Tanning a hide for leather is quite a laborious activity, and while leather is very valuable and useful, its manufacture is intimidating. Rawhide in comparison is quite easy to produce, and provides many of the values and versatility. Rawhide is simply an untreated animal hide. Any animal hide is useful, and I would recommend trying out rawhide from a smaller animal, preferably a road kill, as your first foray into this product. The only tools needed are a plastic garbage can or barrel, and a good stick for stirring. We are currently processing several hides and you can see pictures and follow the progress on our blog.
The best part of working with rawhide is that you can set it aside for long periods of time and not worry about taking care of it. Even the unprocessed hides can sit if you keep them dry with some salt on them. The salt will help keep bacteria down that cause rot or smell. We made one deer hide into rawhide last year, and we used it up so quickly that we decided to keep all of our hides this year.
After pulling the hides off our deer, we trimmed off the larger pieces of fat and meat, then simply folded them and allowed them to dry out in the Wyoming air. In wetter climates we have found the hides don’t dry very quickly or as thoroughly and recommend you salt the hide heavily before it dries to keep bacteria and smell down. When the hide is dry we can simply fold and store it as is for up to a year. Check on the hide periodically to make sure it doesn’t start to smell or go bad. We sometimes dry them by the woodstove if needed.
Also, here are some other good articles on SurvivalBlog.Com that deal with things from health to books to power: