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Ole_270 Online Content OP
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Been thinking about salvaging rabbit and squirrel hides for fly tying. Guessing a guy could just use clippers and shear them for dubbing without having to do much for preserving them. Zonkers on the other hand will need some tanning or other work for keeping them supple and usable. Has anybody here tried this?

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If you look around you can find directions to tan with Oxalic acid. I guess oxalic acid is really old school, I used it to tan skunk hides for snowmobile mittens 40 yrs ago. But there are plenty of You-tube vids on tanning rabbit pelts.

Last edited by erich; 08/05/22.

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One can find tanned rabbit hides for 6 or $7. Rabbit is so thin and fragile it's a pain in the butt to process without tearing and my time alone is more than worth the price. If one is simply after dubbing sources, do a good job fleshing, rub in some alum on the flesh side, and let them dry. No bug issues at all. Same treatment for fowl skins as well.

Much like today's reloading components, those small almost sample size fly tying materials are worth a fortune in the shops with I think a 300% markup. For a lot of items, I go downtown, look up and down the street to see if anyone is watching, and try to sneak unobserved into sewing shops.

Last edited by 1minute; 08/05/22.

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Thanks guys, I'll do a bit of research.

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A trip to the salvation army store can find you rabbit fur jackets cheap.


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Not quite germane to tanning critter hides, but for simply saving stuff like that for dubbing and hairs I would simply throw a patch of it in the microwave and nuke it to kill any creepy crawlies that might contaminate the rest of the materials. Ditto self-processed bird skins.


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A lot of our hunters tie fly's. we save Quail feathers and Dove feathers, Whitetail tails, Pig hair, and Coyote tails, Exotics hair, put it in zip lock bags in our cooler so we have some when they ask for it. a lot of the disabled vets, learned to build fly rods and tie fly's in rehab. Rio7

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Originally Posted by gnoahhh
Not quite germane to tanning critter hides, but for simply saving stuff like that for dubbing and hairs I would simply throw a patch of it in the microwave and nuke it to kill any creepy crawlies that might contaminate the rest of the materials. Ditto self-processed bird skins.

I have seen some recommendations to alternate week in, week out, couple weeks in the freezer for getting rid of the creepy crawlies on bird skins.

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Just salt them and let it air dry. Salt will set the follicle so the hair doesn't slip and it will stay on the hide and not smell.

The bugs jump ship after the animal dies so just salt and let it dry out.
We tack up rabbit hides on a wood wall and let them dry for trapping use. No salt even needed.

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Yes, the bugs jump ship but the eggs they leave behind don't.


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Damn Gary....you do it all dont you?

I've always found a 50/50 mix of salt and Borax, turning several time a week, will cure rabbit, deer and squirrel hides. Chicken lots also turn up a bunch of great tying feathers.

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Not "doing it all" now, Mickey. But, I've done a lot in my 69 years of life. Pursuing/investigating/experimenting with a whole lot of different stuff - a lot of it to the point of all-consuming distraction - could go a long way toward explaining why I've been divorced twice.....


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The price is so low for materials, I guess I figure that I'd rather pay for them to do it...lol.

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My Dad taught me how to tie fishing lures. I've mostly used the tails. I just let them air dry outside around the barn hung up where the foxes and cats and stuff can't reach them.

Then after about a week or so, they stop stinking. You can clip a pinch of the tail fur and use it whenever you're ready to make some. I have used grey squirrel, fox squirrel, white and black tail deer fur, red and grey fox, raccoons, and just about anything with a tail will do.

You can even use whitetail fur and dip it into RIT clothes dye and make it any color you want. Purple. Yellow. Whatever.

I generally snip a pinch of the hair and use string to wrap them around the hook. After tying with a string, use clear fingernail polish to seal it up. It'll last for years, or until you get it hung in a tree and your line breaks.

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I've done the salt/borax thing and dried the skins of pine squirrels. Wash them thoroughly before salting them. When dry I use Rit bleach and Rit dye to smaller pieces to get a variety of colors. To get zonker strips you do need tanned hides but not for dubbing fur. I often mix fur and antron with small pieces of acrylic yarn to get variegated dubbing furs with a lot of sparkle. Run the mix in a blender to separate the yarn and mix the antron and fur. A small cheap coffee grind would also work.


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I do huge numbers of skins every year and have found some big errors the hard way.

Do not use salt to preserve skins except when tanning and then rinse them very well before using in tying! residual salt will rust hooks in the blink of an eye in a damp fly box. Think saltwood Brownings...

Freezing does not kill bugs, if it did there would be none in say central AK where it routinely goes well below zero! Wash in warm, soapy water with a capful of bleach. Everything bad dies quickly in bleach. Rinse well and blow dry if doing just a small number. Finish by dusting them with borax while the skin is still slightly damp. If you have a bunch toss them in a bucket half full of dry sawdust and borax. Rig up something to roll the bucket slowly to dry and polish the feathers/fur.

I have tanned lots of squirrels in battery acid, salt and water. Rub Neatsfoot oil into the leather while working them to dry.

Lots of differences in the leather thickness of small critters. Some rabbits are too thick to be useful for flies unless thinned. Varying hares are mostly too thin.


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Originally Posted by Ole_270
Been thinking about salvaging rabbit and squirrel hides for fly tying. Guessing a guy could just use clippers and shear them for dubbing without having to do much for preserving them. Zonkers on the other hand will need some tanning or other work for keeping them supple and usable. Has anybody here tried this?
Wash the hides after fleshing to get blood and dirt out in warm, soapy water with a bit of bleach. Rub in fabric conditioner or hair conditioner. Then rinse well and squeeze/wring them dry. Finish by blowdrying the hair. It will make a difference when using it. Stretch the hides in a cool place with some air moving. They will not stink in the process and they will work fine.

Same basics for bird skins, but rub borax into them on the skin side.


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