Instructions are based on our experience using several different ways to tan, these are what we believe to be the easiest.
If you use these instructions and we did not make something clear enough let us know so we can clarify and update.
Step 1 - Skinning
Skin the entire carcass using a sharp knife. Use care to avoid piercing the skin.
Step 2 - Fleshing
Use a fleshing knife to scrape the hide, get a 6-7 foot piece of PVC pipe that is 6-7 inches in diameter to use as the fleshing beam, remove all flesh, fat and connective tissue. Take your time while doing this. This will also be done at various stages throughout the process.
Step 3 - Salting
Pour a liberal coating of NON IODIZED salt over the hide. Leave the salt on the hide until the fluids seeping from the tissues saturate the salt, which should take a few days. I spread the hide on a table and slant the table. Dump off and discard the salt and rinse the hide thoroughly.
Step 3A - Removing Hair
If you are leaving the hair on the skin - move to step 4. If removing the hair, soak the hide in water and lime (hardwood ashes work in place of the lime) after soaking for a couple days start pulling the hair from the hide (this may take several days of back and forth). Once the hair is removed soak in fresh water (5 gallons) and ammonium sulfate (4 ounces) to neutralize the lye, rinse thoroughly.
Step 4 - Pickling
Pour 2 gallons of water, 2 gallons of white vinegar and 4 pounds of NON IODIZED salt into a large plastic tub and stir well. Add the hide to the solution, pushing it down until it submerges completely. Allow the hide to soak in the solution for two or three days. Stirring occasionally and re-fleshing randomly throughout the 2-3 days. Remove as much flesh and stringy substance as possible each time you flesh the hide. Re-fleshing will help the hide look better in the end. I use boards and bricks to hold the hide totally submerged in the solution.
Step 5 - DePickling
Pour out the solution, remove the hide and rinse it with fresh water. Place the hide back in the bucket and add 4 more gallons of water and 2 cups of baking soda. Let the hide soak in this solution for about one-half hour and then remove it. Rinse it off and dry it with a towel. Discard the baking soda and water mixture.
Step 6 - Tanning
Before coating the skin, flesh the hide one more time removing all excess water. The fleshing process works great to remove the water. Once as much water is removed as possible coat the hair-free side of the hide in a thin coating of McKenzie Tan. Any excess water on the skin will slow the tanning process down.
The McKenzie Tan instructions say to let the solution penetrate for 4-5 hours then to rinse in water and wrap in a towel. This is for if you are mounting the hide onto a plastic head for a wall mount. In order for the whole hide to turn to leather, it is my experience with the tanning solution that it sits on the hide for several days before the whole hide will turn to leather. Sometimes I will add another coat of the tanning solution if it appears to be slow in turning to leather. The latest hide has sat for 30 some hours and has not yet starting turning to leather. One of the pictures below show a hide that is partially turned to leather. The tanning solution sat for 5 days on the hide before the whole thing was turned to leather. I had the hide on the floor when applying the solution and it sat there for 3 days and I noticed it was staying moist, I then placed in on top of the dog cage and the metamorphosis was much quicker. Patience is important.
Step 7 - Breaking the Fiber
Bend the tanned hide with your fingers back and forth to break the fibers of the skin. The more you do this the softer the skin will be. You can a sander to help soften the skin.
It was a cool November morning in NW Georgia as Jayden and I got ready for the day’s hunt. The previous evening Jayden got what we call “buck fever” as she took a shot at her first deer. Buck fever is when you are so excited that you start to shake and your heart is pounding so loud you swear the deer can hear it. She squeezed off a round from her .243 bolt action rifle just a bit too soon and sent the deer running, scared to death but not bleeding. I heard the shot but continued my round through the woods as planned and came up behind her. On the ridge as she saw me coming, she was excited and asked if I heard her shoot. She sat in her stand and I walked out from her as she tried to navigate me to the spot the deer was standing. We combed the ridge for a blood trail, hair or fat, anything to show us that the bullet hit its target but, we came up empty. Sometimes the bullet doesn’t fly the way we want and misses the mark.
This morning was going to be different. After a pancake and coffee breakfast we set out from camp and formed our plan for the day of hunting. We descended from the ridge where our camp site was into the valley below. The valley is approximately 100 yards wide, 300 yards long and surprisingly flat and in it a creek snaking north to south. We had set up a blind weeks before almost to the bottom of the ridge on the east side that over looked three different scrapes and several rubs at the southern most part of the valley. She was going to sit at this blind as I was going to the bottom of the valley and move north about 100 yards and sit at a different tree stand for a bit and then start rattling. I moved as quietly as possible, I always fancied myself akin to Daniel Boone as I move quietly through the woods. I got to my stand, made a quick look around scanning the landscape for any "sign" and climbed up. It’s a comfortable stand that you can easily take a nap in, but there would be no napping this morning. I sat for about an hour and decided it was time to rattle. I climbed down from my stand carefully and quietly looking around the woods as I took each step just to be sure I don’t miss out on a nice buck. I leaned my Marlin lever action against a fine looking oak tree and grabbed my rattling horns. I began the rattle. I was making as much noise as one can make and being in the valley the noise was echoing as if I were shouting into a canyon, I rattled my horns, I broke branches, rustled leaves and pounded on trees with logs. I kept this up for about 10 minutes, grabbed my trusty Marlin and continued my Daniel Boone walk through the woods. Stepping slowly and purposefully as I constantly looked around for the nice buck. I had gone about 100 yards and found a really nice tree to sit by, it had this weird kind of growth at the bottom that formed a perfect back support. I was sitting quietly for quite some time and as the sun rose over the top of the ridge it began to warm me up, it is a really nice feeling to have the warm sunshine on you on a brisk November morning. After being there for a good bit I noticed my feet were getting cold as they began to sweat on my walk in, I took off my boots and socks as quietly as I could and began soaking in the vitamin d that the good Lord was providing. It was calm and peaceful and I was enjoying myself very much. I was facing east watching the sun come over the ridge and quite pleased. So pleased that I began twirling my socks in the air to dry them, as I forgot all about best hunting practices and was simply basking in the sun and quite pleased with myself and the nice spot I found. To my amazement (because I was doing everything wrong) Behind me and to south I heard some noises that caught my attention. These were not the common squirrel noises hunters hear but snorting and hooves pounding and branches breaking. Barefoot and totally unprepared I grabbed my rifle and turned to the west, about a quarter of the way up the ridge I saw two does running north, they were wasting no time as they moved through the woods, a short distance behind them came this ruttin’ buck hot on their trail. He was moving fast and crashing through the brush and snorting like a mad man. I had my scope on him more than once but I never had a good shot. Then they disappeared into the woods. I waited a bit in hopes they would come down into the valley in front of me so I could get a shot. But they were gone. I was facing north at this time and heard more noise to my right - another buck coming, crashing through the brush and charging like a bull.
I turned east with my all readied rifle in hand. Put the scope on him and followed him, lots of brush and trees in between. Directly east of my position he stopped dead in his tracks, as my scope continued forward I had to back it up a bit and he was standing just far enough ahead of a tree and I squeezed the trigger. He jumped off the ground and ran north, I cycled another round into the chamber and watched his hind legs fly into the air and drop to the ground with a loud crash. I knew I had him. I walked over to make sure he was dead and went and got Jayden so we could experience tracking him together. We dragged him out of the valley to the top of the ridge where camp was, it was an incredible morning hunting with my daughter and we made some awesome memories!
11 points. 19 inch spread.