Measuring A Skin: What A Hunter Should Know

Each and every year, when the Bear hunting season begins and the hunters head off in search of the desired trophies, the bugbear season also starts for the taxidermy studios and outfitters. The problem is that the harvested trophy and a ready carpet are apples and oranges. Sometimes the hunters are very unhappy when they receive a ready item from the taxidermy studio. It is the size of the skin, that upsets the sportsmen. Let’s try to figure out what are the reasons of the event. The first – and the key factor is human. The harvested trophy is measured raw, right in the fields. This is the first mistake. Warm skin can easily stretch in all directions, like latex. As a rule, it is stretched lengthwise. During the measuring process, the skin fibers move causing width add up to length. For example, a bearskin can be stretched out for 2 additional meters; at the same time the width of the skin will be only 0.5 meters! Many people do not know the correct skin proportions length-to-width. This is true not only about the PHs and hunters, but also about some taxidermists, too – imagine how weird the ready item may look!

The second reason: one tends to forget that an animal has certain volume, just like every other thing in our world. However, the skins are measured flat. The difference between a flat skin and a ready item (for example, a carpet) can total up to 15-25 centimeters, depending on the skin size. This has nothing to do with shrinkage: these centimeters of length serve to provide the volume. The same is true for any other species trophy. The hunter has to know how to measure the trophy properly.

For example, the length of the lynx skin is 125 centimeters from the nasal root to the tail head. At the same time, the length of the cast body is only 106 centimeters. Extra length appears because the flat skin has no body volume.

The third and a very important reason is tanning. The whole look of the ready item depends very much on the tanning process. The specific characteristics of the skin lead to certain shrinkage of the trophy. The biological processes go on in the skin (corium) of the animal. Tanning is conservation of a living cell for future handling. No chemicals can substitute the biological processes and provide immortality of the cells. During the chemical tanning, the proteins of the derma shrink for 5-20%. The difference depends on the quality of the skin.

Most animals change their coat twice a year: in fall and in spring (actually, they shed the fur in spring only). We are now not talking about the African animals – those renew the hair coat during the whole year without appearing to do so, and keep the thickness of the skin the same all year round – in order to prevent dehydration. Therefore, here we refer to the carnivores of the moderate climate and of the northern regions.

Each species have the thinnest skin and the best strong hair prior to the shedding. At this point, the hair bulbs rise to the upper part of the derma, allowing currying the skin better and making the ready item thinner, softer, lighter and more flexible. In this case, the shrinkage will total up to 5-10%.

The animals usually shed for a long time. For example, when harvesting a brown bear in August, one can still see sparse long hairs among the short overhair. That is what is left of the winter coat. Same can be seen in wolf, fox and other carnivores. During this time of the year, the animals have the thickest skin, which hides the fur hair inside. In will grow prior to the cold season. This thick skin hides the new growing hair bulbs under the subcutaneous fat layer, and does not allow making the ready skin softer, lighter and thinner. Up to 20% of length can be lost to shrinkage. The skin thickness and the shedding highly depends on the weather. If the winter comes early, the skin might be fully mature and best for a trophy as early as October.

Every hunter needs to judge the harvested trophy correctly. It is better to properly measure the skin to avoid future disappointment when you receive a ready item from the taxidermy studio.