist. I was checking out the new Sportsman's Wearhouse that was just built (awsome place) and found a do it at home tanning kit for 21 bucks. I thought "ah ha!!"
I shot the deer by myself, gut it, dragged it out of woods for 3 hours, took to check station, skinned it, and proccessed it including grounding the meat all by myself. I would be extra proud of myself if I tanned its hide all by myself too. I am woman, hear me Roar!!!:)

first of all..... what kind of salt do you use for curing hides?!. I have no idea! The crappy instruction manual just says not to use rock salt.. isn't rock salt - table salt NaCl? and where to you get the propper salt?

Also, the tanning kit says you can tan a deer hide. what it fails to mention is it only has enough for what they call an average deer hide. 2' by 3'. but they have instructions for tanning large and extra large hide in the book. I read that stinkin book front to back before I started and again after I noticed the mistake. So, I'm in the middle of the tanning proccess when I discovered I don't have enough chemicals! :banghead: my deer hide is classified as an extra large. my hide is 3' by 5' !!

Well, heres to a waste of time and money. hopefully I can salvage the hide.

I'd still like to know about salt and curing hides.

If you enjoyed reading about "Do-it-yourself deer hide tanning" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Bwana John
September 15, 2006, 03:33 PM
The natural way is "brain tanning". Every animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide.
If you threw out the brains, find a comerical tanning product that contains tannin.

Salt is for preserving a green hide, tanning involves other techniques and chemicals.

Fireplace ash (not charcol) is another way to do it but takes the hair off.

September 15, 2006, 03:58 PM
Now I don't feel like such a dope for paying a taxidermist to do it!

September 15, 2006, 04:16 PM
i been doing it for years my uncle learned from grand father 3rd generation later they still look as if just done and hang on the wall in the sporting room some call a den ,first skin your deer carefully so as not to leave lots of meat on it ,then lay flat inside up and Salt use NON IODIZED salt iodine in it has an effect thats not good , put it on sorta heavy edge to edge do not miss any ,then fold inside against inside hair out ,and set in cool place about two or three days ,it will be salted ,this would be long to write all out at once pm me ill tell the rest of how we do it ,hair on hair off ,i make all kinds of things from vests ,jackets, purses, lighter holders, coin purses, slippers, gun slings, knife cases, all types of useable things,possible bags for black powder .. from the one that didnt get away ,let me know if i can be of any help or info in central new york tim58

September 18, 2006, 09:48 AM
Cow brains work for brain tanning as well...

September 18, 2006, 12:16 PM
any good step by step beginer web pages to help folks learn how to tan a hide?

September 18, 2006, 01:13 PM
Get a copy of the foxfire book covering this. I think it is volume 2, but I don't have mine with me right now (dang thievin' daughter. :D ) I have tanned hides with baking soda and alum (fur on, fur off) or antifreeze (snake skins) off and on over the years and usually it works just fine. Just remember to get all the flesh and fat off. Salting will help with this.

Water conditioner salt works fine, but you have to crush/grind it.


September 19, 2006, 03:54 PM
If you want a soft, pliable hide you will have to "break" it. That usually involves either a lot of labor or a machine, such as a hide tumbler. My brother rigged one up from an old 55 gallon plastic barrel and a motor and pulley system. I think the media used inside was ground up corn cobs or something like that. There's places you can send a salted, dry hide to and they will tan it. We used to take them to WB Place in Hartford, WI to get them tanned, hair on or hair off. Here's a link.

September 20, 2006, 03:24 PM
EatBugs - Kosher salt should work fine. available in 3 lb boxes at any grocery store, cheap.

September 21, 2006, 01:32 PM
Every animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide.

Sounds like something my creative writing instructor told us when he gave the the class multuple writing assignments with no deadline. "I'll give you guys just enough rope to hang yourselves with"

What about possums? Those critters have the smallest brain cases to body ratio. They don't even have enough brains to bite. I've never been bitten by possum and I'm constantly grabing them and tossing them out of my garage. They make a fuss but I've never been bit.

September 27, 2006, 10:50 PM
Not sure I'd care to do a lot of brain tanning if you have CWD in your area.

As has been said, NON IODIZED table salt is the stuff. I used the brand-x version which was about 30 cents a pound. I think it took a box or two . I used plenty tho and in 3 or 4 days that hide was dryed out and stiff as a plank.

After that I followed the dirctions that came with the can of goo. Turned out pretty well. It did take some elbow grease to get it softened up.

And you are right. Unless you are tanning a dog sized deer they don't supply enough of the goo in one container.



September 18, 2007, 05:25 PM
i'm hoping someone can help me. my mom and i were out walking the other day and came across a very nice deer hide. it has been dryed and scraped. my question is how do i make it soft again because it is as stiff as a board. she wants to keep the hair on it. i have looked everywhere and cannot find the answer to my question. i'm hoping someone could help me out and maybe answer my question or even maybe some helpful hints. i would greatly appreciate it.

September 18, 2007, 11:00 PM
Pickling salt or canning salt is a good start.

Bob F.
September 20, 2007, 09:48 PM
I bought a book of a web site. Not that expensive. VERY labor intensive! If you've thrown out the deer brains, any brains will work. Pork brains are or were common in grocery stores in some areas. Got one hide down to hide, threw it and three others away. Just didn't have time. BUT, there's nothing like REAL buckskin!!!!!!!

Winemaking's much easier. Where's that darned book?


.41 magnum man
September 21, 2007, 01:28 AM
I am a taxidermist, and this is what I use.

Get a 32 oz bottle of Krowtann. You can get it through 3 places I know of:
Ozark Woods in Arkansas (They are the ones who make it), WASCO Taxidermy Supply in Georgia, or Van Dykes Taxidermy Supply in South Dakota.
Van Dykes is owned by Cabela's. You can probably order it on line. I don't have the internet addresses for these outfits, but you can google them. I don't know if Ozark woods has a web sit or not, but the other two do.

Directions come with each bottle, and it is very easy to use. There are two kinds of Krowtann: Krowtann 2000 and Krowtann Whitetail Formula. The Whitetail formula is for tanning hides that will be mounted as it gives more stretch. If you are just tanning for a chair cover or hanging on the wall, then I'd just use the Krowtann 2000. The Krowtann 2000 is also used for any other type of hide you might want to tan. You use both the same way. It is about $22.00 a bottle, and will do approximately 4 or 5 capes. Probably can do 3 full deer. Also, get a bottle of Krowtann Tanning Oils. Don't use the oil until the end of the process.

I buy non-iodized salt in a 50 pound bag at Southern States. It is a cattle salt. Just make sure it is pure, fine salt with no additives. Rock salt will not work. You will also need some sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the hide at the end of the process. Get that at the Southern States or Farm Mart or whatever you have in your area. It is grainier than what you get at the grocery store. Liquid Tide is recommended to wash the hide in after your done.

There is a chart that comes with the Krowtann. On the chart is a list of animals: Deer cape, bobcat, coyote, elk, bear, etc. Out from the animal it tells you how much water to use, and how much salt, and how much Krowtann. For instance, a bobcat takes 1 1/2 gallons of water, 32 oz. of salt, and 4 oz. of Krowtann. Anyway, what you will need to do is figure how many gallons of water you think it will take to cover your hide. Oh, I'd say it will take about 3 gallons of water. Depends on how big your hide is, a small deer might take 2 1/2 a big one might take 4. Anyway, that isn't hard to figure. Just look at the chart where is shows the same amount of water you will be using. If you can't find the exact gallons you want to use, use the closest gallons listed. Then look across the line and see how much salt and Krowtann that goes into that amount of water.

Now the reason I recommend this brand of tan is because it is easier than others. With other tans you have to keep a check on the ph of the mixture and the amount of salt. You have to have ph papers and a salinometer to gauge the salt. If the salt content is low you have to add more, and if the ph gets too high, you have to add more acid. With the Krowtann you don't have to check anything. Just mix it, put it in and stir the hide occasionally. I have been using it now for several years, and have not had any problems with it what so ever. I have tanned deer, bear, elk, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and other stuff with it. Just follow the directions exactly as it says, and you will have no problems. Look them over good before you start and make sure you have everything it says you need. Use plastic container with a lid to put your mixture and hide in, and use plastic bottles filled with water to weigh them down. Don't use rocks or bricks or it will kill the acid and ruin the hide. Use rubber gloves and safety glasses. Keep it away from kids and animals.

After you are through you will have a nice hide to lay around or hang up that you can be proud of.

September 21, 2007, 03:58 PM
.41 Mag,

BRAVO. I've never heard of this Krowtann before, but I've always wanted to tan one of my hides on my own. I'm assuming that the hide must be cleaned/scraped of every molecule of meat, fat and schmang prior to this process, correct? What is the best or most efficient way of doing this? Also, you mentioned using sodium bicarbonate at the end of the process. Do you just spread it on and let it sit for awhile?

Vern Humphrey
September 21, 2007, 04:42 PM
Every animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide.
With two exceptions -- buiffalos and members of Congress.

September 21, 2007, 04:56 PM
41 Magnum Man,

Thanks for the good information, wish I would have know that last year before I paid small fortune to have a elk hide tanned.

I do have a question if it is OK.
We found a nice Badger skull in a ground squirrel mound this summer and would like to have it nice and white. It is very brown from spending time in the dirt. We soaked it a few days in Ebson salts and the result was crystals no whitening.
Can you suggest a way we can get this skull nice and white?


September 21, 2007, 06:08 PM

Try soaking it in a 50-50 mixture of water and Hydrogen Peroxide. That's how I've done European mounts and the skulls come out snow white. Don't use bleach as I've found it comes out slightly yellowed.

September 21, 2007, 09:06 PM
.41 magnum man thank you for the professional tips. If I could impose on you for a minute, I'd like to ask a question. Would it hurt a hide, especially the hair, to put it in salt and wrap it up dry for a week before putting it in the solution? I'm planning a bear hunt next year and will have to transport the hide back home (if I get one).

September 23, 2007, 11:30 PM
Every animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide.
With two exceptions -- buiffalos and members of Congress.

ha ha you forgot liberals :D:D:D

September 23, 2007, 11:36 PM
lol, funny how this thread went from tanning to politics...hahahaha

.41 magnum man
September 24, 2007, 12:23 AM
Hey guys,

I'll try to answer the questions as you asked them. If I miss yours, get on me!

NRA4LIFE had good advice for the skulls. If he says that works, then I'd say it does. I always mixed peroxide 50/50 with Clairol Basic which is a hair bleach. It is sort of goopy. Just spread it on the skull, but don't leave it for more than 40 minutes or it will start eating the outer layer of bone off. Rinse it off. That could be why you got the yellow tint, NRA4LIFE. Also, as to the hide, yes you need to get all the red meat off it before tanning. After the pickle is done you can do a final fleshing getting any small amounts of meat and membrane you missed.

The sodium bicarbonate is not to be put on the hide. What you do is mix up how ever many gallons of water needed to submerse the hide and then stir in 3 oz. of the sodium bicarbonate per every gallon of water. Put the hide in and leave it for 15 minutes, stirring it every few minutes. DO NOT leave it in the solution for more than 15 minutes or you will lose the hair. What this does is neutralize any acid left in the hide. It would take a while, but if you skip this step then the acid will slowly eat the hide away over time. The directions for neutralizing are included in the directions with the Krowtann.

Meek and Mild, let me answer your question in the next post.

.41 magnum man
September 24, 2007, 12:25 PM
MeekandMild, to answer your question, make sure all the red meat is off the hide. If you salt over red meat, it will not get into the hide and bacteria will continue to eat away at the hide ruining it.

It will depend on how long you will be in the field as to what you will do. I will give the process as if you will be there for days, and you just do what you need to until you leave.

First clean the hide, then put a good layer of salt on it. Roll the hide up, hair side out and lean it up against something so the fluids can drain out of it. (You may have to put it up in a tree like you do your food and meat so another bear doesn't get it.) The next day, unroll it, scrape off all the salt, and put new salt on it, reroll and drain. Repeat this until there is no more fluid. Put on a final coat of salt. If you are leaving before all the fluid is gone, then put it in one of those breathable bags that are used for meat and carry it out. It should be fine. If you happen to be in the woods so long that the hide begins to dry out, you will need to stretch it out and let it dry. I guess you could fold it in half, but if you have it rolled completely up and dried, then it will take forever to get it rehydrated and opened up!

All the bears I get are from my area, and some of them bring them in whole for me to skin right after the hunt, and others have them skinned down to the back of the head and have frozen them until they come to me.

A tip for those who may be freezing a big hide like a bear, (and it doesn't hurt for a full deer hide either) is to fold it, but only as much as it takes to get it in the freezer, and spread it out as evenly as possible. This will help it to freeze better. A thick hide will insulate itself on the inside and keep it from freezing.

.41 magnum man
September 24, 2007, 12:58 PM
Here some other tips that can be helpful to your taxidermist:

Ask him how he prefers certain animals to be skinned. Different mounts require different skinning of the animal. Plus there are more ways than one to skin a cat, see which way he prefers so it will be easiest for him to mount.

Find out how he likes the hide taken care of before you bring it in. (Frozen, salted, partly unskinned, etc.)

Take along a plastic sewing tape measure with you on your hunt. If you have to skin out the animal completely, and you want a full or half body mount, measure the circumference of the animal around the largest part in the middle, and just behind the shoulders, and in front of the back legs. Take several measurements of the neck starting just behind the ears. Also measure how long the animal is from the base of the tail to the tip of its nose. ALL THESE MEASUREMENTS ARE OF THE CARCASS WITH THE HIDE OFF, NOT WITH THE HIDE STILL ON. Write all this down on a pad and give it to your taxidermist. Yes, he can measure the hide, but there is nothing better than having the measurements of that animals body if you can do it. Before you skin the head, It won't hurt to measure from the front corner of the eye to the end of the nose. If you have an antlered animal and you had to cape it out, and you are picky about having those antlers set exactly as they were, then BEFORE you cape it out, measure the from the tips of the antlers to the tip of the nose; from the base of the horns to the nose, and to the back of the eyes. Take another reference measurement off the brow tines to the nose also. But be aware that mannikens are different than the real body, and nothing is going to be absolutely, perfectly the same on a mount as it was on the animal. We strive to get things as close as possible, but not everything is possible.

I've had people be aggravated because a hair was sticking up on the back of a deer mount. Well, of course, I tiook care of it. But then they take it home, put it on the wall and a tarantula could make a home on the back of its head and they will never know it, because they can't see it when it is on the wall. Your taxidermist may have accidently left a little glue showing on the behind the antlers where the hide was glued so it wouldn't pull apart. Maybe if you do look down into the ear it doesn't look all pretty and natural way down in there. Again, are you going to be looking into the ear when it is on the wall? Are you going to be looking up its nose into the far back of the hole to see if he got the whole thing painted the same layer of paint all in there? We strive to do a good job on every mount, but inevitably something can and will be not exactly right. Ususally if this does occur it will be in a place that was easily overlooked and not in plain sight. Give the man a break! If your mount shows the overall qualities of the animal, and the antlers are not wiggling lose, and are straight, and when it is on the wall will look just great and you can enjoy it for years to come, then be happy with it. Don't give the mounter a hard time over something that isn't going to matter. OFcourse, on the other hand, don't accept shoddy work either. If something is absolutely wrong, then say something about it. Make them fix it. If you can see the manniken throught the sewed up place, that isn't good. If the horns or antlers are crooked as crap, that isn't good either. If the face doesn't have a decent look to it, like the eyes or mouth is all out of whack, say something. The nostrils should be even and the nose look good over all. The ears should be the same height at the base of the ears, but realize that a taxidermist may not put both ears in the same position. He may make one forward and one back as you see the deer do sometimes. If you want the ears a certain way, be sure to make that clear when you pick out your pose. I always ask if the customer wants the ears alert or back. A few want them oppositely posed, but most like them both the same. Anyway, common sense is the best approach to what I am talking about here. Don't accept bad work, but don't belittle a man for something so small and out of sight it isn't going to matter.

September 24, 2007, 02:04 PM
How do you tan a hide using the animal's brains?

I am planning on going coyote hunting soon, and I was wanting to save the hide, skull, etc (which I realize if I save the skull, accessing the brains may be difficult). I thought for practice though I could start with a squirrel and try it on the small scale to see how well it all works.

Vern Humphrey
September 24, 2007, 02:18 PM
Essentially, you remove the brains through the hole at the base of the skull (where the spinal cord enters the skull.) Mix brains and water into a creamy mixture, and force the mixture into and through the hide.

September 24, 2007, 03:23 PM

Is that all you do? Force the brains through, then work the hide until it is flexible? Sounds so easy...much easier than the chemical process....

September 24, 2007, 07:21 PM
.41 magnum man thanks for the detailed answer and info. This seems to be pretty complex; I wonder if dry ice might be the best way of freezing it for a four day road trip. I've already started looking for taxidermists.

A question for all the guys who do brain tanning. What does brain tanning do that couldn't be done with lard?

.41 magnum man
September 24, 2007, 09:15 PM
MeekandMild, since you are using a guide, I would do what ever he recommends.

And brains have chemicals the lard does not have. I used to know what made it work, but I have forgotten. Gosh, I guess I have forgotten more than I will ever know! :D

September 25, 2007, 03:25 PM
I have a deer hide rolled up in my garage that's been fleshed, salted, and dried. It's been there for about 10 months so it's pretty stiff. It seems to be well preserved because it hasn't rotted and there hasn't been any insect activity at all (btw, I purchased a 50 lb bag of salt for $3.00 marketed as a livestock feed additive at TSC... I haven't noticed any discoloration or hair loss at all... on the hide, that is.). I spent quite a bit of time fleshing this beast so it would be a shame to throw it away. Is this hide too far gone to try to finish the tanning process? Should I stretch it before I do anything else? Do I need to soak it before I stretch it? Thanks for all of the advice.

.41 magnum man
September 25, 2007, 08:17 PM
smithbm, I'd say your hide is fine. You need to rehydrate it in some water and get all the salt out of it. The reason for getting the salt out, is because, as I understand it, the salt in the pickle solution is the vehicle which the acid "rides" to get into the hide. If it is full of salt, then the salt in the solution can't get in. Soak it until good and plyable, and rinse it several times. Then it will be ready for the tan. Remember, once the salt is gone bacteria can set up in the hide, so if you can't tan it right away, put it in the fridge over night or in the freezer till you can.

September 26, 2007, 08:40 AM
Thanks for the info. I'll get right on it.

September 26, 2007, 08:11 PM is a great resource for learning about traditional tanning methods.

Having read quite a bit about different variations of the process, Deerskins into Buckskins 2nd Edition is the book I'm buying in preparation for trying this myself. It's available at, but it's a lot cheaper at Amazon. Look for the 2nd edition at Amazon.

October 24, 2008, 04:55 PM
First timer here. I am trying to tan my first deer hide and I have discovered that it is covered in deer ticks! How do I get rid of them before they infest my family. Yuck

October 24, 2008, 05:00 PM
Leave it outside overnight and the ticks will abandon when there's nothing to eat and no warmth.

October 24, 2008, 05:01 PM
Put it in a plastic bag in the freezer for a couple of days.
Takes the fight right out of them!


October 25, 2008, 02:37 PM
We tan our own skins for clothing, mittens , hats, and mukluks
We sell tarditional clothing to museums, and wear it out at -40 as it is "Best"

Good tanning starts with good skinning; I use my hands and after making the basic cuts, along the legas and butthole to lower lip, I peel the hide off and use my hands to kep the fat on the meat.
Then we lay it onna ground and put pebbles along the edges to keep them from curling, and let the hide dry out. Then we hang it up and air it, then roll it and tie it up nice and hard dried for storage.

There is quite a process of breaking up the fibers for a sofet skin, as well as scraping off the memebrane. Theres also several steps to condition and streach the skin , using an "Ichun", basicly a copper pipe pice mounted on a handle and chamferd on the inside for a sorta dull scraper that will push off meat, fat and viscara.
People around here will use the dull edge of a milk can, with milk and all in the can, and push /scrape off all the junk.It also streaches your skin a bit.

If your gonna make things from an animal, the basic cuts will determine what the end product will be...if the wife wants something special, I will cut and skin it a certain way, at a certain time of year.

we dont use brains or tanning solutions, as we are in a rather cool, skin friendly place; The Arctic.....

Down there, Id go for the brains or chemical ideas, but if your gonna tan hides, start with a clean skin.....

November 30, 2009, 10:34 PM
I learned brain-tanning from a DVD and companion book by Matt Richards.

I have tanned a few hides and posted a write-up of the process on, I also posted it to

Here's a link for anyone interested.

Braintanned Buckskin (

I could cut and paste the whole thing over here as a new post if there is a lot of interest.

Vern Humphrey
December 1, 2009, 02:41 PM
I had a booklet on brain tanning that said, "Every animal has enough brains to tan its own hide. Except buffalo and congressmen."

December 1, 2009, 03:11 PM
Here's a link for anyone interested.

Sir, you did a fantastic job on that writeup. Lots of pictures, lots of details, and your results are impressive! Thanks for putting the time into that and posting, I'm gonna have to try it out. :)

December 1, 2009, 11:38 PM
why do the "books" and websites tell you to dehydrate the hide prior to fleshing it out? keeping the hide nice and juicy for the fleshing keeps the membranes loose and pliable and easy to scrape off?

for supplies and real info, vandyke is the place to go.

December 28, 2009, 01:48 PM
Hi all. An Irishman here with 10 deerskins to cure. I have so many questions, some of which have been answered in this thread and some of which I'll more than likely get around to asking at some point.

.41.... thanks for all the invaluable information you've posted in this thread alone. I'm sure there's more elsewhere on this forum from ALL of you and I look forward to finding it.

I've also got Matt Richards' dvd and book and will at some stage be trying brain-tanning myself (though I may start with egg at first). Not coming from a culture of hunting/skinning/survivalism, it's all quite new to me and I'm going to take things slowly and get used to working with skins and leather.

Essentially, I'd like to make my own leather to make leather goods for archery and bow-making (which I've also taken up), among other things. I also want to "make" some hair on hides that I can cover sword scabbards and make quivers etc.

One of my first questions would be: Is salting and then neutralising a hide all that is needed for curing a hide with the hair still on? Or is tanning still required? Most of the sites I've found online have leaned towards removing the hair and epidermis/grain and that's fine and dandy for getting nice leather or buckskin but I'm at a bit of a loss with regard to hair on hides.

Thanks for any advice or info that you can offer me.


Vern Humphrey
December 28, 2009, 05:09 PM
Is salting and then neutralising a hide all that is needed for curing a hide with the hair still on? Or is tanning still required?
Tanning is still required. You can make rawhide without actually tanning the hide, but you'll have all the disadvantages of rawhide, including shrinkage when it gets wet.

December 28, 2009, 05:38 PM
Thanks Vern. Is it the same method used for tanning hair on, or should the dressing be pasted on to the flesh side? What I mean is... will the dressing get clogged in the hair etc?

Vern Humphrey
December 28, 2009, 06:06 PM
Apply the tanning paste from the flesh side. If you're using the old tan bark method, just soak the whole hide.

December 28, 2009, 06:13 PM
Thanks again Vern, you've saved my hide!! hehehe

December 29, 2009, 11:43 PM
Excellent question and thanks for all the info. I am hope to get me first deer this year and will be trying to do everything myself as well. Thanks for the thread.

January 3, 2010, 11:32 PM

Here's a good explanation. I tried it out on a coyote hide and it turned out pretty good for an amature I think. I have my cow elk hide in the dried phase right now, gotta get it finished before school starts again. Good luck.

January 4, 2010, 02:07 PM
lol i dont wanna lose this page again! i couldnt remember what the title was for months! can one of the mods make it a sticky? i think all of use would benefit! thanks to .41 mag, caribou, vern and all of the others who shared from their vast experience!

If you enjoyed reading about "Do-it-yourself deer hide tanning" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!