Stretching or Freezing
After fleshing is completed, the pelt is ready to be stretched and dried.
- Stretchers can be wire frames or wooden boards.
- Wire stretchers are most commonly used today. They are relatively inexpensive.
- Some trappers prefer to make their own wooden stretchers. Many commercial trapping books explain how this is done.
- Stretchers come in various shapes and sizes. Choose one that fits the size and shape of your pelt.
Follow these steps to stretch your pelts.
- Pull the pelt taut over the stretcher. For some animals, such as fox, coyote, or bobcat, place the pelt on the stretcher with the fur side in for a couple of days. Then turn the fur side out and put it back on the stretcher. For other furbearers, place on the stretcher with the fur side out.
- Keep in mind that pelts are not really being "stretched" at this point. They are simply being held taut to prevent shriveling or shrinking as they dry.
- Do not overstretch the pelt. Overstretching thins the fur and stretches the pelt out of shape. If you try to stretch a muskrat pelt too far, the belly will tear and destroy the value of the pelt.
- Be sure the pelt is centered over the stretcher.
- The forelegs and belly should be on one side of the stretcher.
- The eyeholes, ears, and back should be on the other side.
- Secure the pelt in place on the stretcher.
- Use pins or tacks on a wooden board.
- Use the arms of the stretcher if using a wire frame.
After being pulled over a stretcher, pelts must be hung up to dry.
- Make sure the drying area is well-ventilated and cool (55° to 60° Fahrenheit).
- Never place pelts in a hot room or near a furnace. Overheating will cause them to shrivel and spoil.
- Use a fan to increase air circulation and decrease drying time.
- Leave about an inch of air space between pelts hung next to each other.
- Never hang pelts against a wall. Stretch a length of wire between two beams, and hang your fur on the wire.
- Keep your pelts out of reach of mice and dogs.
- Leave pelts hanging on stretchers until the hide is completely dry and hard. This could take a few days to a week.
After removing them from stretchers, leave most pelts with the fur side in. Ask your buyer whether he or she wants to see pelts "fur in" or "fur out."
Instead of stretching pelts, you can quick-freeze them.
- Do this carefully. Otherwise, the pelts may be ruined.
- Always freeze pelts flat and with the fur side out. No flesh should be exposed.
- Never roll furs. Keep them flat.
- Never freeze or thaw furs in plastic.
- When you are ready to sell your fur, thaw animals with heavy flesh (coyote, raccoon, and beaver) for five to six hours in a cool room. Never allow pelts to thaw enough that the grease melts or the skin gets slimy. Keep muskrat pelts frozen.
- Small furbearers (muskrat and mink) can be frozen whole (without skinning). Allow to thaw partially before selling. For muskrats, only the feet need to be thawed.
Your fur buyer may have specific instructions for freezing pelts or whole animals. Check ahead of time.