I’m a firm believer that anyone who traps or hunts predators should be able to properly skin and put up their hides to sell or tan. The whole process is fairly straightforward, but it can seem daunting to a newcomer. All you need is a fleshing beam and a fur stretcher that you can make yourself, and you can start putting up your fur like a pro.
The purpose of the fur stretcher is to dry and preserve the fur, making it ready to tan. Unlike using salt, your hides will remain clean and neat. This is the standard and usually the only acceptable way fur buyers and auctions will take hides.
You can make your stretcher boards as simple or fancy as you want. A Google search will give you the proper dimensions for stretchers for everything from muskrats to wolves. I’ve made most of my stretchers (primarily fox/coyote, lynx/wolverine, and wolf) using two shaped boards with an adjustable spacer screw a few inches from the top. This is to keep the boards at the right width, depending on the size of the animal. I also make a base for the stretcher with holes in it so I can use a nail to hold the boards spread at the right width.
If you ever plan on dealing with large quantities of hides, whether it’s deer, beaver, or wolves, one of the most important pieces of gear to have is a fleshing beam. Although you can get away with not fleshing some smaller critters, most hides require a good fleshing job, and when dealing with a high volume, you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you don’t have a beam.
With a fleshing beam and a draw knife you can scrape off all the flesh and fat much faster, and with much less hide damage, than with a regular knife.
I’m a fan of the saying “work smarter, not harder.” With that sentiment, I bring you this photo. It’s easy to prevent getting a hide bloody if you’re a trapper—most of the time. But if you do any predator hunting with a rifle, you know darn well that it’s hard to not end up with bloody hides. I've spent hours washing out coyote hides in five-gallon buckets.
A few weeks ago, I happened by chance to get a crack at a coyote, and shot him in the head with a .17 HMR. I dreaded putting that hide up; the coyote was gushing blood when I dragged him back to the truck.
Outside of Alaska, there are few places where you can impress women by telling them a story about trapping a wolverine in a wolf piss set. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s at least how you get the story…
A pack of wolves prowled through our lynx trapping area earlier this season, but we hadn’t been able to pattern them, so we focused our effort on the cats.
But then, on a late February solo trip, I saw that a pack of 3 or 4 wolves had run down our trail for about two miles. I found several spots where they had peed along the trail to mark their territory. These spots would be surefire places to catch a wolf if the pack came back through. I didn’t have any wolf traps left in my box, so I decided to backtrack and pull an Alaskan No. 9, resetting it where the wolves had passed.
A little after 10:00 PM I heard from Mark via satellite phone. They had just returned to camp. It was a long, but exciting day as they were able to get in close on the ram they had set their sights on stalking. It's more than a great animal and their plan is to continue to pursue it until the right opportunity presents itself.
The rains poured down hard during the night. At one point, Nate woke me up to tell me that we needed to move our gear from against the tent walls to keep from getting everything wet. I was still in a daze thanks to the comfortable night's sleep I was getting while sleeping on "the Badass Bobcats" sleeping pad, that we stole from Willie just in case we needed an extra. Turns out I grabbed the wrong pad from my mountain of sleeping pads in the closet at home...the one I brought had a hole and I failed to realize it until the first night out. Good thing Nate brought extras of everything!