|To the common eye, this may not show signs of a disaster, but you would be wrong.|
In this tutorial I will be addressing the on going problem with skins coming from Africa. Regardless of the country in Africa, hair slippage and skin rot has always been an issue but never has been addressed. I hope to be able to shed light on the salting and curing procedure that is so important to a finish trophy. Culture plays another part of poor skin handling in the field. I will explain how different cultures look at the wildlife in their own country and how that contributes to mishandling of skins.
Field care and handling techniques determine the quality of skins once tanned. These skins that have been presented to my facility demonstrate how important proper salting and skinning directly affect the finished trophy. This is the salting method I have found to be best for handling of trophies world wide.
First Day; Step One:
After the trophy has been skinned and all flesh has been removed, a thin layer of salt is laid down on the floor where skins are to be salted. The skin is salted, being sure that all edges and hidden areas are covered completely in a layer of salt. At this time the skin will begin to discharge moisture at a very fast rate. It does not take long before the salt on the skin is loaded and can not hold any extra moisture. This is fine for the first 12 hours while the salty brine is CURING the skin. We are not trying to dry the skin; we are curing the skin.
Second Day; Step Two:
Within 12 hours of the first salting the salt will now be removed and the skin should be scraped down removing any remaining salt. The scraping will open the pores in the skin, allowing the next salting to penetrate even deeper. Allow the second salting to remain on the skin for 24 hours. By now there is no moisture accumulating around the edges of the skin.
Third Day; Step Three:
This is the third salting. Resalt the skin one more time. This salt will stay on the skin for 24 hours. The skin will have a nice blue color to it once this salt is removed on the fourth day. The salt has cured the skin all the way to the hair follicle. Now at this time the skin should be cured completely though. If the skin is thick as in a Cape Buffalo, Giraffe, ect, one more day should complete the curing process. At this time skins can now be hung to dry. There should be no dripping of moisture at this stage. The skins should be dry to the touch when they are being hung. If skins are wet, the salt used was old and not able to perform its duty.
These are the proper steps needed to cure skins for taxidermy purposes. In my opinion, this is the proper way to handle skins, and any other method will prove to be unsuccessful.
You may ask, why are all skins not handled this way. It comes down to culture. In Europe, Wildlife is more than just a renewable resource. There is a stronger connection between the people and wildlife. The wildlife is revered as a sacred gift given to them to look after. The killing of wildlife is something to celebrate and honor the animal death. In Germany, the clothing that the hunters wear is all part of the respect given to the wildlife. I recently had a friend hunt Roe Deer in Germany. It was mandatory to wear the proper hunting clothes before, during and after the hunt. Once the trophy was taken, offerings back to the animal and the land was highly important and part of the hunt. There is a great heart felt connection between the European culture and wildlife. I did fine a connection in Cameroon (West Africa) between the people and the wildlife. The Boca people have lived in the forest for thousands of years. They believe that there are spirits in the forest both good and bad. They believe that if they do not give back to the spirits, they will not be protected from evil. They never waste any part of the animal, in fact they use ever last piece including the bones. So you can see with a deeper connection to wildlife, these hunters, put there heart into persevering ever last part.
Hunting Africa since the early 90's, I have hunted with many different cultures. I have hunted with the very spiritual Boca people where the animal is highly respected and never wasted. I have also hunted the Northern Transvaal in South Africa where the animal is just a commodity. I found that in countries with this believe field care and trophy preparation was at its poorest. Hunters will never change a culture. We can see in history where many times we have tried to change how others live and what they believe. That has never worked out yet. Changing how skins are handled in places like South Africa's Northern Transvaal will never take place. The hunter has two options. He can allow the outfitter to handle the skins and hope for the best; or take care of the skins himself. I have learned to take care of my own skins.