Author Topic: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?  (Read 16127 times)

Offline cynicalcyclist

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Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« on: March 22, 2015, 07:14:01 AM »
Finally after soooo many years of wanting to, I will be buying a bear tag for the spring season here in Vancouver Island. I am very excited to get out there and see what my friends and I can find, and put some great meat in the freezer. As a guy who like DIY and saving $, I was thinking about preserving a bear hide. Not interested in keeping the face or paws on it, just the hide. Is this easy to do? I certainly want a nice hide to display and for my soon to be born baby to lay on. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated!

Offline Cedar

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2015, 07:01:45 PM »
I would keep the head too, but that is just me.

My tanning solution is:
2 gallons of water
2 pounds cheap salt
8 oz sulfuric acid

Probably one of the most unorganic things I do, but I have my hands still after 38 years. You can buy it at NAPA. It was not expensive the last time I bought it. You might have to make a double batch for a bear hide. DO NOT USE METAL! It will cause the hair to slip. Also do not let the solution get over 70F.

Soak the hide 24 hours. Keep it covered in the solution, with a large hide I will rotate it a couple times. I do not use gloves, but if you have any slight cuts on your hand, the salt will let you know it.

Next day starting at the tail end, start removing the membrane. You can tell as it will be slippery/slimy.. and when you get it off to the leather, the leather will feel like wet leather. I usually work it on a sheet of plywood. Make sure to get ALL of the membrane off. Sometimes there is meat attached to the membrane as well, it will come off when the membrane does. DO NOT USE A KNIFE (if you can help it... try to keep the knife in another building so you actually have to get up to get it, which puts off the temptation of using a knife).

Stick it back in the solution after all the membrane is off for another 24 hours.

Then you start to tan it. Tanning is the stretching and breaking of the fibers, which will make it soft. They say not to use heat, but honestly I have used a blow dryer for years until it finally died after 30 years of abuse. If you do not get it dry and stretch it, it will stay hard.. like a board. So dry and stretch and when you stretch it will look wet again.. and do this for quite a few hours. I also like doing it on a hot breezy day, hang it over a rack out of the sun and come back and stretch. I do not like using a frame, and my hides come out where professional guys comment on how nice they are. The solution also makes the leather side white.

Have fun, do pics when you get the bear done,.. BUT.....

I highly suggest tanning at least 10 rabbit hides before you attempt another species of hide. Bear is going to have a thick hide. You might want to try other species first, so you really know what you are getting into before you start, or you might change your mind and send it out to have professionally done.

AFTER is it done.. actually you might start now too,.. look at fabric remnant stores. Find felt or other backing for it. I like 2 colors of felt. I likely will do a red and a black for my beaver pelt I am doing this late spring/early summer, and not sure what I am going to use for the bobcat. I plan on using pinking shears and doing the first layer about an inch out and then maybe 3/4" on the second.

Cedar

nelson96

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2015, 07:10:39 PM »
put some great meat in the freezer.

As an avid hunter and lover of game meat, I still have to say ewwwww.  I'm not a fan of bear, but especially "spring" bear. . . .  My dislike for it is not so much the taste, but for what they eat.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2015, 07:20:38 PM »
I have only had it as 'slab of jerky' once, so it tasted like jerky to me.

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Offline cynicalcyclist

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2015, 08:46:13 PM »
Thanks Cedar. Very helpful insights. I am sure that I will make it work. We don't have many fur bearing critters around here. No squirrel hunting and few feral rabbits so my hide options are very limited. My hunting partner is also interested so we can work it together. I saw somewhere that using alum works too?

I am interested in the meat quality. We will be hunting high where the bruins will be on grass so hopefully the meat quality will be good. I have many pounds of pork fat around to mix in for sausage too. I will share results on the boards:)

Offline cynicalcyclist

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2015, 08:50:03 PM »
Oh and I plan on keeping the skull. That will look awesome hanging above the Rocket Mass Heater in my future shop:)

nelson96

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2015, 09:08:47 PM »
I am interested in the meat quality. We will be hunting high where the bruins will be on grass so hopefully the meat quality will be good.

They have Brown Bear (aka Bruin) on the island?  If you want better meat, I would suggest fall hunting after they've been eating a lot of fruit and berries.  Good luck, I understand British Columbia has the largest Black Bear population in North America, and Vancouver Island has the densest population of Black Bear in the entire province.  Make sure to take lots of pictures and post them here.

Offline cynicalcyclist

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2015, 07:26:38 AM »
We have the odd grizz that swims over from the mainland. Not in my neck of the woods though, always on the north end. If I don't fill this tag in the spring it is good for the fall hunt too, so I would go high again for blueberry bear. I certainly will post pics on here :)

Offline Tex4k

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2015, 08:19:34 AM »
You can get rugging videos from several taxidermy suppliers, other helpful info over at taxidermy.net, rugging can be as simple or complicated as you want the finished product, Cedars tanning above is basically what all taxidermist do, most will use a tanning oil after it comes out of the acid pickle.

Offline machinisttx

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2015, 09:15:07 PM »
Tanning a hide is very easy, but can be a lot of work. My part time job is taxidermy with my father in law. I caped out a Blue Hawaiian ram today. Not too long ago I did Euro mounts on two black bear skulls and a grizzly skull. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I did a hide from one of those bears as well. If you want to do it the easiest way, you can order tanning concentrate from a taxidermy supplier like Van Dykes. We do not use sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. I can't imagine why anyone would use something that caustic and toxic when better options exist. You'll also need a plastic tub large enough to hold the hide, the tanning solution, and do so with the hide completely submerged. Use plastic bottles filled with water to hold the hide down, and mix the solution with a wooden utensil. There are other methods that don't require purchasing chemicals, like brain tanning or extracting tannin from acorns. I can't comment on those methods since we can't afford to ruin a customer's hide trying to figure out the right concentration/amounts.

I'm going to tell you in advance that a bear hide is pretty ambitious for a first project. You would do well to heed Cedar's advice on starting with hides from small game like rabbits. After skinning the animal, roll the hide up and freeze it if you're not going to work on it right away(and you probably won't, skinning and quartering a 250+ pound animal is a chore). Alternatively, you can salt the hide, roll it up, and elevate one end to allow it to drain, then freeze it. Use non iodized salt only. If I remember correctly, the iodized salt gives more chance for the hair to slip. When we pull a hide out of the freezer, it's allowed to thaw and then as much meat and fat as possible is cut off. After the initial fleshing, it's salted and rolled up, and generally the final fleshing is done the next day. Meat and fat can prevent the tanning solution from penetrating the hide, so it's important to remove as much as possible. If a small piece is missed, it won't hurt anything as long as it's just a thin(very thin) layer. With the pickling solution we use http://www.vandykestaxidermy.com/MKUAQ-P195C196.aspx , the hide is left to soak for 24 hours, removed, and then rinsed thoroughly. This solution is not temperature sensitive as far as I am aware. I've put hides in it when temperatures were over 100 degrees. Then it's put on the drying rack. You can easily build one, it's nothing more than a frame large enough to stretch the hide taut and secure it while it drys. We paint tanning oil on the hide after it's stretched, and again a day or so later. After the hide is dry, it's pulled off the rack and sanded to remove any remaining fat/meat, and the hard "skin" layer. Once it's sanded, it gets thrown in an old dryer(non functional heating element) with a bunch of tennis shoes and run until the hide is supple. You can accomplish the same thing by just working the hide over a round post, but you'll be at it for a while.

Do yourself a favor and build a fleshing beam. If you build one that is capable of securing the hide and performing the usual function of a convenient work platform, it will make the job much, much easier. Good luck!

Offline cynicalcyclist

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2015, 08:41:40 PM »
Wow, thanks! Thats an awesome primer. Thank you so much. I sure hope to share the journey with you all!

Offline machinisttx

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2015, 09:58:02 PM »
I forgot earlier, but if you're going to keep the skull, they're not all that hard to process either. Cut all the meat you can away from the skull and lower jaw, split the flesh in the upper jaw/skull, use a holesaw to cut a hole in the rear of the skull and scoop the brains out. Boil them both for 45 minutes or so. We add sodium carbonate to the water. Any remaining flesh can be scraped off or you can use a wire brush if it's stubborn. After that, we paint it with a thickly(consistency of pudding) mixed hydrogen peroxide/magnesium carbonate(I think) paste and let it sit for a couple of days to bleach it. It comes off easily after it dries. One potential problem that I encountered on one of those three bear skulls is that sometimes there will be a lot of oil/fat/grease in the bone. You may have to repeat the process a few times. If that happens, a heat gun will help get some of the oil out, but don't heat it too much. Another potential problem is that sometimes the skull will want to separate  in places and/or the teeth want to fall out. Just glue it back together after all the work is done.

For what it's worth, don't bother with a "fleshing" knife. They look like a carpenters draw knife. In my experience they don't work very well. I use either a scalpel(blades are easy to replace and cheap), or a fillet knife. If you can stretch the hide while you're fleshing it, it's much easier to cut/scrape the meat and fat off.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Home taxidermy- how do I make a black bear rug?
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2015, 10:23:08 PM »
We do not use sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. I can't imagine why anyone would use something that caustic and toxic when better options exist.

It was one of the two recipes out of my 4-H handbook, it worked, it worked well. And I was able to get the sulphuric acid for free. Been using it for 38 years and no harm done other than 1 pair of jeans. The sulfuric acid does make a really nice white hide. I might try other agents sometime, but I have gone with what works for me.

Cedar