Skinning Tips?

Discussion in 'Trapping & Fur Taking' started by 223Smitty, Jul 4, 2006.

  1. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Anyone have any?

    A couple I learned for coon....on the opening cuts (down the rear legs & partially up the tail) use a hooked-blade in a utility knife. It allows a quick cut & the hook helps prevent going too deep. When fleshing, after the coon is skinned-out, I throw it in the deep freeze for 15-20 minutes, as this will cause the fat to stiffen-up, making it easier to flesh with less fat (grease) in a liquid form. Also, when you begin fleshing, do the bottom 4-6" first, that way when you start at the head & work your way down, you won't be pushing the fat clear to the bottom-edge of the pelt, it will drop-off at the 1st point tyou began fleshing (4-6" up) and you'll end-up with cleaner (less grease) fur around the bottom edge. I like to hang coon "tail-up", as the grease will ooze out of them for the next few days, this will prevent it from collecting on the tail & getting the fur greasy/oily. Also, I wipe them down everyday to remove excess grease.

    I peel coyote with a boat winch, something I do differently on them is split the fur on the front feet from the ankle part way up to the knee. This way once I get the armpit worked-loose (I use a piece of round steel rod for this) and continue peeling down the front legs, when I reach the slit, the foot will pop-out & I can slide my blade between the leg & the pelt & cut it loose. I don't like to "wring" legs with a sharp knife, as bone quickly dulls a blade.

    A few other "general" things I do.....

    I keep 3-5 skinning knives sharpened at all times, this way there's no need to stop in the middle of skinning...I can just pick-up a sharp knife & continue. Then I touch them up when I have time.

    I also ALWAYS wear surgical or foodhandling gloves when skinning. I have some heavier (like dishwashing) gloves for fleshing. When putting them on stretchers, I put on another pair of the surgical gloves.

    I like to keep my skinning/furhandling area picked-up, organized, and well lit. It makes it alot easier than having to stop & look for something, or stepping-over things.

    I know some trappers who skin, will lop-off the feet to keep from skinning around them. For me, it's alot less mess (as in blood on the fur) to leave the feet on. Sometimes the length on the front legs are handy to keep the animal from spinning on the gambrel (I rest a leg against my side to prevent the carcass from spinning).

    Before I begin skinning, I use a furbrush & remove all the burrs from the fur. If you don't, you're liable to cut a nice gash in the pelt while fleshing & run into a burr.

    Most all my coyotes, after skinned-out....get a bath. I put them in a washtub with laundry soap, let 'em soak for a couple hours, rinse them good, then another soak in the tub, but with fabric softner this time. lol, it'll go along ways to remove the smells, blood, dirt, and will make the fur look fuller & feel softer.

    OK...I'm done for now. Anyone else got any tips?

    Smitty
     
  2. gooboy

    gooboy New Member

    Messages:
    1,514
    State:
    Minden,La.
    That's some good tips there Smitty. Being organized is the best advice anyone can give. I've tried the hook blade that you use but just can't get the hang of it. I like to chop off the front legs on everything I hang up to skin. On my beaver I chop off all 4 feet. I use a heavy duty pair of prunning shears. Its fast, easy, and I don't have to worry about getting scratched by toenails or worry with trimming around them. I wash all my hides after skinning them, so I'm not worried about getting blood on them.

    The yotes we've got in our area are just about worthless except for the live market. I have caught a few over the years and I wouldn't recommend any of my methods.:roll_eyes: Just a tug of war with a stinkin' critter. If they were actually woth somethin' I'd probably try to hone my skills with them a little.

    I think I've got the beavers down pat! I have never used the trough that some people use. I just skin them on top of a flat table. After I get the feet lopped off, I ring the tail and make my cut all the way from the base of the tail to his mouth. I then use a full skinner and start on the belly. I work out all the legs and then roll him over on his side. Once his legs are all free I start around the tail area and work my way over both hips. I then spin the beaver around on his belly with his tail straight away from me. I then let gravity aid me. As I start bringing the hide down his back, I let the hide start slidding over its head. The added weight of the hide pulling really helps around the front shoulder and head areas. By cleaning a beaver in this fashion I've got my skinning time down to 5 minutes each. I've came a long ways from that 45 minute butcher job that I done on my first one a few years back.

    On my coons, the carcass is worth more than the hides. I do them a little different than most people I've seen. Once I get him hung up after I've got him split and ready, I don't pick back up my knife until I have the hide down to his ears. I use my thumb to keep as much fat on the meat as possible. I just keep pulling the hide and working my thumb in at certain places to get it off him. By seperating the hide from the fat as I go, its a little easier when fleshing also. Not as much mess to have to deal with.

    Otter and cats are gona get pulled with the winch this year. Tony has rigged us up one heck of a cleaning pole!!:big_smile: Can't wait to try that dude out.

    I have several full skinners I work with. I sharpen them all up at once and use them till there all dull. Then I stop and sharpen them all back up. I like being able to do several critters before having to stop.

    My biggest suggestion to everyone is to get you a wife like mine and a trapping partner like Tony. If it weren't for them hounding me to hurry up, I'd probably still be cleaning last years catch!!:big_smile:
     

  3. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    223, I have never been able to use a hook bill knife with any success. I have tried several different time to use on, but the hair always clogs up the hook. What am I doing wrong? I have found that if you place your thumb on the hill of the foot, and your index finger on the opposite side in the bend of the foot, and then bend the foot back toward you, it makes it easier to start and rip the back legs. I use a 4 1/2" boning knife to make this rip. I start at the heel of the right foot with the animal laid on its back and go to the anal opening. Then I rip from the anal opening to the other heel. Then I come back and rip around the anise and out the tail. I do have problems with cutting to deep, but to counter this, I will trim the hide away from the fat down the legs. It does not take long and you get the fat started pulling away for the hide and it stays on the carcass. But truth be known, I just rip them and let Gooboy pull them.
     
  4. sds888

    sds888 New Member

    Messages:
    378
    State:
    Townville, South Carolina
    On small game I have very good succes using a box cutter if the blade goes dull I just change it. I have use this on squirrels for years and it works great. I can skin a dozen or so squirrels before flipping the blade. but for as to put the fur up I have never done this so I dont know yet.
     
  5. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Not sure....I don't have that problem. I just keep a sharp blade in the knife. Not sure if it'd make a difference, but I angle the butt of the knife downward alittle (as opposed to holding it 90* to the carcass), so I'm using more of the hooked-end instead of the center of the groove.

    Smitty
     
  6. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    I had new blades so I know that was not it. I have angled like you said also. So, are you using the large hooks are the small ones? I think I have been using the small ones. But I am not for sure about that.
     
  7. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Gosh, to be honest I coudln't say for sure. I don't recall seeing 2 different sized at the lumber company, just grabbed the 1st one I saw off the shelf. If you can get 2 different sizes, you might try the one you haven't.

    lol, maybe you just got tougher coon there that we do :big_smile:

    Smitty
     
  8. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    It is not the hide that gets me, but the fur. The fur cloggs up in the hook part of the knife. That is why I was asking which size you used. I have both, but after it cloged up a few times, I just went back to the boning knife.
     
  9. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Something that did just hit me....I brush-out (with a fur comb) animals before skinning to remove excess dirt, burrs, etc. I combthe inside of the legs from the groin towards the feet. Not sure if having the fur laying in the same direction as my opening cuts makes a difference or not.

    Smitty
     
  10. fishhook

    fishhook New Member

    Messages:
    658
    State:
    Willow Woo
    I have the same problem with the fur on those hooked blades so I just put a sharp point on one of my skinning gambel hooks. I stick that in one foot and then stretch him out by pulling on the other foot and make an incision from one foot to the other with a small V shaped knife I made out of a stiff putty knife which also works well when splitting the tail all the way to the tip after using the tail stripper. They sell a knife like I made in some of the trapping supplies but they're too long an thin and not quite stiff enough. Then I run my finger around the leg by his foot and rip that off on both feet, hang the other foot on the gambel and shuck the rest of him out.
     
  11. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    I think I am just going to keep doing it the way I was taught years ago by the old man. I can have one ripped and ready to pull in a matter of mins that way. I know that the stiff boning knife works well for this.
     
  12. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Yep, agreed that if you have a method that works well, no use in changing it.

    Smitty
     
  13. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    What type of knife do you use? I use a Chicago cutlery 4 1/2'' blade boning knife for ripping everything except otter. I use a Chicago cutlery 5 ½’’ blade boning knife on otter. I use a skin all for beaver and otter after ripping them. I had a butcher teach me to use a steel to straighten the edge on my blade instead of shaping my knife all the time. That went out the window last year at the fur buyers shop. The weekend I skinned 122 otter in 17 hours, I learned to use a carbide sharpener real fast. When I work in the skinning room, I ware a tool belt full of knives. I keep one knife shaving sharp just for ripping and made sure I did not hit a bone or the table with the edge. If I did, I would stop and put in on the steel or sharpener right then. It is amazing how fast a otter pelt will dull a knife.

    I have found that if you will keep one knife just for ripping the pelt, you will increase you speed and the ware on your hands. I also learned to use catfish skinning pliers to pull the hide with instead of my finger tips. The first weekend I cleaned 90 otter, I could not feel my fingers for close to 3 days, and wished I couldn’t feel them for 4 days after that they were so sore. That first weekend was a total learning experience. It took me 22 hours to clean 90 otter. After being taught a better way by a man who has cleaned thousands of them, I cleaned the 122 otter in 17 hours and I took a lunch and goofed off a little(lots).

    The sharp knife for ripping and the catfish skinning pliers for pulling the rips makes a world of difference in a person ability to skin fast, with fewer mistakes, and last longer. I love dressing fur, but if you are working your self to death doing it, there comes a point that is just no fun at all. I take as much pride in removing the fur as I do in catching it. I want my fur to look like it is still on the animals real clean when I put it up.
     
  14. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    I use a few (Dexter) Russell pelting knives, I believe I have both the 4" (well, 3.75) & 5", I think the 4" are around $10 each. Some of the trapping supply houses sell "reconditioned" skinnng knives for a couple bucks apiece.....I believe Sterling Fur (in Ohio) is one that does.

    Good post & tip on the skinning pliers! Sharp knives & bone (or anything other than meat/fur) don't mix. A good reason as to why I don't "wring" legs when skinning.

    Smitty
     
  15. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    I have the fur removed all the way to the hips when I hang a animal. I also use braided nylon rope with slip knots or a looped endless type.

    I was wrong on the length of the knife I use, it is the 3.75 or 4’’ boning knife. If you get them from a trapper supply company, it is called a pelter.
     
  16. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    Your last post brought another point into play..... you've determined the best method of skinning your catches, probably by trying a few different ones & deciding which suits you best.

    I had to adopt my own style because of some of the physical limitations I have. My skinning gambrel hangs on the extended arm of my winch-rig. Many times I have to lay an animal (especially coyote & the larger coon) on the floor, secure its feet to the gambrel, then hoist it into the air via a pully system I rigged-up. I can stop at whatever point is most comfortable to make the opening cuts & peel part of the legs down. Then it's easier for me to use my body weight to peel (but kills my wrists & shoulders). This season I may even connect a pair of the flat/wide-billed vise-grips to a "sling" that I can set-in (kinda like a swingset) & use my rear-end instead of my arms to transfer my body weight to the pelt, atleast until I get down to the head.

    Point is, there are many ways of doing things & still getting the same final results. Try some & use what works best for you, or 'adapt" your own method. Don't be afraid to experiment!

    Smitty
     
  17. cuttingout69

    cuttingout69 New Member

    Messages:
    1,349
    State:
    Louisiana
    Smitty this something I am working on now. I am going to sink and anchor in the ground and concreat it down then pour a slab over it. Then I am going to connect a chain with a spreader bar to this anchor. On the ends of the chain I am going to weld to set of vise-grip plier with 3'' peaces of rebar welded to the top and bottom jaws. After ripping the animal, I will hang it in the gramble and attach the vise grips to the belly and the base of the the tail. The spreader bar will keep them pulling apart and by pulling both, you will not rip the stomach out. Then I will use the hand wench unless I have a electic one by then. I will wench the animal up and the hide will peel off. I use something close to this at the fur buyers shed to skin otter, dogs, and cats. It works real well when you are skinning a lot of fur.

    When I do it this year, I will post some pics how it works.
     
  18. 223Smitty

    223Smitty New Member

    Messages:
    478
    State:
    Indiana
    I'll be looking forward to seeing the pics.

    Smitty