I had a few requests for instructions on preserving a squirrel hide for fly tying. I don’t tan the hide where it becomes soft like leather, but mainly just preserve it. Don’t mind my amazing sketch on how to make your cuts.
I use Game shears and make a small cut on their belly. Then, I make a straight line up to their head. Next, take a line to their feet. Repeat this process on all 4 legs.
The tail is tricky. I don’t really use squirrel tails for flies, but do utilize this material for inline spinners. You can remove it one of 2 ways. If you just shot the squirrel, just hang on to the front half of the body and slowly pull the rest of the hide back. The tail may just turn inside out.
The other option is to split the tail. Take your knife or shears and make a small incision at the top of the tail and cut straight down. You can then pull the tail out, but thus gets difficult where the tail is very thin.
Next I remove their feet. once the feet are removed I just pull the body out from the skin. You can remove the head if you’d like. You can slowly pull the rest of the hide forward and it should just come right off of the head. I don’t really use a lot of fur on the mask so a lot of the time I just get rid of it for the most part.
Game shears are the ticket, and its best to remove the skin immediately after you shoot the squirrel. This makes skinning the squirrel 500 times easier when you do it while the squirrel is still warm.
Then lay the squirrels pelt on a thick piece of cardboard. Stretch the squirrel out and pin the skin in place on the cardboard. Take a knife and kind of scrape as much if any fat or meat from the skin side. Make sure it’s all pinned right then take 20 mule team borax and rub it into the skin. Make sure it covers all of it. Let it sit a day. Refresh the borax for a day or two. Remove all existing borax and then reapply. It won’t make it tanned but does preserve the fur. Similar to how the do hares masks.
I use grey squirrel body fur a lot for dubbing. It’s way better to have the entire pelt as you can see the different lengths of hair. For instance the leg hair is longer than the hair on the back. You can make bigger dubbing loops and such. This aspect is very beneficial. I would liken it to having the whole partridge skin vs having a baggy of feathers.
Hope this helps you out. 😎👍🏻