Tanning vs. Dry Preservative
At Sportmaster Taxidermy, all of our animal skins are tanned, not dry preserved. "What's the big
difference?", you may ask. In our experience with both methods, we have found tanning to be a far superior process. Dry preserving simply means that the skin is scraped clean of all meat and then a dessicant or drying agent is applied. Bascially, dry preserving does nothing more than dry out a raw skin that is still in a degradable condition. Dry preservative DOES NOT tan the skin. If you have ever had a mount that cracked, had the hair pull away from around the antlers, attracted bugs, or had a foul odor, chances are that it was dry preserved. Dry preserved skins undergo large amounts of shrinkage and dry brick hard with little to no flexibility. They also usually retain moderate to high levels of odor depending on the species. On some skins such as bear, coyote, and sheep, it is almost impossible to remove the odor with dry preservation methods. In the south where humidity is high, dry preserved skins can actually undergo low levels of rehydration that can produce bacterial growth in the raw skin.
Our tanning process involves an initial salting phase to set the hair and begin the removal of all biodegradable material in the skin. The hide is then pickled in an acid and salt solution for several days. This pickle solution dissolves all of the blood, protein, and other degradable matter in the skin. A tanning agent is then applied that replaces the degradable matter that was removed during pickling. Lastly, the hide is oiled to give it flexibility and stretch. Obviously, tanning is a much more involved process when compared to dry preservative. Dry preservative is often the method of choice because a dry preserved cape or hide can be mounted the same day that it is skinned. A tanned skin, on the other hand, takes several days to properly prepare. As a result, taxidermists who tan their skins usually charge more for their services. That is why it is important to recognize exactly what the differences are in the two processes. When comparing prices, you should always find out which method the taxidermist is using.
"Your #1 Source for Professional Waterfowl, Deer, and Fish Mounts!"
Wildlife Artist Greg Gallman
Full - Time Chattanooga and North Georgia Area Taxidermist for over 20 years