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Do you want to learn how to tan a deer hide?  Learning how to tan a deer hide is not difficult. However, it is labor intensive and takes some time. But in the end, you will have a soft and pliable deer hide that can be hung up or used as a rug to remember that first kill or challenging one. In this article, we give you the step-by-step procedure to tan a deer hide.

whitetail deer hunting tips
Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips

How To Tan A Deer Hide

  1. Fleshing The Hide

Whether you took the skin from a refrigerator or it is a fresh hide, the first thing you want to do is to remove all of the remaining flesh, fat, muscle, and membrane using a scraping tool.  It is a good idea to put the deer hide in the refrigerator the day before you do the fleshing process. The refrigerator hardens the meat and fat which makes it easier to remove.

Place the hide on a scraping beam or other surface. You want to be very careful as you do this to avoid piercing it. Work every area of the skin including the edges. Carefully scrape all excess material from the skin. For a very good tanning job of the skin, it must be completely cleaned of flesh, fat, muscles, etc.

2. Salt The Deer Hide

After thoroughly fleshing the hide, you want to completely cover the deer hide with non-iodized salt. The salt absorbs all of the fluids out of the hide. This is called curing the hide. A quarter-to-half-inch layer of salt is a good measurement to go by. Make sure every inch of the hide is completely covered with salt. Keep it covered with salt for a day. That will give the salt the time needed to dry off all fluids.

3. Soak The Hide In Water

Pickling the hide kills any bacteria left on it. Pickling the hide prepares the hide for tanning. Add about five gallons of water to a container. Then add two quarts of non-iodized salt to the water and stir the mixture. You can then add the pickling acid.

If you don’t have a pickling acid, you can make your own pickle solution by adding equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water plus two pounds of salt per gallon of solution. Immerse the deer hide in the pickle solution for three days. Regularly stir the solution during the three days.

tips for hunting whitetail
Tips For Hunting Whitetail

4. Neutralize The Hide

After three days, make a solution with four to five gallons of water and two cups of baking soda. Immerse the hide in this solution for 30 to forty minutes. This neutralizes the acid wash.

Then neutralize the skin by soaking it in a solution made from four gallons of water 
mixed with two cups of baking soda for up to forty minutes. Rinse in clean 
water and towel dry.

5. Dry The Hide

After the time has passed, remove the hide from the neutralizing solution and dry it with towels.

6. Apply Tanning Oil

With the skin laying flat on a surface, apply tanning oil to every part of the skin. The tanning oil prevents it from cracking or drying out. Don’t be economical with the tanning oil. Make sure the skin is well-oiled. Leave it with the tanning oil overnight.

On the next day, you want to fill a container with five gallons of water. Immerse the skin in the water to rinse off any excess oil. This will in no way hinder the tanned hide. Dry the hide with towels and lay it flat on a surface to stretch and work every inch of it. Working the hide will keep it soft as it dries.

tips for hunting whitetail deer
Tips For Hunting Whitetail Deer

7.  Working The Hide

The hide may be stiff and may need to be worked. You can use the back of a chair or any object to break the stiff fibers of the hide to make it pliable and soft. The longer you work the hide, the softer and pliable it becomes. Work every part of the hide until it becomes soft to your liking. After you get it to the desired softness, you will have completed tanning the deer hide.

Tools For Tanning A Deer Hide

  1.  Scraping Tool
  1. Non-iodized Salt
  1. Large Container
  1. Plastic Gloves
  1. Protective Eyewear
  1. Stirring Stick
  1. Tanning Oil
  1. Towels
  1. Large Paintbrush
  1. Tanning Solution
  1. Sharp Skinning Knife
  1. Dull Fleshing Knife
  1. Fleshing Beam
best tips for hunting deer
Best Tips For Hunting Deer
How long does it take to tan a deer hide?
It may take up to 5 days to tan a deer hide.
Can you tan a hide with just salt?
It is possible to tan a hide with just salt. Use 1/2 lb of salt per gallon of water and very hot water to dissolve the salt. After the salt is dissolved, let it cool. Immerse the hide in this solution for six to eight hours. It can be left overnight, but if left too long, the hair will begin to fall off.
How do you store a deer hide before tanning?
You can store a deer in a cool place where there is no airflow. Air-tight plastic or wooden containers work best as they can’t rust.
Do you have to pickle a hide before tanning?
Yes, you have to pickle the hide before tanning.
How do you break a hide after tanning?
There is not one way to break a hide. You can grab two sides of the hide and rub it across the edge as you pull it taut to break the stiff fibers in the hide.

The Bottom Line

How to tan a deer hide is not as difficult as it seems. If you deer hunt, you will need to learn how to tan the hide. It involves a series of steps to get the hide to the desired softness you want. In this article, we go through the steps to tan a deer hide.

It is our hope that after reading this article, you will have the information and confidence to take on your first tanning job. If you are interested in using ground blinds for hunting, this article on how to deer hunt in ground blinds will give you the information you need. You can also read how to tan a rabbit hide, and how to preserve game meat.