Congratulations! You’ve taken a coyote and played an important part in the war against predators. Now what? Sure, for most coyotes you likely have your own process of what to do with the carcass, but, for this one, you’ve decided you want the pelt. Here’s how to skin a coyote to preserve the pelt as effectively as possible:
Step 1: Field-Skinning
Field skinning coyotes avoiding needing to pack them out. Carry several pairs of latex gloves, a couple of sharp smaller-size pocketknives, a dog collar choke chain (sold at any local pet store) and a small-game skinning gambrel (can be found online at all trapper supply stores). These things make the job of field-skinning much easier. You can almost always find a tree, metal T-post or H-type brace in many of the areas you hunt in. Just slide the gambrel over a T-post or use the dog chain to attach the gambrel to a tree or H-brace, etc.
- Start with the coyote laying on his back. Make your opening cuts on the inside of the back legs along the color line of the fur from the feet all the way to center of the coyote’s anus. Skin close around the genitals and anus, then on down the center of the tail. Cut down the tail by 3 or 4 inches.
- You can use the two small pocketknives (blades closed) as a tail puller, placing one knife on each side of the tailbone and sliding them down together toward the tip of the tail. It takes some practice, but you’ll get it down.
- Now that the coyote is essentially opened like the end of a pillowcase, hang it by the tendons on the hind legs just below the knee on the gambrel, toes up. Next, begin pulling the hide down and away from the carcass, starting on the tail side first, and pull the hide straight down about 5 to 10 inches.
- Then move to the stomach side and carefully “punch” your way down and around both sides of the carcass, until you come between the front legs and shoulders by the base of the neck. Try to keep the tail portion of the hide held up toward the back legs a bit; it will help as you work your hand down.
- Cut the hide on the front legs just below the knee all the way around, and pull the hide straight down toward his head as if you were removing a pillowcase.
- Next, pull the front legs through to release the hide and pull the rest of the hide to the base of the head. Make a cut at the base of the ears and continue to skin out the rest of the head carefully, cutting close to the eyes. Once you’ve cleared the eyes, pull down, skinning along the gum line to the nose. Cut it off at the tip of the nose cartilage, leaving about a inch or so of hide left on the bottom jaw. Once this is done, turn the hide fur-side out, throw it over your shoulder and go. With a little practice you can skin out a song dog in minutes.
- You can also keep a pallet in the back of the truck to keep the coyote hide or carcass off the bed. It’s usually pretty cold during fur season, and this prevents the animal from freezing to the bed or soaking in blood, which makes for a lot more work washing out the pelt later. Try to spread the coyotes out so they cool faster, which will help prevent those dreaded “slip spots.”
Step 2: Stretching
When it comes to taking your pelt from a “greased hide” (skinned but not dried) to a stretched, dry skin ready for sale, there’s a large learning curve, so be patient with this process. There’s much to know, but I will give you the basics right now that will give you at least a good starting point. You’ll need some basic furrier tools. These can all be found at any trapper-supply house or online.
- First, you’ll need to get a good fleshing beam. I would recommend one at least 5 inches wide by 48 inches long. Then you’ll need a good fleshing knife with at least a 12-inch blade length. You will also need a metal dog comb.
- Start by giving your critter a good comb-over to remove any cockle burrs, etc. This will help eliminate cutting holes in the hide as you begin to flesh the pelt. Then turn the hide flesh-side out and place the pelt over your fleshing beam like a sock. Begin working your way down the pelt from the top of the neck to the base of the tail, removing all the heavy fat down to the leather. Don’t overflesh. If you see the roots of the hair, you’re too deep.
- Next, take a 5-gallon bucket with a little bit of Dawn dish soap and some conditioning shampoo and wash the pelt fur-side out to remove all the grease and blood. Rinse and swish a couple of times and ring it out like a towel.
- Now you’re ready to start the stretching. You can use wire or wood stretchers; both are available from trapper-supply houses and both work very well. Pull the pelt good and tight over the stretcher leather-side out. Place a fan off to the side a little ways so it blows on the hide to dry it. The hide should be mostly dry, not crunchy, but still pliable to the touch. If you do overdry it, just wet a rag and rub it over the skin and let it sit for a few minutes, then carefully turn it.
- Now you’re ready to restretch the hide fur-side out. After you have the hide stretched, make sure the hide is centered on the stretcher, then comb the fur. On a coyote, I like to brush the fur up — it dries better and makes a better finished product. Leave it on the stretcher another day or so.
Step 3: Drying
- When your pelt is dry and ready to be taken off the stretcher, pull the hide off the stretcher and grab the nose with one hand and close by the tail with the other and give it a shake. This will open up the hide and let the air move through the inside. Give it another good brushing and hang it back up for a day or two. Give it one more brushing — this time downward.
Other Things To Consider
If you can’t get the animal skinned right away, try to hang the coyote up by a hind leg somewhere so it’s not lying on or freezing to the ground. You’ll pull out those premium guard hairs when moving the carcass, and that really hurts the bottom line. It will also move the entrails down into the chest cavity, preventing bloating and hair slippage.
You can also freeze the coyote whole. They will last for months or longer bagged up in the freezer. We have several customers who freeze a bunch of coyotes in the carcass and bring them in whole. There are a lot of fur buyers out there who will buy your fur in the carcass. Ask your local fur buyer. You can generally expect to get anywhere from $5 to $25 for a carcass coyote in many Western states. The price will drop on Eastern coyotes, but a good, heavy Eastern ’yote can bring very good money, too. Prices can change from year to year depending on the market.
Fur is a resource that is used all over the world. North America has some of the best pelts around, period. Plan ahead of time how to get your fur from the stand to the truck, practice some field-skinning techniques, and talk with other hunters and learn what they do. Follow through with the process until you get the fur into a buyer’s hand. It’s very fulfilling and worth the effort, and it might even put some extra coin in your pocket. Like my good friend Jim Walker says, “If it’s worth a buck, it be in the truck!”
PCS Outdoors (they carry a full line of fur-handling products)