NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

Preserving Deer Tails
Contributed by Patty, Richard, CG & Jim Mitchell

From posts to the NativeTech Message Board in 1988 & 1999

Date Posted: 01-02-1999 20:11
From: Patty
Someone just gave me 20 deer hides and tails. I'm not quite sure how to preserve the tails. Can anyone help me out with this?


Date Posted: 01-03-1999 15:29
From: Richard

Patty I assume the tails are separate from the hides. If not, cut the tails off and skin down along the bone just enough to get a good grip. You may have to use a pair of pliers or a rag due to the fat. Pinch the tailbone between two finger-sized sticks. A specialized tool called a tail stripper is made just for this purpose, but the sticks will do as well. Squeeze the sticks together in one hand and give a sustained, strong pull on the pliers. The tailbone should slide right out leaving the skin in tact. Slit the skin down the underside all the way to the tip. The skin can be washed in a mild detergent if dirty. After washing, dry the hair with a hairdryer. Coat the flesh side with a layer of borax, available at most drug stores. Let the tail dry with the coat of borax for several days in a cool, dry place. The borax acts as an antibacterial and will protect the skin from hide beetles (something plain salt will not do). Good luck.


Date Posted: 01-04-1999 19:16
From: CJ,
Patty, Richard's response is a good one. If the tails are still on the hides and you want to leave them on, you should be able to do so, preserving them in the same way you will the hides, after removing the tail bone. Also, if you don't want to use the borax, you can just scrape the meatty, fatty stuff off and dry them naturally(still wash the tails with mild deterg. and dry)...of course the mildew and bugs may come, especially if you live in a humid environment. Store them with sage to help deter bugs. Also, someone here told me about might want to check out their message board if you aren't getting the answers you want here.

Good luck! CJ

Date Posted: 09-22-1998 22:19
From: Jim
First, no matter what animal you are working on. The skin and/or hide is easiest to work on when it is fresh. I generally will remove the skin/hide from the carcass, then cut the tail bone from the carcass (at this point, it is still inside the tail). You can do the next step by yourself, but I prefer to have a little help if I should encounter a little difficulty. Get two pieces of cloth, grasping the tail bone with one, and pulling the skin back with the other (you will be pulling the tail inside out). If you should encounter a difficult area, whereby the membrane is still attaching itself to the skin. You can either push your finger into this area, or do as I do sometimes, take a U-shaped piece of coat hanger (the U should be no larger that the area you want to push it into, my fingers are a little fat). Push the hanger into the offending area, then continue as before. The last inch or two, is usually the hardest area to pull from. If you are too anxious, and pull the skin too hard, you may instead tear the skin, instead of removing the tailbone from the tail. Work in a careful and steady motion and you should have no problem.

 ~ a special thank you to Patty, Richard, CJ and Jim Mitchell for their contributing discussion!

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