Skinning Guide

What tips will be in a skinning guide? Simply put, skinning an animal is removing the hide from the animal. No matter what animal, the process is basically the same with the biggest exception being the detail that goes into taxidermy purposes. In some cases your taxidermist will have their own skinning guide on how to prepare and remove the hide. For the purposes of this skinning guide, a deer will be used as example.

The instructions in this skinning guide will require the following:

  • Sharp knife
  • Knife-sharpening device and steel
  • Rope or some type of hanging device
  1. Prepare area. Decide where you will do the skinning. If possible, it is best to hang the deer. If that is not possible, clean the area to work in as well as possible to limit dirt and other contaminates on the meat.
  2. Hang deer. If you are able to hang the deer, tie the rope or hanging device to each of the rear ankles. Hoist the deer into the air. If possible, the help of another person is of tremendous help.
  3. Sharpen knife. Make sure the knife you are using is very sharp. A sharpening steel can help keep the knife sharp. Professional butchers will sharpen their knives and then use the steel regularly during the processing to keep the edge perfect and efficient.
  4. Cut from pelvis to ankle. Using your knife, cut from the inside out to prevent meat damage. Make a cut from pelvis to an ankle on both legs.
  5. Cut around the ankles. Cut the hide around the ankles at the top of each cut.
  6. Peel hide away. Using your thumbs and fingers, peel the hide away from the T-shaped intersection of the two cuts. Work the hide down the legs. Occasionally you may use your knife to separate some stubborn skin and hide. The knife should be limited and very carefully used to prevent from damaging the hide.  
  7. Make front leg cuts. From the inside out, extend the breast bone cut up each front leg. Circle the ankle in the same way as before.
  8. Work hide off legs. Using your fingers and thumbs, slowly work the hide down off the legs to the shoulders.
  9. Remove hide to head. Using your hand and knife, slowly work the hide down over the shoulders and down the neck to the head. While working over the shoulders you may need to use more force and even a bit more work with the knife.
  10. Remove hide from the body. Make circular cut from the inside out around the neck. If you are doing a full shoulder and head mount you may wish not to perform this step and instead follow the instructions of your taxidermist. Pull the hide down until it reaches the neck cut and separates completely from the body. At this point you can remove the head if so desired.

There, you have a skinning guide to skinning an animal. The process in the skinning guide are not hard but messy and must be performed carefully if the hide is to be saved. You are using a very sharp knife in a bloody and greasy environment. One small slip with a knife can wreck a nice pelt or, even worse, can wreck your day with a trip to the hospital for stitches. Good luck.

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