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Processing bear hides from outfitters

Discussion in 'Lifesize Mammals' started by boone90, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    Hi all, my name is Dan and I have been a member for years but have always been able to find what I need with the search function until today. A relative of mine is an outfitter here in BC and has approached me with the opportunity to process his black bear hides (roughly 30 per year) for shipping to his clients and their respective taxidermists. I am certainly interested, and willing, however all of my experience is on birds and therefore I am also lacking a lot of necessary mammal info. I feel like skinning skulls and paws should be be fairly easy to self teach with a slow approach (I have skinned skulls before for European mounts etc), skinning is skinning, but I need to know what to do beyond that to ship a high quality salted and dried hide. So basically I am looking for guidance to complete that process all the way through CITES paperwork and shipping. I have many questions about preferred means of fleshing, do I need to wash the hide in any way, and most importantly what kind of conditions should I be processing and drying them under, as in ideal temperature and humidity? Thank you very much for your time and expertise, all help is welcome and appreciated.
  2. davehyer

    davehyer Active Member

    Skin head, remove feet and toes, split lips, eyes and turn ears. I have fleshed them with my machine, but usually use a fleshing beam and Becker fleshing knife.

    If you get all the red meat off, 95% of the fat you should be in good shape. I use fine grain non iodized salt. I salt for 24-48 hours, hang to dry. I've got a dehumidifier running in my shop, keeps the humidity about 30-35%. I will also run a fan to keep air moving.

    Not much to it really.

  3. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    I really appreciate your reply, could you recommend a technique for hanging the hides to dry? Some of thes bears are pretty big...over 7 footers in some cases. Also where did your dehumidifier come from?
  4. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Boone, for your purposes, a dehumidifier is unnecessary. Same goes for "non-iodized" salt. One of the better salts is regular table salt (either iodized or non-iodized). Once you get the hide fleshed properly, spread your hide out on a flat surface (I like the ground as it's softer on these old knees). Pour about a pound of salt right in the center and with the heel of your hand start pushing it down into the raw skin as you move the salt outward. Add more salt as you need it. No need to pile salt on an inch thick if you rub the salt in. when you're done, make sure you pour some down into the toes and the ears. Fold the hide flesh to flesh and roll it up. Set the hide with the open side down in a corner someplace (I put mine in a big plastic tray that has a lattice on the bottom. That allows the salt water to seep out without soaking the hide. Let it set overnight. Open the hide and dump the salt. Resalt as before. Third day, open the hide and, weather permitting, lay it outside to dry. In 8 hours on a sunny day, it will be dry enough to fold and preserved/protected enough to ship out.

    If you elect to use stock salt or some of the other more grades (never rock salt), make sure you use the finest grain you can find. It's just easier to work with and penetrates quicker.
  5. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    Thanks for the reply George. I am curious if I should make special considerations for shipping? I had thought about using inexpensive plastic totes from either Canadian Tire or Walmart and duct taping the lids down. At a few dollars a piece they would be much easier and more economical than a wooden crate (and I am no carpenter). My big concern would be whether or not the box needs to be able to breath or if it should be sealed tight? And how much of a "shelf life" does the salted hide have before it has to be further processed at a tannery? How should I store the completed hides while in the process of working on others, as I would like to go to the customs office in one or two "batches"? Thanks for all the help!
  6. davehyer

    davehyer Active Member

    If you keep them dry they will keep for months. I hang mine over a rope I have stretched across my shop, as soon as they start to dry while they are still pliable I fold them.

    I use hygrade non iodized fine grain salt from carghil, it's what I can buy in 80lb bags from my local feed store.
    The dehumidifier runs in my shop 24/7 365 days a year, it makes a huge difference in drying time for mounts as well as hides.
  7. Paul B

    Paul B Active Member

    I would try one that is not a customers that just paid a few thousand on their hunting trip before going headstrong on doing something that you never had your hands on before. Bears are very heavy with a ton of fat and will be back breaking to flesh, holes can be made very easily in the thin skinned hide. Also need to turn the face and ears. Their not anything like birds.
  8. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    Thank you for the continued replies. I certainly have intentions to get a couple of practice bears, we have a 2 1/2 month general open spring bear season with a two bear limit for residents, so I will certainly be harvesting a couple to practice on before I would think of touching a customers as you mentioned, thanks for the help! I will post results later in the spring and likely some more questions haha
  9. Boone,

    What has been posted here is all great info on how to handle bears, skinning, etc. My guess is that you'll either be cleaning the skulls yourself or shipping them out to another taxidermist who is in BC here for processing before shipping them south.

    I assume most of the processing will be done in a bear camp somewhere, with fresh bears? If so that's makes things a bit easier than dealing with frozen bears, thawing, etc.
    Your exporting permits/CITES/etc is going to be the biggest challenge you'll have to sort out with paperwork, USFW permits, shipping across the border, etc. There are also brokers such as Talon in Edmonton, etc that handle some of the exporting but make sure whatever pricing model you determine, you ensure all the paperwork and permit costs are taken care of.

    Other than that, its a lot of grunt work skinning bears, but you'll learn a lot and learn to find secrets that make doing paws, etc a little easier each time. A lot of great info posted on this site for sure!
  10. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    Certainly the paperwork will be onerous, and if you could potentially recommend a government or regulatory agency to deal with that could guide me through the permit and paperwork process it would be greatly appreciated. You also mentioned the skulls, I would love to hear a recomendation for a skull cleaner in BC to farm that out to as I dont think suburbia here would dig the smell of maceration and I don't have beetles. As mentioned the bears will have a certain amount of work done already, they will arrive frozen with the skulls and paws still in the skin, as that is how their current taxidermist prefers, and what they are used to doing these days. They tell me that every effort is made to "skin em' blue" so hopefully that translates to minimal fleshing. Rackmastr, given that you are more or less a "local" in my eyes, would you hazard a guess at what most people would charge around here for the complete service?
  11. Not sure what I'd charge for fleshing and skinning out paws/heads but a few phone calls would probably give you a good idea. You'll have to figure out how much time you'll have into each of them obviously. There are a couple guys doing some beetle work down in the lower mainland but I don't have a list of their contact info here.

    You'll want to deal with the BC Government on export/CITES permits and then USFW for importing items to the USA. Can contact a broker as well if you don't want to handle the paperwork or to have the customers pay directly to them etc for paperwork and shipping.

    You mention being in 'suburbia'. Your biggest challenge may be freezer and floor space for fleshing/salting if you were to take on 30 hides at the end of a bear season all at once. Will require some big freezer space while you work through it.
  12. boone90

    boone90 Dan Hastings

    The bears will be delivered in the freezers which they are stored in during the hunting season and simply plugged in upon arrival....I have an ok sized shop room in my house (all be it full of kids's junk and clothes haha) and have been toying with the idea if getting a sea can to do my work in and appropriatley lighting and ventilating it, we are on an old school 3/4 acre lot and my neighbours are pretty used to my antics by now lol. Running down the driveway with a .22 last fall to shoot a skunk that was harassing the neighbourhood got the reaction of "kill that little f***er" being yelled over the fence, not a phone call to the cops as one might expect. Lol i will also be spacing out the hides as much as possible and may make arrangements to only take a portion of them and ask that the others go to his usual guy...i do have a habit of taking on larger tasks than I ought to...my wife calls it a time managment problem, i prefer to call it optimism haha but it sounds like i might be starting to listen to her...