How to Tan a Deer Hide

Follow these steps for tanning a deer hide, complete with time requirements and tool recommendations, to make your own beautiful, quality leather. 

By Dennis Biswell

October/November 2016

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an outdoors person. I spend most of my free time hunting, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. This lifestyle came naturally, as my mother and father sent my siblings and me outdoors as much as possible. My family also processed much of what we ate at home. Whether we were butchering cattle, hogs, chickens, and all varieties of wild game or canning meats, garden vegetables, and fruit from my grandfather’s orchard, my family and I knew where our food came from.

However, after our successful hunting trips, no one in my family tanned any of the animal skins. Those were hauled to the local locker plant and were then sent to a commercial tannery. Several years ago, I started experimenting with tanning deer and other wild animal skins so I could become self-sufficient in this part of processing, too. I eventually honed in on a step-by-step process that creates durable hair-on hides and good, wearable leather from deer skins.

Tanning