How to Remove a Coyote Pelt and Prepare it for Sale

by Stuart Spitz

Watch The Coyote Skinning Video
A lot of hunters go out, shoot something and that's about it. Others feel that what you do afterwards determines what kind of hunter you truly are. And only you can answer that. Do you hunt for sport, subsistence food, or money –or a combination of those choices? If you do it for the "sport of it," that's OK; and if you do it for subsistence that's respected and "plenty OK." And then, if you do it for money – well, then that's OK too, but you better know what you're doing big time, if you expect to succeed.

Enter the coyote hunter who sells the pelts of the coyotes that he/she kills (don't kid yourself - -there are plenty of "shes" who are great coyote hunters and know a good pelt when they see one). By the way, I use the term "pelt," others say "hide," and at times those words are used interchangeably; and such is the case in this article.

Here's how a good number of experienced coyote hunters and trappers remove a coyote pelt and prepare it for sale. I'm sure there are many other specialized methods that are used, but what is stated here is a good "norm" for anyone to start with.

And yes, this a generic "teaching" article. Don't get in a tizzy if some tiny specialization that you have heard of isn't mentioned.

Now, most coyote hunters don't bother with any preparation. They just take the entire carcass to a fur buyer, and sell it as is. If you do this, that's great - -just know you'll get less money, but on the other hand unless you're an EXPERIENCED skinner, you can easily ruin the hide and you won't get diddly for it. So most hunters are satisfied with getting maybe $20-$25 for a "whole" coyote , while those who do it themselves can get maybe $50 for a prepared hide. And I might add that even some of the best coyote hunters I've known don't bother with skinning. One told me, "there are too many variables, and its time consuming. I know how to do it, but let the fur buyer take the risk." Well, that's fine, but "what the hey," for those of us who are rank amateurs (yeah, that surely includes me), I still think it's a good idea to explore a bit, and at least have some basic knowledge of how to remove and prepare a coyote pelt.

OK, you're hell bent on giving it a shot. Basic things you'll need are a first class "fleshing knife," a sharp, small to mid sized hatchet or axe, and two other items, one of which is called a "stretcher," and the other a "spike" (all items are described later on in the article). Buy new. This stuff is usually available at any outdoor outfitter, especially those specializing in hunting – and more particularly geared toward coyote hunting. No bells and whistles are needed, but QUALITY is essential. Sell a few pelts and you'll amortize your investment, and then it's "all gravy." I don't have a ton of money, but I do know that when it comes to hunting gear, buying top quality, while never "cheap," in the long run is always the least "expensive."

First thing you want to do after you get your coyote is make sure the animal is still warm when you skin it. So do it quick-like after the kill. The hide will come off far more easily if the semi-liquid membrane between the hide and the carcass is warm. Indeed, if you follow the suggested steps in this article you can almost peel it off. When the body cools that membrane with its fatty tissue hardens, and it can become tough as all get out to get the pelt off the animal.

Put on a pair of latex or rubber gloves before starting. Never know what's lurking in a carcass or hide. Now, many hunters will start by laying the coyote out "flat" on its back on a table, board or the ground.

Start by cutting off all four legs right above the second joint, using a real sharp hatchet. Make sure you lay the legs on a sturdy log or steady, rock-solid surface of some type. By doing this you won't dull your hatchet. The lower part of the leg is discarded because there isn't enough fur on it to be of any value.

I've found that after you cut off the legs, it's a good idea to take the animal and hang it by its hind legs (tie a rope around the body just in front of the hind legs) from a ceiling, rafter, a tree, or even a sort of "lodge pole" set up, leaving it at eye level. It's a lot easier to work with, and in the end you can literally peel off the hide like a banana.

Take your fleshing knife, and cut up each back leg, towards and around the tail bone and anus, and then pull the hide off the legs, exposing the tail bone. Then slip the tail bone out of the tail. If you don't do this, it will rot, causing the hair to fall out of the tail making the pelt worthless. There is a special "gripping" tool, that is generically called a "spike" which is needed to extract the tail bone from the tail. You can buy them at an outfitter store. You place one spike on top of the exposed tail bone, and another spike under the bone. One hunter (you'll need two people to do this), holds on to the two spikes which grip the exposed bone tightly, while another hunter grabs the tail bone just between the spikes and the coyote's body, and pulls in the opposite direction. The spikes hold the hide in place while the tail bone is pulled out.

Then you start SLOWLY -- like in S-L-O-W - -working your way around the hind quarters and buttocks, and gradually start working your way around the stomach and back, working your way towards the front of the animal. DON'T CUT THROUGH THE FUR. You're not working "outside in," you're working "inside out." All you want to do is separate the hide from the carcass, without cutting the hide Your fleshing knife should be located at the fatty membrane which is between the carcass itself and the hide. You'll cut the tendons, gristle, musculature, and membrane, that connect the hide to the carcass. Also be very careful not to puncture the stomach or intestines, or you'll have one heckuva horrific stink - -on you, and on the pelt. That you don't want.

Keep going to the front of the body, and work your way to the front legs, and cut up the legs and pull the hide around the legs, and then continue up toward the neck. Now this is where it starts to get tricky. As you near the head, don't forget you're dealing with the ears, mouth, eye sockets and nose.

Work your way like a surgeon, cutting around the eye sockets, the ears and the nose, because you want the facial features to come off the skull, and remain part of the hide, when you peel it off.

Then, while maybe still having to cut a piece of connective tissue here and there, which you may have missed, start at the hind quarter and just peel the hide off the coyote- - and if you've done your skinning work right, it'll come right off. But be careful. Remember, that hide has got to be in perfect condition to bring top dollar.

Don't forget that fur buyer want the hide all intact -- plenty of people like to wear coyote pelts as head covers, or literally wear the entire pelt which then runs down their back. That head cover or "hat," if you will, is the literal head of the coyote. That includes both ears, both eye sockets, the mouth and the nose. I've seen that type of "coyote hat and pelt" go for hundreds of dollars at any number of outdoor events and festivals. Indeed, some coyote hunters- - and trappers - - bypass fur buyers totally, and actually go into business and sell the pelt and items made from the pelt (like jackets and coats) themselves. That way they get the maximum bucks from their efforts. That means attending trade shows, outdoor events, and advertising etc. It also requires a lot of talent and work to make these items, and is whole 'nother story in itself.

Back to the subject at hand.

Now that you've got the pelt off, stop clicking your heels, you're not near done with your work. Remember I told you, that you'd need what is called a "stretcher." It will do what it name says it will do - - it'll "stretch" the hide and allow it to dry. These stretchers are sold at specialized outdoor outfitters, and are made of some type of metal "wire" - -the thickness and style will vary, but the stretcher looks like an ironing board. It's about three to four feet long, about a foot wide at its base, and the top part comes up looking like a "rounded triangle" - -like the front of an ironing board.



Now - -some "purists" (and I'm not one of 'em), will make and form a stretcher out of wood. I don't like wood, because it's not adjustable, or easy to work with, and doesn't have a lot of flexibility to fit around any number of different sized pelts. And it's a pain in the you-know-what to have to build wooden stretcher boards for every different size of coyote. I know - -In all my articles I always try to state things that will save money; and making your own wooden stretcher will save money. But I don't think it's worth it. There are those "mountain men" who do, and that's fine. They have my respect, but I'll stick to the manufactured ones.

Are we done yet? Not quite.

Slide our hide, FUR SIDE IN, over the "stretcher." Then stretch it tight (there are usually some type of adjusters or "clips" that can be loosened or tightened), but not TOO tight, and then quickly inspect the hide for excess flesh, fat or tendons, taking your fleshing knife and scraping this excess off. Once that's done, hang the hide in a cool, dry place. Drying can take a week, maybe two weeks, maybe somewhere in between. Depends on the hide, the place where it's hung to dry, and the weather. So what you have to do is check the hide every few days, and continue to test it and make sure it remains "stretchable," and can be easily removed from the stretcher itself. If you don't check it, it may over dry, and it may end up being so tight on the stretcher that you can't get it off without cutting it. That's a no-no, and if that happens all your work and effort will go for naught. Proper stretching will also increase the value of the pelt, as fur buyers use "size" as one of the items they consider when grading a pelt as to its value.

And that's about it.

I know. I know. Right now after reading all of this you probably need a shot of Jack Daniels. Save one for me.

I recognize how complex this must all sound, and in total honesty, it's not for an amateur. I have told you before, my guide friend is an absolute expert on all things "coyote," and that includes this type of skinning and pelt preparation procedure. My sincere suggestion is do what I do - -find someone like my friend. Follow that person around. Watch. Help. Keep your mouth shut, and your eyes and ears open. You may never get to be an expert, but you'll be able to do this type of skinning, at least fairly well - -after lots of practice. Candidly speaking, my friend doesn't do a lot of coyote skinning or pelt preparation, anymore. Frankly, he now pretty-much just takes the carcass and sells it as is to a fur buyer. He's busy, so since he knows how to do it so well, unless it's such a supremely beautiful hide, he just won't bother.

Don't let anything dissuade you. If you're the kind of coyote hunter who wants to go the "whole nine yards," then go for it. As I've "preached" before - -use this excellent site as a source to find a guide in your area that can do the same things for you that my dear friend has done for me over the years. Sure, you'll pay for it, but it's well worth it, if in the end, you can sit down with all those people who had to pay the hundreds of bucks for a "fashion statement" like a coyote pelt may be, and smile quietly knowing the one YOU ARE WEARING, you did yourself from square one to completion. Plus you'll join the ranks of the minute few who have done the same thing. And that my friends is one of the best compliments and sense of pride any hunter can attain.

16 comments:

  1. Again nice article.Excuse me again for pointing out a few things.I just like to see the proper info put out there especially for the new people coming into the sport. Although I have seen $50 coyotes, you wont see that very much, the $50 coyotes are usually from the west like Montana and such, they have a silky fur and nice white bellies.The average on coyotes at auctions the last few years have been around $22 give or take few bucks.Theres Fur Harvesters Auction houses and NAFA that you can ship dried pelts to, there are a few local buyers as well, there is also Groenewold Fur & Wool Co that have pick up routes and found they have been paying better on average than the auctions the last couple years. In WI we have what is called a Trapper Education course, much like hunter ed, and is mandatory to trap in WI, but even if you dont trap the course is well worth it, it teaches proper pelt handling,skinning,fleshing drying. For stretchers, stay away from wire for coyotes, they are usually too small. As mentioned above you can buy stretchers at trapper supply houses and they carry adjustable wood stretchers that will accomodate any size coyote, when I bought mine I got them for $10.50 each, not bad, and if you go to state trapping conventions you can get them at just about any one of them.One step was missed in the drying process, after stretching your coyote fur in for about a day on a thoroughly fleshed pelt, you need to take it off the stretcher to turn the pelt so that the fur is on the outside then placed back on the stretcher to complete the drying process which is about 3 more days with a fan lightly blowing. A furbuyer wont usually buy a coyote if the fur is on the inside and if they do it will be extremely docked on price. Each furbearer has it's own way they need to be put up to be saleable on the market.If you have any questions you can contact me in the members section I'd be happy to help, I've been at this trapping thing for 35 years and teach trapper ed, and have been calling coyotes for the past 20 and always looking to get new recruits in what we do as sportsmen and women going in the right direction to keep our heritage alive.
    http://www.foremosthunting.com/Community/ProfileView/tabid/1008/asuid/8597/Default.aspx

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    1. I live in Southern WI and just now getting into coyote hunting. Until I take a crack at the skinning process, can you recommend a drop off place for the whole coyote? I'll pay to have them cleaned and tanned for now to get a few on the wall! Baby steps for me.
      Tim

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    2. Hi Tim,

      I don't know of any places in Southern Wisconsin that pick up full pelts but I'm sure if you just want one or two pelts cleaned and tanned for the wall a local taxidermist would help you out. I know Don Rich (Natures Touch Taxidermy in Janesville) does this sort of thing. I'm not sure what the cost would be but give him a buzz. He is a great guy.

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  2. Assassin, Thanks for the comments- On thing, you say that only coyotes from the West- - like Montana get that $50 “pelt” - “Western” coyotes are SMALLER generally than those from the East. Why? Better forage base, and less hunting pressure. And since it’s well known that SIZE of a pelt is a major factor in determining value, if a pelt from let’s say Wisconsin is indeed bigger than a pelt from Montana, and is of excellent quality, then the pelt from Wisconsin will bring more money. Every hunter and trapper that I have spoken to recognize that coyote pelts from the West - -while beautiful at times- - are smaller than those from the Eastern U.S., and I’ve seen coyote pelts from Wisconsin that are absolutely SPECTACULAR.

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  3. Usually westerns bring more, though smaller, the fur quality is softer than our WI coyotes or mid-west coyotes. The trim trade, such as the collars on ladies parka's is what has been driving the coyote market.The trim trade wants mainly light colored coyotes with white bellies.Our eastern coyotes generally run darker with some light stuff but mainly darker and slightly coarser fur.I've seen good prices for our coyotes at times and yes bigger usually brings a better price, but in the coyotes case it has a lot more to do with color and region.Some species for example like the Fisher, the female pelts brought more money, though smaller their fur was more silky and that has changed now in the last few years with china playing a major role in the markets and are more concerned about square inches. These trends change and it's dictated by the markets. Take for example our WI cats, though I've seen some big ones, the prices on them dont come close to the westerns either, our fur maybe thick but they lack the whiter bellies and lots of spots.Say a WI cat may bring say $75-$150 while a heavily spotted cat with a wide white belly will bring say $600-$800 and some times more, top cat a few years ago brought just over a $1000, not to shabby. The fur market as well isn't as big as it once was and it doesn't take alot of fur to fill garment makers needs especially in the trim trade.Personally I like our bigger darker coyotes.

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  4. Do you not need to salt the hide when on the stretcher?

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  5. Hey fellas, while i have been hunting for over 50 years, I have just recently moved to the area we used to visit only for deer hunting. Recent influxes of coyotes and deteriorating deer populations have prompted several buddies to try to thin out these yappers and get the deer herd back to 1990's levels. I managed to shoot one while deer hunting in December and and was rather dismayed to get tanning estimates from $75 to $125 from local taxidermists. Since I am a hands on kind of guy I am exploring self tanning methods. Hunting coyotes obviously means punching holes in the hides. Does this lower prices for hides? Do any of you guys know of tan only commercial outfits that charge less? I sell hunting related crafts at flea markets and such and would not really worry about resale to furriers. Anyway glad to be onboard and look foreward to continued exchanges of info.

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  6. Hey Bucksareus, Welcome to the site. There is a website called Taxiderytube.com that has a great video on tanning a hide at home. It cost $19 to join the site but the videos are really detailed and although the hide tanning video is for deer it is the same principle. They also have a video on skinning and tanning a fox I believe.

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  7. To get a good quality pelt for market, where is the ideal place for the kill shot, and what caliber is the best. (obviously we don't use a shot gun, and I'm assuming not a .300 WinMag. I was guessing that a .223 or .17 would be best, though wanted to hear from the experts.

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  8. I too, would like to know what/where to shoot with. And if I'm looking to complete the job, what would the next steps be for tanning and softening the hide after initial stretching?

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    1. I know the website www.taxidermytube.com has a lot on tanning a hide/taxidermy

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    2. Thanks, Jon. I took a brief look at that when you posted it earlier — no mention of weapons, caliber, bullet-type, shot-placement or distance. These would all be of interest to me.

      In the interests of full disclosure, I'm sure folks here would appreciate that you mention your affiliation with that site. Regardless of how useful it may be, it moves away from "advice," and towards "promotion" if you're making money from it. I appreciate the willingness to help - both from you, and all of the other posters, but I like to know if the recommendation is biased.

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    3. Hey Word in the woods. Thanks for the feedback and point taken. It is true I own the taxidermy site and it is a paid site but it it's also true that it has some great videos on tanning a hide etc. Just the kind of info your looking for. We (Foremost Media) post a TON of free content. This blog your on now is a great example (Also ours) as well as Foremost Hunting, Gamebirdhunts and a bunch more sites. You can't really fault me for trying to steer you towards our own resource. Would I be happy if you spent $19 and found the kind of info your looking for? Yes I would. Am I trying to device you or trick you out of a few bucks absolutely not. We stand behind our products 100% and I don't think my link was out of line. In fact the paid sites (And some great advertisers) make these great free products like this blog possible.

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  9. Hi guys,
    Just want to chime in here as a writer, reader, and content editor for the Foremosthunting.com family of sites. I know that it can be somewhat insulting to feel pitched too, especially on a blog. However, I echo Jon's statement that we offer lots and lots of free information. Foremosthunting.com has more hunting information than most of the sites with big time advertisers and budgets... and it's all completely free. If Jon didn't believe that the site would be a good resource for you, he wouldn't recommend it.

    But what probably turned you off is that you didn't find the information about shooting that you were looking for. Here is an article Duane wrote for us on coyote shot selection that should help. Duane is the resident coyote expert around here but I believe unless you're shooting them with hollow points or 200 grain bullets, most bullet holes aren't going to be a big issue.

    http://www.foremostcoyotehunting.com/2011/04/taking-down-coyote.html

    Thanks for reading. I hope the information you find here and on our other sites makes you a better hunter.
    -Chris Larsen

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  10. Hi, Jon and Chris - Thank you both for taking the time to follow up.

    I don't fault you in the least for promoting your own content (I would expect that you feel you've got good enough content to recommend!). I didn't want to come off as if my nose was out of joint or I was insulted — I'm fairly easy going, and that was not my intent. Like I said, I just thought it should be clearer disclosure if there's a potential for a bias.

    Again, thanks for the advice and responses, and that article by Duane was right along the lines of what I was looking for, thanks!

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  11. Hey guys. After the yote has been stretched then do you turn it outside in again?

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