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Thread: Field Care for Capes: Salt Alternatives?

  1. #1
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    Question Field Care for Capes: Salt Alternatives?

    I'm hoping to get some feedback on recent experiences with alternatives to salt for preserving capes in the field. I'll be floating a river for moose/caribou out of the Brooks next September, beginning on the 10th. I have a 90lb limit for personal gear, which includes any preservatives for capes. I haven't yet dissected my gear list to see where I'm at against the limit, but I know I won't have room for the recommended 35lbs of salt (for only one salting!) for a moose and a 'bou.

    I've found a few accounts of success using STOP-ROT, and TTC is another alternative that seems to have more shortcomings. Knowing that salting is the best practice, have any of these other options gained enough reputation to be considered viable alternatives for use on weight-limited hunting trips?

    Thanks for any thoughts/suggestions you can offer.

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    The first key in the field is to flesh the cape as well as possible while out there. Keeping it cool and dry is the goal, which you already know. I have used TTC in the field with no problems and no complaints from my taxidermist so believe it is viable.. I have not used liquid Stop Rot in the field.

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    Member Hoss's Avatar
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    There is a pretty good thread on here about TTC a couple of years ago that provided a lot of feedback on that product. The main concern that some had with TTC was that it dried out the skin a little too much and made some of the "delicate" areas harder to work. I visited with a taxidermist friend of mine about a suitable alternative (because like you said carrying that much salt in the field is sometimes prohibitive) he suggested that it is best to carry the TTC and a small amount of salt into the field and to use the TTC on the bulk of the cape and to use the salt on some of the delicate areas, around the eyes, ears, etc, to prevent drying out those areas too much. I haven't tried it yet, but his recommendation made sense to me. I have not looked into STOP-ROT, so I did not ask my friend about that product.

  4. #4

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    How long is your hunt? Not longer than ten days I suspect? You won't need 35 lbs. of salt even if you get a Moose cape and a Caribou cape. If you skin right and do a good "clean skin", the hides will keep fine with minimal salt as long as you keep the hides dry from external moisture and are able to let the liquid drain off the capes. 10 lbs. of salt would be more than enough to preserve your Moose cape and 5 or 6 lbs. would be more than enough for your Caribou cape, as long as you get the hides fleshed properly. You don't have to cake the salt onto hides to have them keep in the field. The biggest factor is getting flesh and fat off first then concentrate on salting. All the salt in the world does no good on flesh and fat. You would be fine with 15 lbs. of salt. You could even skimp by with 10 lbs. of salt.

    I've never used any of the liquid stuff, salt is cheap and anything I don't use I can dump if I don't need it and not worry about poisoning the land with a chemical.

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    I have used all 3, salt, TTC and Stop Rot. Of the 3, salt is the best without question. What I would do is use a combination, take some stop rot as is goes a long way and is easy to apply, flesh and turn and apply the stop rot, TTC is very course, grind it up finer and mix it with non ionized salt a quart sized Gatoraid bottle tightly packed would go a long way and weight 3 to 4 pounds, the mix is more effective than salt alone and when mixed does not make the hide as hard. Rub this in very good making sure to get all the edges making sure to do the face and ears first as the rest can be more easily repaired if the hair slips. Roll it up and let it brine, should draw out a crazy amount of fluid in the first several hours, after that hang it and let it drain. TTC tends to really dry out the hide, making it hard for anyone to go behind you and flesh or turn the eyes, lips and ears. So it is best to really try to do your best to flesh and turn the ears all the way to the tips so they don't droop on your final mount as it can be almost impossible to turn the ears all the way once they are salted and dried out.

    As far as dumping salt,,, it will poison the ground like it was burnt, I have seen it many times around airstrips.... Ever hear of the term "salting the earth" best to try to take it with you is possible, if I had to dump salt I would try to dump it into flowing water. Not sure this is any better, but I do know it kills the soil for sure.


    I have thousands of dollars in taxidermy, and I have learned some hard lessons in hide preservation. So use this advice or not, but know it comes from many years of harvesting and preserving hides on remote trips.

    Have games bags for your hides, NO BLACK TRASH BAGS, treat the hide like meat, keep it cool, clean and dry. I can't tell you how many hides I have seen in black trash bags and the sun heats them up and the hair slips in no time.
    "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"
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  6. #6

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    How about borax? I'm not sure if you need as much borax (weight) as salt to do the same job?

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    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. You've given me some options to consider. I like the idea of using some salt for the more intricate areas and an alternative for the rest - sort of a hybrid approach. I purchased Larry's "Wilderness Taxidermy" dvd and plan to educate myself more specifically on the general process. This will be a ten day float, so it's possible that I may need to preserve a cape for up to nine days (ten minus fly-in day).

    If anyone has any more input to add or experiences to share, fire away. Thanks!

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk

  8. #8
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default TTC? NO! Salt? YES!

    This question comes up often enough that I wrote a page on it some time ago, summarizing my field experiences as a commercial hunting guide here in Alaska, and the observations and experiences of several respected taxidermists here in Alaska. You can find that article AT THIS LINK.

    You will get advice from every corner on this issue, but that does not mean that it is all good advice. Many have ignored traditional field care methods (such as using salt), to their regret. Alaska hunts are not cheap, but in the end it's your decision whether you want to roll the dice on some of these other products. In my view, and I believe this is supported by many respected and experienced professionals, you should ignore the existing alternatives and go with salt.

    It's frustrating to hear this coming up over and over again, because the main issue that drives it is the air charters and transporters, who are attempting to shave our outbound loads to the barest minimum. This has been a trend for several years, and for my part I will not accept having to leave critical gear and supplies home simply because the air charter offers a load limit that will not work. We're seeing it with the rafting gear, with the quantity of salt they are "allowing" us to take, with our food, etc. I will take the things I need on my hunt, and will not allow an air service to dictate my gear list. Of course I will expect to pay for whatever flying is needed to move that gear to and from the field, as I should. Hunters need to learn to push back a bit when it comes to the essentials you need in the field.

    Of course when it comes down to safety issues and appropriate load factors I totally understand. I have been in commercial aviation for over 30 years, so I get it. But to tell a moose hunter that he can "get by" with 15-20# of salt is absurd. Give Russell Knight a call on this question; he owns Knight's Taxidermy in Anchorage. Ask him about TTC if you want an earful.

    Sorry for the heat in this post, but it really does get my dander up when I hear of charter pilots who, in many cases, have never prepped a hide in the field =EVER= that they can squeak by without the basic essentials for field care of their trophies.

    Best of luck!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Member sheep man's Avatar
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    If you flesh it right and keep it cool and dry, and continue to work it you can make it without salt, it really depends on what kind of hunt your going on if theres several animals involed then id say you wont be able to keep up with the day to day tasks of keeping it aired out,moose hides need a couple hours every day to keep the folds of the hind aired, 30 plus years of sheep hides and i've never touched one with salt, just got to stay on top of it...turning ears lipps and eyes are a must in my book also....my 2 cents
    I ♥ Big Sheep

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    sheep man - can you elaborate on how you work the hide after fleshing and turning is done please?

  11. #11
    Member sheep man's Avatar
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    Keeping the hide dry and cool no different then your meat, if you bone out a moose you still have to air out the folds to keep it from spoiling, no different then a hide, everyone one does thing differently it just the way i was taught, i dont know anyone that can flesh a hide prefectly off the animal so when your back to camp doing nothing start working the hide by fleshing,fleshing and more fleshing, during the days its not raining get that hide out in the air,can't get enough air, dry it as much as possible,continue working the folds and fleshing as needed, at the end of your hunt you will have a hide thats ready for tannery, taxidermist is way happy, and your not packing a pile of salt....one last statement here before i go, this is not for everyone, you have to really stay with it and at times i wished i had salt....
    I ♥ Big Sheep

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Given the context of the original post, a float hunt for moose and caribou, I would NEVER suggest trying to get by without salt for your capes and hides, period.

    As mentioned previously, salt substitutes are not generally recommended by respected taxidermists because of what they do to your hide. If you question that, I would suggest that a better place for solid data on that question would be a respected taxidermist that has had to deal with it in the past. You can find a list of taxidermists in Alaska AT THIS LINK in our Directory.

    Regards,

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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