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32 Below

The amount of questions that we get surrounding the freezing and potential decomposition of animals are endless. Obviously in taxidermy we deal with real, once-living creatures, so there are several factors that can lead to issues throughout the process of tanning and mounting any animal. I'll walk through a few key ones here in this entry.

Ice Is Your Friend

Freezing anything basically stops all breakdown of tissues and this is probably the most important step in preserving any dead animal. When any living organism dies, the process of decomposition begins immediately. Studies suggest that the temperature of the animal drops at a rate of 2 degrees F per hour. In other words, if you can't get the animal on ice within a few hours, your risk for spoilage/slippage greatly increase. That goes, for any part of the process before the animal is tanned. If you are a hunter, get it frozen quickly. If you're a deer processor, get it frozen quickly. If you're a taxidermist and you have the skin before it's tanned, keep it frozen always until it's time to process.

Time and Wrap Matter

If you have a hide in your freezer from 2008, don't just expect it to be ok. Just like anything these animals do have an expiration date, even when frozen. Take your capes out and check them over if you can before you begin the tanning process. Also, it would be to your advantage to be upfront with any customers that bring in an old hide about the possibility that it could ultimately not make it through the process. And yes, wrapping makes a huge difference. Avoid anything in newspaper, it dries out and sticks to the hide. It can be a nightmare for tanners. Wrap capes in plastic garbage bags or if you have the option, you can vacuum seal them. Either option will allow them to be frozen longer and avoid freezer burn.

Invest In A Chest

If you hunt then this one is already probably taken care of. Chest freezers are fairly cheap, easy to find, and they have a surprising amount of square space. They can quickly freeze and capes you have, and depending on the size you will be able to fit 10-60 skinned deer capes in one freezer. We have a number of them in our shop for multiple uses and if you have the space, then invest in one.

Don't Salt Before Freezing

Please, please, please if you can avoid field salting, DO NOT salt a skin before freezing it. We have dealt with a handful of skins each year that were salted before frozen and they are dry, tough to turn, and don't accept future salt well. We admit, we aren't scientists, but we recommend this strictly because we've been through it and don't want you to have to go through it as well. We realize that when hunters are out in the middle of nowhere, and have to get it on salt while they drag their animal back, then that cannot be avoided.

Just remember that cold is good. There is so much time and money invested in harvesting an animal that you want to do everything possible to ensure the success of that animal throughout the entire process. Enjoy the upcoming cold and happy hunting!


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