By Clay Newcomb, BHM Publisher
Before you decide how you are going to cape your bear, you’ll need to know what you are going to do with the finished hide. There are basically three options: make a flat rug, mount the bear or make a 'case skin' for hanging on the wall. With some practice you’ll be able to make quick work of the big bruins you’ll hopefully take in 2015. Here are three methods for how to cape a bear and why you’ll need to use that method.
Belly Cut: If you plan to make a rug out of your bear then you’ll need to make a belly cut. This is the easiest, most popular way to cape a bear. Starting at the ankles (or wrist joints), cut down the inside of the legs to the groin and the breast, then make a straight cut down the belly connecting the two. Cape the bear out completely as usual, cutting the paws off at the wrist joint with a saw or by jointing them out.
The belly cut is the fastest and easiest way to skin a bear.
*Trick for Flat Base Bear Rug: If you want the base of your rug to be square use this technique. Typically you cut inside of the back legs down to the groin. This gives the rug a typical “V” look on the lower portion. If you extend the cutting point (where the leg cuts meet in the middle) up the belly about 8-12 inches the base of the rug will be square. From the ankles you would cut a straight line to a point about 8-12 inches up from the groin (on the belly).
Dorsal Cut: If you want to do a full-body mount you can do your taxidermist a favor and make a dorsal cut on the bear, meaning cut the hide down the spine (rather than the belly). The dorsal cut usually takes longer and you’ll likely have to cut the hide on the inside of the legs to get to the wrist joints. Start by making a cut from the back of the head all the way to the tail and then start skinning down. This is the preferred method for any type of full body mount.
Case Skin: If you are a trapper you’ll understand the technique of “case skinning” a bear. When I coon hunted, this is the way we skinned coons in preparation for fur markets. It’s exactly the same, just on an animal ten-to-fifteen times larger. Starting at the back legs, make a cut from the ankles to the groin of the bear. This is the only place that you’ll actually cut the hide. From the back, you’ll start to peel the bear hide up the carcass towards the head. It isn’t easy, but totally doable, especially if you’ve got two skilled knife-men. Case skinning makes a unique hide to hang on the wall becaues you can't see any of the tan. You hang a cased skin from the nose.
Skinning a bear hide is always a fun task and brings us right back to our primitive roots as hunters. Daniel Boone once killed 155 bears in one winter in Kentucky. One can only imagine that he became a master at skinning and fleshing bears.
Pics for case skinning:
If possible, a skinning table is handy, but not necessary in skinning a bear.
The author and Shane Auman start the initial cut to case skin this Alberta black bear.
Keep working the hide toward the head. This task is much easier with two people.
Sharp knives are a must on bear.