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Michelle Nelsons


Skinning a Bear and field care instructions for Mounts & Rugs

The First diagram below will show you where to make your incisions when skinning out your bear for a Rug or Life Size. 

1.  Start your first incision about 1" below the anus, keeping it cantered, run it up to the top of the chest.

*  On MALE bears, when skinning for a Life Size, make sure to skin slightly off to one side of the testicles and scrotum.  If you cut through them your going to loose that detail on your mount if damaged.  If later you decide to do a rug your not loosing a lot of flank on one side and the male parts can be removed.  If you know 100% that you are going to do a rug than go ahead and make your incision right through the middle of them.

2.  Make a second incision from the back of the pad on the front foot across the chest to the back of the pad on the opposite front foot.

3.  Your third incision should be made from the back of the pad on the rear leg, up the back of the leg about 1" below the anus, up the back of the opposite leg to the back of the pad.



Life Size, Rug, 1/2 or 3/4 Life Size, and Shoulder Mount Incision

The Ventral or Case Incision can be used if you are undecided whether or not you want a Rug, Life-Size, 1/2 or 3/4 Life Size, Shoulder Mount, etc.  This is also a good incision to use if you are nervous about screwing something up.  It's not as easy to do in the field, especially by yourself. 

*Your going to want to start your incision at the back of the pad on the rear leg, up the back of the leg about 1" below the anus, up the back of the opposite leg to the back of the pad.



Shoulder Mount Incision

If you plan to have a shoulder mount done with your bear than go ahead and remove the front paws off your bear, at the wrist.  Than make an incision approximately 12" behind the front shoulder around the circumference of the animal.  The Diagram below will give you an idea where to make your incisions.  Remember to always leave plenty of skin!  Your taxidermist can always remove it later.  Better to have to much than not enough.  We can't add what isn't their to begin with!


. . . .Skinning. . . .

Once you have made your incisions and begin the skinning process you will have to sever the paws off the carcass at the wrist and ankle joint leaving them in the hide.  This will help free up the skin.  When you get to the head go ahead and sever the head at the base of the skull leaving it in the hide as well.  You don't have to remove the skull or paws out of the skin if you are going to get the hide right to the freezer or to your taxidermist.  Be careful when you get around the genital area.  If you remove them or cut through them you will lack this detail on a Life Size mount.  If you decide to have a rug done these can be removed later.

. . . .Field Care. . . .

It is important, once the Bear is down, get it skinned out.  Bear will hold their body heat for a long time especially if it's large and carrying a lot of fat.  Once the bear is skinned out, get it to a freezer or to a taxidermist as soon as possible.  You will want to keep the hide as cool and dry as possible.  Don't put the hide in a plastic bag.  Place it in a burlap bag, it will allow air to circulate and keep flies and other insects off your trophy.  It will also allow heat and fluids to escape.

  Heat and moisture are a hides worst enemy.  They promote bacteria growth that will cause the hair to slip (hair falling out), sometimes in large patches.  Once this has started it doesn't stop until all the hair has fallen out of the infected area.  If it is hot outside you will need to work as quickly as you can.  If it is below 40 degrees you will have a little more time to work.


*  Get the cape / skin wet if it can be helped. 

*  Lay the Skin in the sun.  Keep it in the shade.

*  Drag the animal when bringing it out of the woods.  This can damage the hair and cause bald spots.

*  Ride the animal / hide around in the back of your truck all day showing it off to friends and family.  Take pictures and get the animal in the freezer or to the taxidermist

. . . .Freezing. . . .

If you decide to freeze the hide don't roll the hide......FOLD IT!  It will help the hide thaw out more evenly and quicker.  Also don't put the skull in the middle of the hide when folding.  It can take up to 3 days for a bear skull to freeze all the way buried in the hide.  When you put the hide in the freezer place it on a plastic bag NOT in it, to prevent it from sticking to the freezer.  After the animal is frozen than place it inside a couple plastic bags. 

. . . .Salting the Hide. . . .

For extended trips in the field and out of state, especially during warm weather it may be necessary to salt a hide in order to preserve it for mounting or tanning. I do not normally suggest this unless you are proficient in properly skinning the cape from the skull, splitting the lips, eyes, nose, and ears, and removing the flesh and fat.

I buy my salt at the local feed store in 50# bags.  It is called Feed, Feeder, or Stock Salt.  This is a fine grain salt like table salt.  Make sure it is Non-Iodized DO NOT use rock salt.

Lay the skin out flat and apply the salt liberally. On an average bear hide I will use a whole 50 pound bag of salt. There is no such thing as too much salt. Let the salt stand on the skin for 24 hours, then shake it off and salt it again. You shouldn't have to use as much salt the second time, but be sure that the entire skin is covered. Let it stand for another day and then shake the skin off and let it air dry. Large hides should be rolled before they are completely dry otherwise they are difficult to transport.

Consult with your taxidermist on how to complete these tasks and then you can properly salt a skin.






This site was last updated 03/07/15