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Make Your Quarry Pay! One Way To Derive An Income From Hunting.

Dear Fellow Hunters,

Following some of the posts in my thread The Hunters Chronicles, a fair number of folks have got in touch and asked for some pointers regarding how I process my kills. Here's a little pictorial guide to how I go about it. Some have also professed to being unaware that there is a market for these skins. A quick search of rabbit or squirrel skins on eBay will show you that Dog trainers and Fly Fishermen are willing to pay good money for a well treated pelt. Nearly £10 a pop for squirrels it seems and around £6-£8 for a rabbit.

That'll get you some pellets!

Now for the juicy bit.

1) Crack open the skull. I use my Mora knife and a 'Bam Bam' on my log stump.

2) Extract the pellet! (can be seen at base of skull in the middle of the brain)

3) I find it best to use my finger and really get in there, but one way or the other, scoop out the good stuff and put onto your hide. This hide will have been dryed either through salting, or as I choose, by pinning to a board and placing behind the woodburner for a few days. When nice and 'crackly' it's ready for the meat and membrane to be gently scraped off with my old axe head which exposes a soft layer of the 'endermis'? (Inside part of epidermis). Doing this also aids absorption by the skin of your chosen tanning agent, in this case the lecithins and other chemicals of the brains.
Here's one pre-dried and scraped.

4) I rub the brains in fully until there is only a sticky sheen that remains.

5) As I'm not interested in the painfully thin outer edges of the rabbit skin, I trim these off. This step is optional.

6) The next skin is then stretched and pinned by working from the extremes and round. So I'll start at the top right for instance, the bottom left, then bottom right to top left and the same for the sides until the result looks like the following.

7) And so the cycle continues with the next two ready to be dried.

That method is called 'Brain Tanning'. I do not wish to expose myself or my family to the alum found in proprietary compounds so I chose to use natural methods only. Egg whites can be substituted for brains, which is good as I have chickens and as the weather warms up the flies soon inhabit the heads making for a most unpleasant experience.

I leave the brain tanned pelt hanging for a day or so to allow for absorption then proceed to work the skin over the back of a chair. This also helps work in the brains and also to stretch the hide and break the collagen bonds. If it doesn't or you are happy with the result, the next step is to 'lock in' the tanning agent and preserve your work. I do this by smoking the skins.

The properties of the smoke preserve and slightly waterproof the skin as well react with the brains. If you choose to work it more after this stage you should end up with a 'buckskin' feeling pelt.

I have had the best result with the thicker squirrel skins, but the rabbits have been very good too. To really water proof I then apply a light coating of Dubbin.

Pelts worked to this standard should fetch alot more than £10. Those pelts I've seen on eBay have only been dried. and possibly scraped. I'm upto twenty skins now with the intention of making winter clothing from them but I will soon start selling my surplus to fund my hungry Air Arms 'twins'.

All the best guys!

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