Each year thousands of dollars are lost due to improperly handled fur. This manual has been developed by trappers and fur graders to assist trappers in achieving the best price possible for their fur by eliminating handling errors. There is a saying here at Fur Harvesters Auction that states: You can't turn a $10.00 pelt into a $100.00 pelt, but you can easily turn a $100.00 pelt into a $10.00 pelt. Hopefully by reading this web page, even the most experienced fur handler can pick up a hint or two to help them realize the maximum price for their furs.
EQUIPMENT AND TRAP PLACEMENT
To begin proper fur handling, the trapper must use the proper equipment for the job. The proper size trap or snare for the targeted species is a must. A trap of inadequate power or quality will result in a poorly dispatched animal. This could lead to rubbed fur, cut pelts and reduced value. Traps should be dyed or dipped and checked to ensure they are performing properly. Rusty traps are not nearly as effective as dyed or dipped traps. Also, rust stains on pelts depending on their severity may cause them to be downgraded.
Next the trapper must look at where they set their traps. Make sure that when an animal is caught the fur will not become damaged by surrounding conditions. Set traps in such a manner that trapped animals will not come into contact with burrs, pine/spruce gum, excessive mud/dirt, become frozen to rocks, sticks, into ice, or susceptible to mice who will chew off fur for nest linings. Using common sense and a little time in choosing trap placement can eliminate some fur damage even before the animal is skinned.
REMOVING ANIMALS FROM THE TRAP
Special care must be taken when removing animals from traps and snares. If not careful, fur can be torn out which will damage the pelt. If an animal becomes frozen to the trap, take trap and all home to thaw out the animal. If an aquatic
animal is partially frozen to the trap sometimes swishing the animal and trap in the water will loosen it from the trap. Do not try to force a snare off an animals neck. Wait until the animal is flexible enough that the snare can easily be removed or cut from the animal.
FIELD CARE OF ANIMALS
After the animal is removed from the trap make sure it is clean. If it is full of mud, wash it in water or hose it off. If there is ice or snow on the animal do not remove it from trap, allow it to melt off in a warm place. If the weather is below freezing place animals in a sack of some sort to keep them from freezing to the bed of your truck, to the rack of a four-wheeler or a snowmobile. If carrying an animal without a pack sack, try to avoid walking it through burrs. Remove excess water by shaking the animal by the head or by squeezing it out with your hands. This will speed up the drying process which would allow the animal to be skinned sooner. Checking traps regularly during mild weather is another aspect of good fur handling. Some animals such as muskrats, marten and fox will go bad quickly in warm weather. Depending on your local trap checking laws traps should be checked every other day during mild fall days or where a trapped animal will be subject to direct sunlight. Checking often also eliminates the chance of the trapped animal being eaten by another animal or bird.
FUR PELT MARKETING
Beaver: Open skinned.
Bobcat: Cased and fur out.
Squirrel & Weasel: Cased and fur in.
Mink: Cased and fur in -it is recommended that saddle be left on but remove all, Tease from under the saddle.
Muskrat: Cased and fur in -do not overscrape, remove all surface grease but leave saddle on.
Skunk: Cased and fur in.
Opossum: Cased and fur in.
Otter: Cased and fur in.
Raccoon: Cased and fur in.
Fox: Cased and fur out.
Coyote: Cased and fulr out.
Before skinning a beaver first make sure it is dry and clean. If the beaver needs to be dried it is best to lay it on its back on a grate or something similar so that air can circulate around the whole beaver. Putting a fan on the animals will speed up the drying process. Brush the beaver with a fur comb to remove any burrs, mud or mats.
The next step is to remove the feet. Very close to the fringe of fur above the feet on the front legs is the wrist joint. This joint can be felt with the finger and thumb and one cut across the joint with a sharp knife will sever the foot. To cut off the hind foot, first, bend the foot forward towards the belly of the beaver, bending it fully forward at the heel. With the foot held this way, cut across the cords at the back of the foot and keep cutting all around the foot with it still bent forward. A snap sideways after this cut is finished will usually break the foot free from the leg.
The next step is to slit the pelt from the chin to the tail on the belly side and in a straight line. Cut around the vent on both sides. Cut the pelt around the tail being carefull not to cut too deep. Cutting deep will sever veins which will cause much bleeding. Leave the tail on as it will give you a place to carry the carcass once skinned.
The pelt is then skinned back one side at a time to the back. When the legs are reached, do not slit them open but pull them through, pulling the hide off the way you would take off a sock. Be careful with the skinning knife around the legs because the skin is easily cut in these tender places. Skin the head carefully. Cut the ears off close to the skull. Skin around the eyes and nose and the pelt is free from the carcass.
Slit the pelt from the chin to the tail on the belly side and in a straight line.
Note: Beaver castors, on both males and females, are found on each side and just forward of the vent. These should be removed carefully with a knife or pulled free with the thumb and finger so the sacs are not broken, which would let the oil run out. They should be tied at the cords and hung until dry. The more care used in removing and drying, the more castors are worth. They are used in making scents and perfumes.
THE DRYING BOARD
The drying boards are made from a single sheet of 4'X8'X3'4" plywood. Cut the sheet into three pieces measuring 32"X48". The drying board should be marked as shown on our template. This is done on both sides of the board, giving you six stretching surfaces from one sheet of plywood. The pattern templates are available at no cost at Fur Harvesters Auction. Choose the line appropriate to the size of the pelt, and fasten the head and tail to the drying board with the fur side down. The nails which are used to attach the pelt should extend at least 1" above the pelt so that when the nailing of the pelt is complete, it can be raised off the board. This allows the air to circulate between the fur and the board (2" common nails work well). Place one nail behind the nose and one at the tail, and one at the mid-point on each side of the pelt.
IMPORTANT!! The lines on the board should only be used as a guide to give you a consistent uniform shape. Using a tape measure, measure from the nail at the nose to the tail. Add this to the width measurement. The sum of the two will give you your GREEN size. Refer to size chart:
DRIED PELT SIZE
0-1 XXL-XXXL 65" and up
2 XL 60-65"
3 LGE 55-60"
4 LM 51-55"
5 MED 47-51"
6 SMALL 42-47"
7 CUB under 42"
A beaver pelt will almost always shrink approximately 2" from the time you board it until you take it off. If the skin measures 61" GREEN, it is an XL, but when it is dry it will most likely be a large size approximately 59" putting it down one size, at the upper limit of the Large size tariff.
This is where the trapper makes and loses money depending on how they boards the pelt. Always board the pelt 2" to 3" above the size tariff suited to the size of the pelt. The skin boarded at 61" GREEN, if it can be boarded 2" larger and still remain LOOSE on the board would remain in the XL category. Two beaver pelts of exactly the same quality when boarded differently can easily sell for a $5 -$10 difference. Always remember that a freshly boarded beaver will almost always shrink 2 to 3 inches during the drying process. Both pelts will fall into the large category but the grade of the two could be quite different. An example of this based on December 1995's sale would be as follows:
Size 3 (LGE) IPTII B $40.00
Size 3 (LGE) 1&11 HVY B $34.00
Size 3 (LGE) I-II SEMI B $24.00
Size 3 (LGE) I-II FLAT B
The 56 inch beaver will have a far better chance of falling into one of the shearable grades as would the one at 59 inches. By boarding your beaver pelts properly, you will be getting the best quality grade possible. You will receive far more shearable grades by boarding your beaver loosely, than the person who stretches it tight. They may gain in size, but the market is demanding a shearable product.
Once you have determined your size, continue to nail the top half of the pelt to the board. Space the nails about 3/4" apart. When the top half is completed, continue to place nails at the same intervals along the bottom half of the pelt, until it has an even sided shape that follows the pattern on the board. This will help prevent over stretching which reduces the density of the fur and lessens its value.
The leg holes should not be left open because they give the pelt a rough appearance. It is preferred to sew the leg holes, but nailing them closed is also acceptable.
After the leg holes have been closed, wash the leather lightly with water and some paper towels or cloth. This will remove blood stains and light grease. The leather will take on a creamy, whitish appearance. Next, lift the pelt up off the nails so the air can circulate under the skin. Many trappers who use boards prefer to do their fleshing after the pelt has been tacked to the board. This should be done before the leg holes are closed.
It is best to dry beaver pelts slowly. Temperatures of 550 650 degrees are desirable. Never put drying pelts near stoves or expose them to hot sunlight. As the pelt dries, wipe the leather from time to time with a clean cloth. This removes any grease which may run from the leather. A fan directed towards drying pelts will help speed up the drying time without damaging them.
There are very few select pelts. A grade pattern is established primarily because all the pelts are intersorted. If you have a pelt worth $50.00 you would not expect it to be put with pelts worth $40.00 as the maximum you would realize would be $40.00. This is what necessitates fine grading.
PRIMENESS IN BEAVER
The underfur of the beaver is almost absent in the summer. However, towards fall, these hairs start to grow. The last place on the animal where they finish growing is the back of the neck. In the fall, they are quite short. However a full prime skin will have hair on the back of the neck, approximately 3/4" long. This is why when grading, the back of the neck is felt. The amount of resistance the hand feels in rubbing the beaver against the grain of the fur, indicates the density of the underfur. When it is very flat, it is called a II or III. As it comes into prime, the hair thickens and it can be classified as I-II HVY, SEMI or LT depending on how thick the fur grows. Once the full length of the hair has been reached, the fur and pelt start to become verly prime. The beaver, because of its long stay in the house and sour feed source, has been using its body fat to produce fur and keep warm. As this progresses, the underfur starts to turn off colour or reddish. This occurs in a spring beaver and is referred to as red rump. It starts at the tail and progresses up the flanks, rendering the beaver useless for plucking and hearing, because the red stain goes below the 12mm level. This is the reason fall beaver are much more desirable than spring pelts.
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Most fur harvesters find the otter one of the most difficult furbearers to handle. We will cover pelting and handling tips which will make handling this important fur easier and more profitable for you.
The first step in h~ndling an otter is to have the proper equipment. The basic tools required are a sharp skinning knife, a draw knife, fleshing beam, skinning gamble, 5/8" push pins, water bottle with a spray nozzle, a fur comb and a sharp pair of scissors along with clean saw dust and paper towels. The most common grades that a fur harvester sees on his fur cheque are singed and straight hair. We all want to have straight hair otter but most of us end up with singed otter. Singe is a form of hair damage. It occurs naturally in otter that are harvested late in the season. Singe also occurs in the handling of otter after you harvest the furbearer. Most otter start out as straight hair and end up being singed.
The first step in avoiding singe begins out on your trap line. Make sure to keep the otter wet, clean and out of the heat. Place the otter in a clean canvas or burlap bag. Do not allow it to freeze to the boat or vehicle you are using. The next problem one can encounter is placing the otter too close to heat. Be careful not to place the otter too close to the heater in your vehicle or to thaw in front of the wood stove. Both of these can cause singe on the fur.
Begin by wetting down the otter with water using the spray bottle. Wet the otter from head to tail with a light spray. Avoid skinning the otter when it is completely dry. After wetting the fur, brush from head to tail removing any dirt or mats. Place otter on skinning gamble. Using a sharp knife, cut from hind foot to tail side of vent hole, repeat for other leg. Next, cut around both front legs to make it easier. Next, cut from bottom of vent hole to tip of tail. Using your knife, carefully cut out the tail. Once you have the base of the tail free, you will be able to pull the tail free of the fur. You must be very careful not to get grease on the pelt. Continue to skin the pelt down towards the front legs. When pulling the pelt from the carcass, allow the saddle and fat to stay on the pelt. Pull front legs through holes already cut in pelt. Pull pelt forward until you reach the ear cartilage. Carefully cut ears close to head. Continue to skin until free of carcass.
Once the rough skinning is complete, place the otter on the fleshing beam. Ensure that the fleshing beam is lightly sprayed with water. Slide pelt completely down on the beam and lightly cover with sawdust. Using a sharp knife, cut the saddle around the head. Next, using the draw knife, begin fleshing the saddle towards the tail. As the saddle peels off, cut the larger pieces off with our skinning knife. You will find that the fatter the otter, the easier it is to flesh. As you near the tail, be careful to trim off any saddle or fat, using paper towels to clean up any grease. When fleshing, be careful around the belly area. You will find the tail section difficult to flesh using your draw knife, therefore,use your skinning knife carefully to finish off the tail. Once the fleshing is completed, clean off any excess grease using paper towels.
The next step in the handling process is the boarding. Again, we strongly recommend the use of a solid board. Make sure you use a belly wedge. Place otter, fur in, on the board. Centre the pelt on the board making sure the tail is opposite the front legs. Push the head completely to the top of the board. Gently tap the board until the pelt is snug. Begin pinning the tail onto board. Pin tail short and wide using a pleating method. Push as much fur into the inspection area as possible. Now pin the back legs onto the tail side of the board.
The next step is to trim the belly area with your skinning knife. By pinning your otter in this method, the inspection area will already be formed and by trimming the area you will have a perfect vent. Next, sew the front legs closed. Ensure that the legs are opposite the tail. The next step is to cut off the lower lip. This is important when you are shipping to the auction house. This is where the ticket identifying your pelt is stapled.
Finally, insert the belly wedge and allow to dry for three (3) or four (4) days at a temperature of approximately 55°F. Every second day, wipe off excess grease and oil from the pelt. After the pelt has dried, remove from the board. Be careful not to run your hand over the inspection area. This can cause otter to singe. Tuck the tail inside the petit to protect the inspection area from singing. If you are not shipping the pelt to market, store in a cool dry place or even better, in your freezer until you are going to ship. Remember to place the length measurement for the otters on your boards. This way, you know what size pelt you are working with.
By following these simple steps, you will find otter easier to prepare, and you will receive higher returns for your otter pelts.
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The very first step, as with any pelt handling, is to have a clean, dry mink, free of mud, burrs and dirt. If your mink is completely dry, one must pay
attention to singe. Lightly dampen the pelt before removing it from the carcass. The best method is a spray bottle. Adjust the spray to a fine mist. Do not soak the pelt, but rather dampen the fur until it is moist when touched.
SKINNING THE MINK
Begin by removing thefront legs. This makes the job easier when trying to pull the pelt free later on. Next, cut from one back leg to the other. The cut is on the belly side of the vent hole. Place the one leg in some form of holding device and pull on the other leg. You will notice a natural line follows across from paw to paw. By using this method, the fur harvester gains two things: increased length and the inspection area is enhanced. Both help improve the price paid. Remove the tail bone using a tail stripper. Proceed to pull the pelt down towards the front legs. If the mink is a male, you must remove the penis bone. After pulling the pelt down to the front legs, work your fingers between the leg and body. Pull the leg through. When the front paws are already removed, this set is much easier. Finally, pull the pelt clear of the carcass using a knife to cut the ears, eyes, and nose free.
Before pinning the pelt with 5/8" push pins, it must be fleshed from fat and grease. Place the pelt on the board or fleshing beam with each hind leg on opposite sides of the board. Remove fat from front leg area with a dull knife scraping the fat forward toward the leg hold. Do not remove the red saddle. The saddle on mink protects the skin from over scraping which can cause root hair damage. A mink with the saddle removed usually brings $2 to $3 less than a mink with the saddle on. If the saddle has excess fat under it, gently scrape the saddle pushing the grease and oil out.
Next, turn the pelt so the legs are opposite the tail. Make sure the pelt is straight on the board. Tip: Place the length measurement for the mink on your boards. This way, you know what size pelt your are working with.
When boarding a mink we recommend a solid wood stretcher. Use a male board for males and a female board for females. Putting males on female boards to gain size will result in the skin being downgraded in size. For proper mink board sizes refer to board size chart in the appendix. Mark the sizes on your boards so that you don't over- stretch the hide.
Scrape the fat and grease from the belly area. Remember to wipe the fur clean of any excess oil with a paper towel. Mink fur can be singed so be careful. Follow that by pinning the hind legs on the back of the board with the tail. Check the board measurement with the pelt, match the best line with the pelt size. Begin pinning the tail in a slight pleating method. What you want to do is push as much fur into the inspection area as possible. You can use push pins, wire mesh, cardboard or whatever works best for you. Cut a piece of fur out of the belly side to enhance the inspection are. Next, tuck the front legs inside the pelt. Insert a belly board so that when the pelt dries it can be easily removed from the stretcher. Finally, hang the pelt up with nose down allowing the oil to run down toward the head. Allow two or three days at 55°-60°F for drying. Remove from board and store in a cool dry place until shipping.
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Before skinning, the muskrat must be completely dry. Pelting should be done with a long, thin, sharply pointed blade approximately 3.5" to 4" in length.
The pelt must be dried and combed before proceeding. However, if skinning is done on the trapline and you intend to board it later, the pelt should be turned with the fur out and rolled for transportation. Later in your home or shed, it must be hung until dried and cooled before fleshing.
Prepare to skin by either laying the muskrat on its back or by hanging it from its tail from over head, with its tail nearest your knife hand. Grasp the right foot and make a straight cut from the base of the heel to the tail. Continue to push the knife through the underside of the tail and cut up leaving 1 to 11/2 inch of tail attached to the belly fur. Turn the muskrat around and repeat procedure meeting at tail incision. You will notice the line where the fur from the back (longer) meets the belly fur (shorter).
The 1 to 11/2 inch of tail left on the skirt of the belly prevents the pelt from tearing when it is mounted on the wire stretcher. Free the back side of the muskrat leaving the same amount of tail skin as done on the underside.
Now, with these cuts completed, work your hand up the back between the pelt and the flesh. Work the pelt over the head, cutting the ears close to the skull and with care! around eyes and mouth. Next pull the front feet through the pelt and carefully work the pelt away from the belly down to the tail flap.
FLESHING AND STRETCHING THE MUSKRAT
Only excess fat and meat should be removed. The saddle must be left on. Removal of the saddle will leave your rats papery and have less value. We recommend using wire stretchers as it gives each muskrat a proper fit. However, wooden stretchers can be used.
As with all pelts, make sure the pelt is centered properly on the stretcher. Pull the pelt down snugly on the wire frame. Insert the tension hooks into the tail leather. Put most of the pressure on the belly hook. This keeps the pelt snug on the stretcher yet allows the back where the fur is graded to be left loose so over-stretching is reduced. Make sure the nose does not slip over the end of the stretcher. Use a clothes pin or a nail through the nose. Wipe off excess grease with paper towel or cloth.
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Skin out the front feet, leaving the claws on the carcass. Make a cut on the back of the front legs from the pad to the first joint with a sharp knife.
Using your fingers, pull the pelt away from the flesh, then cut across the toes, to free the pelt from the leg. Follow the same procedure with the back legs.
Hang the animal up by the back foot and continue your cut across the anus. Pull the pelt away from the flesh with your fingers, until you have exposed the flesh around the tail bone and belly. Use your tail stripper to remove the short tail bone. Split the tail, pull and work the pelt down over the animal carcass until you can pull through the front feet, that have already been skinned out. Because the head is small, the skin will be harder to pull around this area. Continue the downward pulling pressure slowly and steadily, so that the pelt does not tear. Use your knife to cut off the ear cartilage and cut away around the eyes and mouth. Slip the pelt on the drying board with the fur in, and remove any fat or grease from the pelt. Pull the pelt down gently on the board and, using push pins or nails, fasten the bottom edges of the pelt to the board.
Insert the board using seperate boards for the front legs. Spread the legs, both front and back, open and nail down. When the pelt is partially dry, turn the fur side out and return the pelt to the board to complete drying.
Because of the fat, it is often easier to rough skin a raccoon and flesh it afterwards. Start skinning by slitting down from the heel of each hind paw. The
cut should pass 5 cm (2 inches) below the vent. This is the most important cut, sometimes called the money cut.
Using a tail stripper strip the tail by pulling downward. On big raccoons, it may be necessary to split the tail part way down. Skin down to the front legs and cut the fur free at the wrist. Skin carefully around the neck and cut the ears close to the skull. Continue down, cutting around the eyes, lips and nose, until the pelt becomes free. Leave the lower lip on the carcass.
Pelts can be frozen and fleshed at a later date. If this is done the pelt should be turned fur out and rolled starting at the tail. This way when the pelt is thawing it can be hung by the nose and allowed to unroll as it thaws.
FLESHING AND DRYING
Pelts should be cool before attempting to flesh. Pull the pelt onto the fleshing beam and scrape until all the fat and flesh is removed. It is especially important to scrape all gristle from the ears and the back of the neck. Do not over scrape. Try to keep the grease off the fur during fleshing. Sawdust can be used to soak up excess grease. Insure that all sawdust is removed before the pelt dries. The toughest part of fleshing a raccoon is the neck. Sometimes, scoring the gristle with a knife, just below the ears, will help you get started. The tail must be split and fleshed!!! Pin the tail out so that it can dry properly. In the case of wire stretchers use large paper clips to hold the tail open so it will dry. Sew or push pin shut holes that appear in pelt. Care should be taken not to over scrape pelts, especially early blue pelts where the hair roots can be damaged.
Wipe the fleshed pelt with a dry cloth. Make sure the fur is completely dry before placing it on a standard drying board. Insert a belly board to aid in removal of the pelt from the stetcher when it dries.
Clean wire frames and solid boards are suitable for drying raccoon. Depending on the fur section you come from, northern heavy type raccoon, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa look good on wood boards, semi heavy and coat type look better on wire stretchers. Smaller sizes and northern raccoon also will look better on wire. Make sure the pelt is centered properly on the stretcher. All raccoon should be put up leather out. Raccoon are marketed leather out. Refer to board size chart in the appendix for proper wooden stretcher size. Mark raccoon sizes on your boards to prevent over-stretching.
CUTTING THE WINDOW
On a male, cut the window up to the just below the penis hole. On a female, cut the window to the lower two teats. Keep your window narrow -the flanks are very important when the manufacturers make the garments. If the window is made too wide, it can hurt the value of the pelt. The window should be made right after the pelt is put on the stretcher, never once the pelt is dry.
TAKING THE RACCOON OFF STRETCHER
Wipe raccoon first with a rag or paper towel to remove excess wet grease. Remove pelt from stretcher and comb out inspection area.
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While most fur harvesters do a good job of putting up their red fox, a surprising number of them use boards that are the wrong size.
In today's marketplace, a wise fur producer uses every advantage available to maximize his bottom line. The techniques we are presenting in this article will help you to improve your finished product by increasing fur density, ensuring the largest size is attained and by giving a more uniform finish.
In the wild fur business, fur comes into the auction house in every size and shape under the sun. This causes problems for both graders and buyers. Because there is so much variation in the size, the fur harvester loses out.
The first step in handling your fox is to have the proper equipment. You need to have a proper skinning knife, draw knife, fleshing beam, skinning gamble, push pins, drying board, lots of sawdust, paper towels, a good fur comb and a tail stripper.
Important Note: Fox are known rabies carriers, therefore always use surgical gloves. Wash hands and equipment in warm soap and disinfectant after working on a fox. Never skin any animal that you even think was sick.
The equipment you use in the field should be in top condition and well prepared. Check your foot holds and snares for correct working action. Our recommendation when snaring fox is to only use camlocks or power snares where legal. Other locking devices can be used but we feel the camlock and power snares to be the most humane killing tools. In some areas where the use of snares is prohibited, foot hold traps are the most effective to use. Make sure that you use the right size trap. In more urban areas, make sure to use soft catches or foot snares in case of non-target animal captures. Any fox trapper who knows his fox will insist upon a clean, dyed and waxed trap or snare. A waxed trap is much more effective than a rusty one.
When trapping in adverse weather conditions, the fur harvester needs every advantage he/she can use. After removing the fox from your set, care must be used in storage. Place in a clean canvas or burlap bag free of grease and dirt. Pelt fur as quickly as possible. Caution: do not attempt to pelt a frozen or partially frozen fox.
The first step in pelting your fur is to brush from head to tip of tail. Remove any dirt or mats as completely as possible. Do not attempt to cut out mats. Next, lay fox on table and grasp front paw and cut from paw to elbow joint in a straight line. The next step is to cut from hind leg to belly side of vent hole. Cut from paw to vent hole using the natural fur line, white and red colour of the fur. Cut completely around the vent. By using your fingers, work around each leg separating the hide. Place fox in a skinning gamble. By using front legs in an adjustable set up, one can -lower lip off raise and lower the fox to whatever level is required. A good set up helps save on back pain and increases production.
Proper handled red fox:
Using a tail stripper, free the tail from the tail bone. Begin working the pelt forward toward the front legs. Ensure that when skinning a male fox that the penis bone is cut out. When you have worked the pelt all the way down to the front legs, again use your fingers to pull the pelt free of the front legs. Using your knife, ring around the front paws when you have freed them from the pelt.
Pull pelt down toward head. Ensure that your knife is sharp. Carefully cut the ear cartilage at the head. Gently pull pelt forward toward the eyes, again cutting close to the head. Finally, cut the nose and bottom lip off the pelt.
If pelt is bloody or dirty, wash it in cold water and mild soap. Remove excess water before boarding.
To start with, we recommend the use of only one size board. The board must be 60" long and 51/4" wide, gently tapered from shoulders to nose. The use of a properly sized board is of great importance for a uniform overall finish. The proper size board for fox will enhance the density of the fur and increase the length of the pelts.
A big concern at the auction house is the different width of the pelts coming to market. Some fur harvesters use boards as wide as racing paddles. The pelt has been
improperly stretched. The buyers do not want pelts in a lot that do not look like similar.
The problem with a split board is that when you open it up at the bottom, you are thinning out the fur on the flanks. Also, length is lost because you are forcing the fur wider and back up towards the head. The problem with wire stretchers is that some fur harvesters turn the fox before it is dry. When the fox is turned around, the wet skin comes in contact with the metal causing hair slip. Also, the fur harvester cannot pin the fox properly.
The first step in boarding your fox is to place the pelt on the stretcher, fur in. Centre the eyes and ears on the board in line with the tail. Gently tap the bottom of the board on the floor to push the nose and head as far down on the board as possible. It the fox is excessively fatty, you will have to flesh it on a beam before placing it on a stretcher. Be very careful when beaming a fox as the pelt is not as tough as that of a raccoon or beaver pelt. Be sure to use plenty of sawdust to absorb the grease and fat.
Next, split the tail from the base to the tip using a tail splitting guide and a sharp knife. Pin the tail down using 5/8" push pins.
The third step is to carefully remove the ear cartilage from the ears. You may find this difficult the first few times you do it. The key to removing the cartilage is to make sure you have a good sharp knife and that the fox is fresh. Using the knife, start removing the cartilage. After you have it started, you can work it out with your finger. When finished, you should have a complete ear. Pin the ears on the board toward the eyes. By removing the cartilage, the fur harvester can prevent hair slip on the ears and head. Be sure to sew any holes or tears when you are boarding the fox. Cartilage must be removed from ears and ears pinned forward.
Next, pin the front and rear legs opposite the tail. Pin legs wide and short. Use sixteen (16) pins per hind leg and about ten (10) per front leg. In order to pin out front legs, you will have to make small stretchers or you can use squirrel stretchers.
Finally, cut the lower lip from the pelt. Make sure that the pelt is centred on the board and the legs are opposite the tail. Use a small belly wedge to help in turning the pelt. Give the edges of the fox a quick brushing to separate the fur from the leather. Allow pelt to dry for 24 hours at a temperature between 50° to 60°F. Do not over dry or use excessive heat. After the pelt is dried, turn it fur out. Be careful to centre the pelt on the board. Leave front legs inside with the skin. Pin tail and hind legs on board. Allow to dry for another two (2) to three (3) days at a temperature of 50° to 60°F. Carefully brush fox from head to tip of tail when you first turn pelt and once again when you remove it from the board. When shipping your fox pelts, please ensure all claws are removed. Ship in a flat position. Do not ship between furs that are fur in, as the grease will damage the fur of your fox pelts.
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These animals should be skinned exactly as foxes but leave claws on wolves, because they are often made into rugs or wall mounts.
Do not leave paws on. Skin out paws and leave last toe bone and claw on each toe. Great care is needed around the ears, eyes and lips, to see that all flesh is removed, and these parts are not damaged.
As much flesh as possible should be removed from the ears, and the ears spread to dry. If this is not done, hair slip may develop and reduce the quality of a valuable fur. Be sure cartilage is removed from ears.
Always split the tail open, remove the bone, and flesh the tail. Then fasten open so that it may dry properly. Fur may be brushed out, but do not brush or comb so hard that you are pulling out fur. Drumming furs will remove most fur tangle, and give it the best possible appearance.
Fur buyers have never demanded too much in the shape and size of wolf and coyote. They should be of the uniform shape of all "cased" furs. A rule of thumb for size/shape is one inch wide at the shoulders for every 4 each in length.
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While it is never wise to over-stretch fur, there are times when pelts will be on the borderline between two sizes when they are placed on the board. Pelts shrink slightly in length during drying, so it may be to the trapper's advantage to stretch these borderline pelts just a little more to bring them up to the next largest size. To facilitate this, having the pelt sizes marked on our boards for each species may be helpful.
FUR HANDLING AND MARKETING
Proper fur handling and orderly marketing mean more dollars in trappers' pockets. Specific pelting procedures for each furbearer are covered in the section pertaining to those furbearers, but there are important points that are common to all furbearers. Proper fur handling commences with setting the proper traps for each species to ensure clean captures and minimal damage.
REMOVAL FROM TRAPS
Care should be taken when removing animals from traps especially if they are frozen. Simply prying an animal out of a trap may remove portions of fur and downgrade pelts. If furbearers are completely frozen in traps, it would be wise to take the furbearer still in the trap to your camp or fur shed and remove it from the trap after it has thawed.
Furbearers should be transported in clean. burlap or nylon bags (eg. feed sack) to ensure that they remain clean and that blood or dirt from one animal is not transferred to another. Never place wet furbearers directly onto metal racks of ATV's or snowmobiles or the box of a pick-up truck in freezing weather. They will become solidly frozen on and difficult to remove without doing major damage to the fur.
CLEANING & STORAGE
In general, furbearers should be dry before pelting. Before pelting, furbearers should be brushed lightly with proper fur comb to remove burrs, mats and dirt, which may stain the fur, and cause cuts in the pelting process. If animals are badly soiled, they should be washed lightly with clean water and allowed to dry before pelting commences. If you cannot skin animals shortly after harvesting or if you choose to rough skin pelts and flesh at a later date, they should be frozen to preserve quality. Place furbearers or pelts in plastic bags and remove as much air as possible. Tie tightly and place in a freezer. Pelts that are to be frozen should be rolled nose to tail, leather in. Thaw slowly to prevent hair slip before pelting or fleshing. After fleshing and drying, pelts should be shipped to market as soon as possible. If you must store pelts for long periods they should be placed in a freezer. For short periods of storage, keep in a dark, cool dry room. Pelts may be wrapped lightly in newsprint, stored in burlap or nylon bags or hung from hooks or rafters. Ship to market in clean bags or cardboard boxes, never in plastic bags.