Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to skin a coyote

The following  is a step by step instructional pictorial on the proper skinning procedure for skinning coyotes, it is graphic in nature if you are not accustomed to things of this nature . It is also the way that you are to skin bobcat, coon,skunk, mink, muskrat, fox, otter, fisher for the fur market. The skinning technique is called case skinning.If your not skilled on proper fleshing and drying fur for sale, doing at least the skinning you can at least add some value to the pelt vs. trying to sell the animal whole. Every step you take in pelt handling from skinning to stretching and drying increases what you will get from a fur buyer. If you just want a pelt for yourself to get tanned you will have to at least skin the animal and salt it to send off to a tannery. So lets get started. Heres a short vid I made as well. I had 2 coyotes to skin, by the time I had the video angle figured so the second coyote would video tape better the batteries went dead ughhhhhh. So it's not the best but it'll have to do for now. I should have taken my cover alls off, it got hot,lol.

  First you want to wear nitrile or latex gloves to keep your hands clean and prevent the possibility of contracting any possible diseases, then take a comb or heavy brush like one used for grooming a dog and comb or brush out any burrs or mats in the fur,it'll help your pelt look nicer when presented to a fur buyer. It's best if you skin the animal as soon as possible to prevent hair slippage or spoiling of the hide which will render the pelt worthless, skinning HOT will also aid in the ease of skinning. Once you have the pelt brushed out take and wipe any blood off the fur, if there is alot of blood it doesn't hurt to wash off with a hose, if you use a hose the hide obviously will be wet, so it's best and easier that after washing to hang the animal by a front foot with a fan blowing on the animal overnite to dry it off before skinning. A leaf blower would help speed up the drying as well. The reason to hang by a front foot allows the water to run off in the natural direction of the fur using gravity as an aid in the drying as well. 

Now with the animal brushed and washed(if necessary) we now can proceed to start skinning. First take and tie a rope around one back foot or secure one back foot in a bench vise. I find that a rope from a garage rafter works well. Now take a sharp knife and make a cut from one back foot straight across to the other back foot. It's best if you run the blade just under the hide with the cutting edge up.
Now that the first cut is made, take and make 2 more cuts from the base of the underside of the tail just above the anus and make the cut to the initial cut so that it looks like the pic below. Once  those 2 cuts are made you can peel the hide from the carcass using your fingers, you may have to cut the hide free from the carcass at times, especially if the animal is cold.
 Once you have the hide peeled from the back legs and the hide cut free from just above the back paws your pelt will look like this.
 Now you can hang the animal by both back feet with rope from a garage rafter etc. to aid in skinning, make sure the rafter or whatever your hanging the animal on is solid, there will be a lot of hard pulling going on shortly.Once the animal is hanging with the hide off the legs, you'll need to skin the tail. First take and cut up the underside at the base just a little to get it started and pull a little on the hide. You'll see the pelt peeling away from the bone, you may have to cut around the tail a little while you pull to separate membrane from the tail bone and hide. You only do this with a knife for an inch or so. Then you can use a tail puller or a piece of steel with a deep V notch cut into it or simply wrap your middle finger around the tail bone like in the pic and pull towards the end of the tail while pushing with the other hand against the body at the base of the tail. It may come hard at first, but once you get it going it'll slide off pretty good. Don't fret if you accidentally pull the tail off your first try, it happens and you wont get docked to much in price, maybe a buck, but it's nothing serious.
 Once the tail bone is stripped out it will look like this.
 Before we proceed further, you can now take an old sock if you like and pull it over the head like the pic below, it will help keep blood that may run out of the nose or mouth from getting on the fur while pulling the hide off. Next you can cut the legs off at the elbow joint if you wish with a pair of big pruning shears, they work pretty good for this. the fur buyers don't want the feet on the pelt, they are not used in the fur industry. For hats and stuff that are more novelty items the feet can be left on, but will have to be skinned as well, but you can leave that up to a taxidermist if you like if you want a hat made. I don't have pics on skinning feet but will do down the road and add it to this blog.
 Now for the next step, is to pull or peel the hide off. What you do is grab the pelt on both sides of the tail where the thigh was, the hide is tough here, it also helps if you have an old towel or rag between your hands and the leather side of the hide, it gives you a good grip for pulling. Now once you have a good grip, you can pull the hide down, this will take some elbow grease but if the animal is warm it'll be easier. Once you start pulling you may notice some membrane not separating between the hide and the carcass, just simply cut it free and you'll be good to go.Now continue pulling the hide down until you reach the shoulders like so in the pic below.
 Once at the shoulders there's a little pit on the under side of the leg/shoulder. I've found if you take your steel or even just a heavy dowel with a point on one end you can shove it through this spot.
 Once the steel or dowel is punched through, pull the steel in downward, this will skin the upper leg and shoulder for you.
 If you cut the front legs off the remainder will pull right through as in the pic below. If you didn't cut the legs off, just simply take your knife and cut around the leg, basically ringing it and you'll separate the hide from the leg and be able to pull the leg out.
 Now once the front legs are free you can take and wrap your towel or rag around the whole pelt that is hanging there. And the grab it and pull the hide until you see 2 bumps on the head appear. Those are the ears.
 Now take a sharp knife and cut right into those bumps right to the skull, first one side.
 Then the other until the ears are separated and continue running the knife around the skull cutting as your pulling the hide until you see 2 more small bumps where the eyes would be.
 With your knife cut close to the bone at the eyes until the hide is free while pulling and keep cutting and running your knife around the head separating the hide from the skull.
 Once you've gotten to the mouth, you can cut through the bottom lip if you wish, there not needed on the pelt when selling for the fur.Once the bottom lip is cut free continue to run the knife around the muzzle cutting while pulling until you reach the nose.Then a simple cut through the nose will separate the pelt from the carcass and your done. At this time if the pelt is warm hang it on a nail until it cools.
 Once the pelt is cool, you can turn the hide right side out or the fur out, just like turning a sock inside out or right side out. Your finished job will look like this.
Now that the pelt is cool you'll either need to flesh it or freeze it. For now we'll freeze it, you simply take and fold the pelt in half and put inside a plastic bag and freeze, but make sure your pelt is completely cool before putting in the bag or the fur and the bag combined can hold body heat for quite awhile and risk spoilage. I also dont recommend salting the hide before freezing, because salt will prevent it from freezing completely and if some spot are not thoroughly salted the hide could spoil in spots and ruin your hard earned pelt.

  I hope this explains well enough that you can skin your first coyote with very little difficulty and get you going in the direction of being a proficient skinner. 


  1. Great Article Duane- I added a link to it over at our skinning video page. Hope you don't mind

  2. thank you for the helpful video. I just did one. NEXT TIME I WILL WEAR GLOVES !!! HOLY CRAP WHAT A BAD SMELL !!!

  3. Do u have a blog on how to tan hides at home? I dont want to sell mine off, vs just tanning them myself and selling to individual buyers in the future

  4. Here ya go Krista

  5. Wonderful. Wondering what 'the link' is though...
    'At this point you can either mix up the tan from the link I provided above and follow its directions.'
    and 'Once the hide has drained of excess water you need to oil the flesh side of the hide with a tanning oil. You can get the tanning oil through the link I provided.'

  6. The link is for Van Dykes Taxidermy supply for their tanning kit named Lutan F. Dont know why the link isnt working. Good luck!

  7. Thank you for sharing your technic.

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