when to use salt



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  • when to use salt

    How many people know when to use salt, what kind of salt to use, how to apply it, and how much they need?

    Salt is necessary to keep bacteria from destroying the hair follicles on a hide or cape. Essentially it prevents or prohibits greatly bacterial growth.

    If you are going afield for more than 7-8 days - and you are looking to have a mount done of your trophy - take salt.
    Don't take rock salt or water softener salt. Take plain salt/table salt -
    Rock salt does not provide adequate coverage...Think of the salt like a blanket - you want it covering the hide completely...Using rock salt would be similar to you trying to stay warm with a bunch of small pillows on top of you. LOL!

    a couple of cups will be fine for a small cape (sheep or deer).
    Any animal in which you are taking the whole hide back with you will require about 10-25 lb salt - 10 for a small bear, or wolf, and 30 for something the size of a moose or very large brown bear.

    If you are going for a weekend hunt, don't bring salt.
    If you are going in the middle of winter when it is 20 below, don't bring salt
    If you are going where it is 60 degrees or warmer - even on a short hunt - bring salt

    After skinning your critter, take the big chunks of fat and flesh off the skin - salt won't penetrate through the flesh into the skin. Lay the skin out, hair side down, and work the salt into the skin, all the way to the edges (be aware of creases and folds and make sure to get them too). A thin layer is all you need for the short term, but make sure it is distributed over the entire skin.

    Then fold the legs in, fold the skin in half lengthwise and roll up loosely, then placed in a game bag (cotton or other, but NOT plastic) PLEASE don't let your skin become DRY - if the skin air dries it will not be able to be properly fleshed and you run the risk of the hide souring if there are large chunks of fat and flesh still on it (more than 1/4" thick).

    After a day, you can take the hide out of the bag and drain it...then check for spots you might have missed, apply salt, and re-roll and store in a clean bag.

    Also - if you are going to leave the head and feet in for your taxidermist to skin - make sure the head is COOLED out before rolling the hide up. The head is the warmest part of the body and will retain heat for a long time, especially if it is rolled inside the skin.

    Take to your taxidermist or get it fleshed out yourself within 2-3 days. A note to those who do their own fleshing. Generally trying to flesh a hide with a knife suffices until you can take the hide to your taxidermist but isn't adequate for actual preparation for the tannery. I have had a very very small number of hides the hunter thought they fleshed properly that didn't need for me to flesh them again. (maybe 10 out of 300)

    It is ok to put a salted hide in the freezer for a short period of time. By short I mean less than a couple of weeks. In the freezer salt continues to 'jerkify' the meat and fat and skin - and when it is time to take it out and flesh/prep it for tanning, it becomes impossible to work with.
    Then when it is thawed there is no way to get the 'jerky' off in order to get salt into the hide. You also run the risk of the fats in the skin becoming rancid which leads to a grease burnt skin (leaving the hide yellowed and discolored, and also much weaker). Also, unless the hide is in a very cold freezer, salt will prevent the hide from freezing completely. I have worked on hides that were salted and left in the freezer for several months - they are always marginal to poor in quality.

    There is also the new 'non salt' preservative. I have fleshed and worked on several skins that have been treated with it. It is weird to work with, and I prefer salt, but seems to do an adequate job.

    Oh yeah, PLEASE don't lay your hide, flesh side down, on dirt, rocks, gravel, or silt for pictures or ???? . It really makes it difficult to flesh properly and takes YEARS of the life expectancy of the fleshing knife!
    Taxidermy IS art!

    Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!

  • #2
    When to salt....

    Took a brown bear in yesterday, one thing to note and I see it about 3-4 times a year.. "DO NOT" SALT before fleshing, turning, spliting, etc..

    A bear or any animal for that matter needs to be free of all or "most" all fat, sinew, connective tissue and 'RED MEAT" once fleshed, ears turned, lips split, fleshed and trimmed, nose split, "wings turned" and the fat and meaty area around the eyes fleshed and its split to the eye lids then.. SALT..

    It's very difficult and sometimes impossible to adequatly flesh a bear and do the forementions if salt is applied before fleshing.. If you know your going on a week long hunt.. their is always a chance you could bag that trophy of a lifetime on day 1 and not on the last day.. some preperation will go along ways to ensure the best possible end product of the animal.

    Some folks dont know, thats understandable.. Guy yesterday pulled up a chair and in a few minutes watched me turn the ears, lips, nose and eyes.. Im sure he learned allot and now knows what to do and not to do next time, and thats all that counts..

    Last edited by Hoytguy; 04-25-2014, 10:57. Reason: spelling
    Quality Counts @ Dahlberg's Taxidermy


    • #3

      I don't know how long you've been at this, but in 14 yrs of taxidermy I would take an ounce of prevention over a pound of cure.
      The problem with salting beforehand that happens occasionally is that people let the hide get air dried or leave them in that condition (Salted) too long in order to easily split the lips, nose, etc. and I agree that it is not fun to work on them, as a taxidermist...BUT, if you are going to be afield for 8-9 or more days, or in warm weather, PLEASE salt your hide. PLEASE don't let it get air dried and if you are competent, please turn ears, lips, nose, eyes...

      I have fleshed and prepped probably close to 1000 bears...and I would take a salted one that the hair won't slip on, vs one that is marginal because the hunter didn't put a little salt on it. A majority of salted hides that come in are just fine and not dried too much. a few are. it happens. LOL
      Taxidermy IS art!

      Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!


      • #4


        & in some cases can Spoil your skin IN the freezer.

        ALWAYS ask your taxidermist how they want the animal Skinned & if it will be necessary to salt or freeze in Your circumstance.

        You can get 25 Lb salt bags at Sams Club or ANY feed store, Just make sure you ask the attendant for MILL RUN FEED SALT.

        Its a little coarser than table salt but works great. I buy it by the Pallet to insure I never run out.

        The other MAIN IMPORTANT THING, is that you rub the salt in EVER inch of the raw skin side.

        That is EVERY fold must be opened & rubbed in, Behind the ears, Around the eyes & lips.

        If you miss a spot , as quikly as you notice it SALT it.

        It takes just as long to do it RIGHT as it does to do it Wrong.

        RJ Simington
        PRO Taxidermy Fairbanks
        907 322 0936
        Custom Taxidermy, Experience the difference !!


        • #5
          I politely disagree protaxidermy.

          Perhaps more than salting in the freezer is the poor care in the field and/or poor fleshing and hide prep. I am sure you have worked on lots of salted/frozen skins...I have. The ones that were treated poorly in the field and/or left for a long time in the freezer are the ones that have problems. MHO

          freezing short term is better than leaving the salted and unprepped hide at room temp for a week, again, IMO. Ideally the hunter gets the hide to their taxidermist before a week passes.

          Taxidermy IS art!

          Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!


          • #6
            3 Taxidermists with 3 different oppinions, sort of like which brand of truck is the best I guess. Their is no scientific way of doing it, but by puting salt on a bear that is UN FLESHED or not turned is a royal pain in the ass.. all red meat turns to jerky, sinew is dried and glues to the skin..lips are shriveled and shrunken and at times cant be fully turned with out rehydrating the hide.. can it be fleshed, yes, can it be prevented, Yes.. the reason of my Post..
            Quality Counts @ Dahlberg's Taxidermy


            • #7
              I agree Hoytguy! wholeheartedly!

              I guess what I am trying to get to is that there really isn't a 'blanket statement' that covers all scenarios...If someone is cougar hunting in OR and it is 70 degrees, should they salt their hide? I think so.

              If someone is stuck in 'XXXXX' because they can't fly out, should they salt their hide? I think so.

              If someone is going on a weekend hunt..should they salt their hide? No, it isn't necessary, in MOST cases.

              And don't come back from a weekend hunt then salt your hide and leave it for a week before taking it to your taxidermist.

              For sure I have found, as you probably have, that salting a hide about an hour before fleshing it on the beam makes things go much easier. Also, I do like to use salt when I am working the face and ears...always try to keep salt on the face as I am working with it. Warm hands promote bacterial growth.

              As for freezing and salting. My feeling is that a well cared for hide - mostly fleshed with ears lips nose eyes all turned - is not going to have a problem.. It is the ones that are 'marginal' when they are brought from the field, then hastily salted and put in the freezer for 6 months that are probably going to have issues. Today a hide that had been salted and frozen for several months was brought into the shop. It had been well cared for, and at this time there is no sour smell, no hair slippage...go figure! On the other hand I have had ill cared for hides brought to me that were salted and frozen...and as soon as they thawed you could smell the sourness - AND see how poorly they had been handled in the field....which is why it is so very important to make notes!
              Taxidermy IS art!

              Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!


              • #8
                I agree with Hoytguy and RJ. Never salt a hide unless it is fleshed first, ever. And never salt anything and put it in the freezer.


                • #9
                  I am simply stating my experiences with salted and frozen hides...care of the (salted) hide before freezing may have as much or more to do with the condition of the hide after it is pulled from the freezer...I feel an 'expiriment' coming in my near future. LOL

                  I have never salted and frozen a skin - never saw the need... I don't think there is any need to, MOST of the time - and I mentioned in my first post all the reasons not to.... but I generally don't like to say 'never'....It does happen in rural alaska when folks are shipping by air freight...they go hunting for 10 days, salt their hides in the field, get back to the 'village' and the cape or skin gets put in the deep freeze for shipping....is that better or worse than leaving the salted hide at room temp or warmer for a couple of days? I would think at least being cooler would be beneficial...
                  Taxidermy IS art!

                  Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!


                  • #10
                    If the skin is PROPERLY taken care , such as FLESHED & PROPERLY Salted, It Wont need to be frozen anyways.

                    I have a Large Tom Mountain lion right now that was killed in November in Oregon last year.

                    The guy did salt it & throw it in the freezer . Now it is a TOTAL loss.

                    Slipped all over the face , Belly & tail.

                    If he would have just brought the whole cat in I would have skinned, Fleshed & salted it for FREE as long as I was mounting it anyways.

                    It just makes NO sence to SALT before freezing Period.

                    Look at it this way, If you can get it to YOUR freezer, You can sure as heck , get it to a taxidermist.

                    If it is going to be either Hot enough or too long till you get back out of the field the skin will have to be FLESHED atleast a little Then salted.

                    I am going to start charging an extra $100. for things that are salted & frozen ahead of time just because it is SOOOO much of a pain in the butt to deal with.

                    RJ Simington
                    PRO Taxidermy
                    Custom Taxidermy, Experience the difference !!


                    • #11
                      I know you visit taxidermy forum, so I will share this with other people - I found the information to be interesting..... It seems most frozen/salted hides fare just fine..BUT... Freezing will NOT REVERSE the effects of a hide that is already Spoiling - and as is evidenced by other taxidermists experiences, there is a RIGHT way and a wrong way..I feel fortunate in all these years to have only worked on one 'frozen/salted' hide that was no good...(that I recall, at any rate! LOL)


                      So, why is it that some hides salted and frozen are fine and others are not..From what I gather the following all come into play...as they all do no matter what is done with the skin...

                      How the animal was treated in the field - how long it was before it was skinned,
                      how warm the body was
                      How the skin was stored for transport
                      How long it was until the animal was salted (was it already starting to sour?)
                      If the animal was roughly fleshed, salted, AND drained before freezing
                      If the animal was skinned and immediately salted and put in the freezer -Folks, please DON'T DO THIS! You will probably lose your trophy
                      How cold the freezer is
                      How the animal was put in the freezer - tightly rolled or loosely rolled,
                      The overall temperature of the skin upon putting it in the freezer..warm or cool
                      Etc Etc Etc....

                      In other words folks, DON'T freeze your salted hide unless and only when it is absolutely necessary due to circumstances beyond your control - and if, in this case, you do freeze, take PROPER care of your skin - lightly flesh, salt, drain, cool, roll loosely, freeze and take it to your taxidermist as soon as you can. I think if push came to shove, and I was in a situation where I could keep 'said treated hide' in a freezer at air freight in Bethel, I would - at least vs. storing it at room temperature.
                      Taxidermy IS art!

                      Your mount is more than a trophy, it's a memory. Relive The Memory!


                      • #12
                        There is no need to ever freeze a hide in my opinion. Skin the animal, flesh it, salt it, dry it. Properly salted and dried I have had hides last as long as two years until I could get the money together to have them mounted. The only hide I ever lost was frozen without salt. It was a black bear and I froze it in a game bag. It sat in the freezer 3 months before I delivered it to the tannery. Turns out the hide had freeze dried (freezer burn) in a couple of spots and it was ruined. I learned my lesson. None of my capes or skins go into a freezer. They are all salted and dried. It is not hard to learn to do it right. Just takes a little effort.


                        • #13
                          I agree 100% Safari !!

                          I tanned & mounted a Lifeszie African Lion that was shot in 1979 by a hunter gathering skins for Jonus taxid . It was an extra that had been salt dried & kept in a Vault so no vermin got to it at all. That was tanned in 2006.

                          It was one of the best skins I have mounted.

                          I have 8 Xtra large chest freezers at my Oregon studio & 3 with a Walk in freezer in Fairbanks.

                          Mostly ALL of the skins in those freezers are TANNED. That way they will keep as long as needed till I can mount them.

                          I still have over 20 of the African safari animals from my wife & my hunt from 2002 in the freezer that I will some day get the chance to put together & atleast being tanned I done have to worry about them.

                          As for Taxidermy.net Juli, Everybody on that site thinks they are EXPERTS in all fields , just ask em, LOL

                          I am speaking from actual experience of being the person that skins , Fleshes, TANS, & Mounts the animals for my studios since 1996.

                          I have had more animals come through my studios than the average taxidermist sees in a lifetime as you can see on my website.

                          We have had Salt dried , Air dried, Freeze dried, & Flint dried skins, & the best is Still Salt dried AS LONG AS IT WAS FLESHED AHEAD OF SALTING.

                          If you salt over Fat you will dry the skin without ANY salt actually getting to that underlying epidermal layer of the skin. This can cause the fur to slip.

                          Here is an Idea, >>>>>>>>>>>>> ASK YOUR TAXIDERMIST WHAT THEY RECOMEND BEFORE GOING OUT HUNTING <<<<<

                          Most of us are only a call away & it will in MOST cases save a Major headache after you get back to town.

                          Spent too much time on this again, Going back to fleshing bears.

                          RJ Simington
                          PRO Taxidermy WWW.protaxidermy.com
                          907 322 0936
                          Custom Taxidermy, Experience the difference !!


                          • #14
                            I found this thread while doing some research for my fall sheep hunt, very interesting read! Given the various opinions expressed, I anticipate there might be a few different answers, but I'll throw a hypothetical situation out there and see what everyone things.

                            Solo, walk-in dall sheep hunt, mid-late Sept hunt. If successful, I'm hoping to bring the life size hide out. Given that my primary objective will be to pack out everything after a ram is down, I suspect the hide would be back to town in two days. I'm moderately familiar with the skinning required and feel I can remove the majority of the meat/fat as well as cape the head (not turning eyes/ears/lips) in the field. I need to study up on it, but I could likely turn the face back at home if needed. I do not have the money to mount the sheep and my intention would be to sell the hide. I don't know how soon a buyer would be identified and I need to plan for storage/preservation.

                            It seems like the preference was to not salt an unfleshed/unturned hide and to avoid freezing a hide with salt on it. Given the short (two day) timing from harvest to freezer in (assumed) cooler weather, it seems like my best bet would be to not salt and get it in the freezer as soon as possible. Does that sound reasonably quick enough to avoid hair slippage?

                            I also do have some time to prepare before the hunt and can become more proficient at fleshing/turning in the field to the point where salt could be applied. But my concern is storing the salted hide afterwards if I can't find a buyer quickly. Is there merit to paying for the tanning up front and selling a tanned hide, as opposed to a selling a raw hide?

                            Any and all opinions on the matter are appreciated!


                            • #15
                              First off wether the Cape/ Skin will hold without slipping has many factors .

                              How warm the skin is when it is rolled up.

                              Is it in a pack where it can not breathe > Let the heat out < When you roll up any skin that has fur or thick hair it will naturally build heat.

                              How warm is the temp out side, Dirrect Sun or cloudy & cool.

                              If I was you I would ATLEAST plant to take 5lbs of salt VERY minimally.

                              you can very lightly rub the salt into the fleshy skin & it will help tremendously compaired to have a lifesize skin that you haul on your back all the way out, Then drive home & have the skin slip & be a total loss.

                              We have to replace a LOT of capes that were ruined by not taking the extra steps in the field to insure the skin will make it to the taxidermist.

                              As for finding a buyer almost all of us taxidermists will buy a cape or skin from a Dall as long as it is handled PROPERLY.

                              There is NO advantage of sending the skin in to be tanned Unless you want to keep it in the freezer till it does sell.

                              I would rather buy a Salted or Fresh Frozen skin Any day over a tanned one.

                              Dry tanned skins have what is called Shelf life, That is the time the skin has before the natural Dry rot starts to take place, & in some cases Acid Rot. Depending on whom tanned it.

                              A salted skin can last indeffinately as long as you keep it Dry, Away from bugs & animals.

                              A frozen skin will last about 6 months >>> IF IN A NEW FROST FREE FREEZER<< before Freeze drying will start. The longer it is in the freezer , the worse the freezer burn can get & in some cases rendering the skin Worthless because the freeze dried areas cant be turned & properly salted or tanned.

                              A TANNED & Refrozen skin, Even if not soaked up will last forever in the freezer because there is not protein left in the skin.

                              The sheep we got last year was Fleshed over my knee in camp, Salted with 10 lbs of salt. Air dried for 2 days. Rolled up & put INSIDE my pack where it stayed for 2 days while I waited for the pilot to come & get us. When I got to the truck I took all of the meat & the skin out of the pack to breath for the long drive home.

                              I now have that skin tanned & mounting it Lifesize with No problems.

                              I know for a fact if I would not have fleshed & salted the skin the way I did, it would have rotted in my pack for those 2 days.

                              Anouther thing with Salt, You can always take it in & stow it along your treck & if you need it you can either come out & get it or get it salted on the way out.

                              If you have any other questions you can always call me & I can help.

                              RJ Simington
                              PRO Taxidermy
                              907 322 0936
                              Custom Taxidermy, Experience the difference !!


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