First, DO NOT shoot it full of holes!I was wondering if anyone could give me some tips on preparing raccoon skin?
Foot traps are a VERY GOOD way to catch one, then you just bonk him on the noggin, once knocked out, break his neck with a stick or heavy cain or by stepping on his head and twisting his body.
DON'T BEAT THE HAIR OFF THE HIDE!
No bullet holes that way!
Second, Talk to the hide buyers in the area, and find out if they have any specific 'Wants' in the skinning or stretching.
Some want the feet attached, some want the 'Face',
Some don't care about either...
Hides with specific requests satisfied will bring more money in some markets.
Third, learn to skin them by using a small cut between tail and 'Brown Eye' from hip to hip and around the 'Pucker',
Then stand on the tail and peal them like a banana.
Keep the tail attached, and don't worry about skinning the bone out if it if you are going to sell them retail,
But keep the tail on the hide.
Anyone buying **** hides is going to want the tail attached.
Small cuts around the feet at the 'Ankles' will allow you to pop the **** out of it's skin pretty easily.
The only other place of concern is where the lips connect to the gums, and that part isn't used by hide buyers, so you don't have to be delicate.
If you intend to use it yourself, and you want to keep the tail, get your fingers around the tail bones/meat through the hole you cut, and seperate the tail hide from the bone/meat by turning it wrong side out most of the way.
The tail won't dry on it's own quickly, so sprinkling a little salt on the backside of the hide in the tail before you turn it right side out will help that process.
Table salt is fine.
If you want to keep the tail for yourself, pack that tail with salt! Get a stick and poke it down in there, and in about a week, scrape that salt out and replace it with fresh salt and the tail will be self preserving from that point.
Leave the hide 'tube', legs and all, wrong side out from this point on through the drying process.
Make yourself a stretching form for the hide.
This is often nothing more than a thin board (1/4") or well seasoned or dried plywood that has been cut into a 'Boat' shape on one end and has a hole drilled in the part that will protrude from the 'Mouth' hole so you can hang it.
Different widths for different size hides, the wider your stretcher is, the longer it will need to be.
I have them starting from about 6" going to up about 14" wide, and two feet long...
Think of a WW II bomb from the cartoons, that shape in the front.... Kind of rounding to a point, but with a 'Detonator' sticking out the nose.
That shape, but with a hole drilled in the 'Nose' of it.
Round over the edges of the board so they don't shave or pinch the hair off as the hide dries and tightens on the stretcher board.
Some people use a wire frame made from 1/4" or 3/8" metal rod.
I don't care for these, if the hide draws moisture (likely) while drying, it's going to stain the hide/hair with rust.
Using something like stainless steel will solve the rust problem partly, but they are hard to make, hard to store without making a mess, and expensive.
Wire stretchers also don't lend themselves well to removing the excess fat from the hide once it's stretched.
A board makes a nice, flat surface where you can use a scraper very easily to remove the fat and bits of flesh, membranes that stick to the hide...
Once the hide has dried hanging in the top of the garage, or in the top of the barn, someplace it's going to get warm in the daytime and have good air flow, but still stay dry...
Go back and scrape off any of the fat, flesh, membrane that I mentioned before that was stuck to them.
It's very hard to get off when it's still slimy, but give it a week or two to dry, and you can scrape it off with something dull, like a smooth edge butter knife.
Heck, When I had a lot of them to do, I've even used a paint stripping brush thing in the drill to strip the dried crap off!
(makes the job MUCH faster if you are doing several and you know what you are doing!)
The paint stripper wasn't a wire brush, but it had 'Fingers' that flew out when you spun the drill motor. They sell for cheap at the tool and paint stores.
I'd think a wire brush would tear up the hide too much.
Stretched, stripped of fat and flesh, and dried is all you will need to do for commercial sales.
If you want to tan the hide, consider green walnuts.
Shuck the green husk off of walnuts and crush them into a paste, collecting any of the green walnut juice you can in the process.
This stuff is RICH in 'Tannic Acid', and tannic acid is the primary ingredient in tanned skins, including real 'Buck Skin'.
Once the hide is completely dry, you can throw it in a large jar canner with some of the green walnut HUSK (not the actual nut or it's shell) pulp you made, and the juice you collected and some water, and heat the mix up until it builds pressure.
You will have to ring out as much of the tannic acid broth as you can, then stretch and dry again...
Do this about twice, and your hide will be as throughly tanned as any production facility can make it with the hair still on.
As the pressure builds, it will force the tannic acid into the pelt and when dried again, it will be ready to soften up and use for leather for your projects!
Another way to acheave the same effect is a vacuum chamber.
Use boiling water to mix the tannic acid with, saturate the hide, then seal it in a vacuum chamber for about an hour to suck all the air out of the pores and open them up,
And when you let the pressure back in, it will force the tannic acid mixture in the pores where the air and fat used to be... Effectively tanning the hide once it drys out again.
Vacuum cambers force much more of the brown color into the hair, so be aware of that if you want to use the hair.
You can do the pressurization way to do things with commercially available tanning products that won't discolor the hair, but they are fairly expensive!
Worth it if your tanned hide is going to be somewhere it will get wet!
Salt cured or dried hides stink when they get wet, and hides that were just dried will rot when they get wet...
If you don't want the green walnut brown color on the fur, then you can dry your pelt, then mix up a pretty strong sloution of salt water, and saturate the hide,
Wring it out,
Rinse off the fur side, and stretch it again until throughly dry.
Repeat this a couple of times and then soften the hide and use for your project.
Salt curing isn't as effective as tannic acid treating, but it makes the hide suitable for things like hats, 'Possibles' bags, ect.