Skinning Large Game
The most basic thing you should remember about skinning large game is that you want to get the hide off without getting dirt and hair on the meat. If the animal has horns, you may want to skin the animal while it hangs from its antlers, which is the method many hunters prefer. However, if there are no horns, it’s easier to tie a bar or pole to the back legs, just above the lowest joint between the tendon and leg bone, and hang the animal from a tree using the bar. Be sure you choose a strong enough branch or beam to hold the weight of the animal.
You can also skin large game on the ground. In this case, you will skin one side and then roll the animal over to the other side. In this case, you need to have extra help in order to move the animal, and plenty of space for maneuvering. If you decide to skin your animal on the ground, it’s best to use a clean ground cover or tarp underneath the animal in order to keep the meat clean.
A sharp knife and either a sharpener or second knife are essential tools for proper skinning. A “skinning knife” has a curved blade that makes it easier to maneuver your blade around the contours of the animal, but any sharp knife will do. Skinning any large game takes the edge off a blade in a short amount of time. If you skin with a dull blade, you will be putting a lot of extra effort into the process. To help preserve the sharpness of the blade tip, try to use the full blade length as you skin.
Skinning should be done as soon after the kill as possible. On a warm, freshly killed carcass, the skin can almost be just pulled away, and it only takes a few minutes. If you allow the carcass to cool, the skin will set and you will have a harder job separating it from the rest of the animal. You want to skin the animal without making cuts in either the hide or the meat. If you do slice into the meat and blood starts to get on the hide, you can apply flour or cornmeal to the cut to stop the blood.
Start by cutting all the way around the four knee joints of the animal. Then carefully slit along the inside of the leg all the way to the incision you made to initially dress the animal. The initial dressing incision was made by using a very sharp knife to cut the skin in a straight line from the lower end of the breastbone down to the anus. Remember to always cut with the blade of the knife inserted into the skin and facing up. This will help you avoid cutting into internal organs, like the intestines.
Extend the belly incision to just below the lower jaw. You can remove the head by cutting completely around the ears, jaws, and antlers. (If you are hanging the meat from the head, be sure to only cut the hide layer.) Slit the skin on the underside of the tail. Now you are ready to start removing the hide from the animal.
Cleaning an animal requires contact with blood, bone, internal soft muscle tissue, and possibly fecal material. You can also nick your hands on bone shards and the blade of your skinning knife. To protect your hands you can use gloves for dressing and skinning your animal. Elbow-length gloves colored hunter orange for extra visibility are essential tools for a hunter. You can buy them from many major retailers, as well as from major hunting retail catalogs.
As you work, pull the skin away from the meat with your hand while carefully slicing through the white layer that lies between the meat and the hide. Watch the angle of your blade to be sure you are not slicing into the meat or hide. Determine the length of your cuts by the ease with which the hide is peeling back from the meat. In some cases, like around the chest, you will be able to pull large sections away without much cutting at all. Other places, like around the butt, will require careful, more precise work.