Waste Not Want Not
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This season I set out on my very first fallow deer, also known as piebald deer, hunt in the woods of Oklahoma. Fallow deer are an unusually beautiful invasive species that in a lot of places don’t require tags to hunt. I had seen only one in the wild before and that is what spiked my curiosity.
After setting out to learn more about this unique species, I found out that fallow deer are of Eurasian decent however, they are on most continents. These magnificent creatures have four color patterns; light brown with white spots, dark brown with spots, solid dark brown and pure white. Depending on the time of year the color of the hide may change and spots may disappear which makes this deer stand out compared to white tail and mule deer.
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The best part about fallow deer is their taste. Between fallow and axis meat, a large amount of hunters will claim that these unique deer are far more tender and may even have more of a beef like resemblance than the more common white-tail or mule deer, and I have joined that opinion.
When I hunt deer, I traditionally hunt out of a stand, however when in a new area, I like to start off with a spot and stalk for two reasons. First off, I like to explore. Second, in areas with a large feral hog population I am always open to finding a bed down boar if they don’t find me first.
My wife and I set out on foot with our bows for about three and a half hours before seeing any signs of life other than birds and every hunter’s favorite, squirrels. We walked ridge lines and crossed hollers until we eventually came across some wild hogs, but that is a story for another time. The first day was a bust for the Fallow hunt. Most hunters can relate to that feeling of being bummed coming back empty handed while at the same time still excited for the next day. On the second day we decided to hunt from a stand where we ultimately found success at just over 30 yards away.
We quartered the deer up and put it on ice to process shortly after but we weren’t going to stop there. I generally try to keep every deer hide worth saving and this one was going to be preserved to the best of my ability. I took great care in skinning and fleshing the hide with my trusty Havalon knife my father-in-law gave me, and I was able to get this hide extremely clean with great ease.
I used a method similar to how Outdoor Life teaches new hunters how to tan hides. After fleshing the hide, I covered it completely in salt then folded it and rolled it up for two days changing the salt once in between. Next, I soaked it in a salt bath for about 12 hours before I washed the hide with a simple dawn soap and water mix. I let the hide dry out then applied the tanning formula. There are a few different ways to go at this point, some people use the animal’s brains and water, some use alum, but I prefer home tanning formulas that are already pre mixed and ready to go.
I strayed a little from the directions here. If you use a home tanning formula, you will more than likely be told to apply and fold the hide again to let sit. After it dries out a few days later there is a need to work the hide to make it pliable and stretch the hide out as it will have contracted, however I found I like it better to tack the hide fur down stretched as far out as I can while the hide is still moist from being washed. It is then I apply my tanning formula thoroughly. Being in a hot and humid environment I am unable to leave my hides outside for this process, however, this makes it easier for me to continually tend to it and reapply tanning solution where needed for the first day. Once it dries about three days later, I remove it from the plywood and it is easier to work than other hides I have tanned in the past that required stretching and working at the same time. I also use a hair dryer on cool to blow out any moisture trapped in the fur side.
As you can see in the end it was worth the extra effort to keep the hide. Whether used for a throw, insulation in a jacket, or décor, if possible, I encourage you to try and waste as little as possible from your next deer hunt.