You can save a good deal of money on your next bear hide if you flesh and dry it yourself. After drying you can send it a tannery for finishing it into a buckskin tan. Most tanneries charge $25-$30 per foot (from nose to tail) to tan a dried hide. A six-foot bear would cost under $200 (plus shipping). Compare this to last year’s taxidermy bill and it might motivate you to break out the fleshing beam.
- Use a fleshing tool and fleshing bear to scrape off the fat and excess meat on the skin. It’s best if the hide is cool or crisped in a freezer before you begin. (We did this in May in Arkansas and it was too warm and muggy, but it turned out fine.) These tools are cheap and readily available from trapping supply companies. It’s messy, but you’ll be surprised how easily that fat scraps off the hide.
- You’ll need to joint out the paws all the way down to the claws. Use a very sharp knife and take your time. A Gerber Vital with scalpel blades is a good option. You’ll need to split the lips and turn the ears (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxkRiMCcsss)
- Stretch and nail the hide to a piece of plywood. Then liberally salt with non-iodized salt. Table salt from the grocery store will work. I used about 20 pounds total for this bear and it cost less than $6.
- Elevate the hide on a slight angle so it can drain. The salt will pull out the moisture and you’ll see some wet spots – this is good. Preferably keep it indoors (garage) or at a minimum under a roof. After a few days, scrape the wet salt off and resalt until approximately 80% of the moisture is gone. You may have to salt two or three times.
- Box up the hide and mail it to the tannery. Check out www.usafox.com or call them at 218-722-7742