If you spend much time in the outdoors it is likely that you will someday stumble upon a dangerous snake that possesses a threat to your health and security. Often this encounter leaves your nerves quite rattled. The snake dead and uselessly tossed aside. But even though coming across one of the fanged menaces can be terrifying, I look at it these experiences as a unique way to add a snake skin trophy to the wall of my den.

A Trophy in the Making

The various varieties of snakes in the US possess attractive skins. When properly cared for, they can make very beautiful conversation pieces. Once skinned and tanned these hides can be displayed on the wall, used as a table centerpiece or even made into a unique and stylish hat band.

Taking Care of the Snake Skin in the Field

Just like any game you harvest, care must be taken in the field to ensure a good quality product in the end. That means keeping the snake carcass out of the direct sun and as cool as possible. If ice is available that’s a good way to protect it from the elements. But if there will be a significant lapse in time between when you harvest the snake and when you plan to skin it, place it in a plastic bag and freeze it. Avoid placing any type of game including a snake in a plastic bag or other airtight container unless it will immediately be frozen. Sealing off the air and circulation will substantially speed up the bacterial growth and decaying process. Another alternative would be to skin the snake and salt the hide down using non-iodized table or pickling salt.

Skinning & Fleshing

When doing the delicate job of skinning of a snake it is best to use a very small knife or even a razor blade. The incision is typically made down the center of the snake’s belly. Then carefully pull the skin free being very careful not to tear it. Sometimes a pair of pliers can be a great help. After the hide is off the carcass it must be fleshed. This means remove any remaining meat and fat from the skin. An easy way to do this is to use a normal kitchen spoon to scrape it free.

Stretching & Tanning

The next step would be to stretch and staple it to a piece of plywood or heavy cardboard with the flesh side out. To do so a normal household stapler will would fine. It is best to keep the skin as straight as possible. And keep the staples as close to the edge as you can. After that a unique product called Snaketan is simply liberally painted on the hide and allowed to soak in.

In a few hours the Snaketan tanning solution will have soaked into the skin, signaling a need to reapply more of that formula. Continue to do so until the skin no longer will absorb it. After that the skin should be allowed to dry before removing it from the board.

If after drying the flesh side of the hide feels a bit tacky you can use a cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol to remove that tackiness.

Finishing Your New Trophy

Once dried you should use a pair of scissors to trim the edges. After that your hide can be displayed in any way you prefer. I frequently glue the skin to a couple of overlapping colored layers of felt backing the hang them on the wall. But you can also choose to keep it in its natural stage and not use a backing. Sometimes I have even used rattler skins to make hatbands. To do that you will likely need to head to your local fabric store. There you will need to purchase a piece of bias tape in order to wrap the skin around.

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