A skunk-skin cap makes for genuinely useful and virtually unique headgear.
Stitch the two halves of the uglier pelt to the sides of the nicer one, trying to make a rough hat shape.
Of course you have to put it on immediately and revel in your accomplishments.
As you sew the liner into the hat, try to turn the raw edges under so that they don’t show.
Unless you really want to stick your head in a dead skunk, you’ll want a liner made out of thick cloth or upholstery material.
Properly shaping your skunk’s face can give your hat character like nothing else.
Davy Crockett is known for his coonskin hat. Just about every young man since the 1800s has tumbled around the backyard with a ringed tail down his back. Besides being such an archetype, these hats are actually useful when hunting or hiking in the cold. But why be like everyone else? You could have one that’s just as useful but made out of a genuine skunk. There are ways to ensure a skunk skin cap doesn’t smell, it’ll keep your ears toasty warm, and your friends will love it. All you have to do is make it yourself.
Spotting The Stripe
Well, obviously, you need a skunk to start. It takes two, actually. The first approach would be to find a local taxidermist, or you can try the internet. This may surprise you, but there are surprisingly inexpensive skunk pelts for sale on Amazon. Now, for the true woodsman (or perhaps the brave cheapskate) there is, of course, the option of trapping them yourself. Before we go any further, though, I’m officially renouncing responsibility for the results of this process. Don’t come to me looking for new clothes or revenge.
A wooded area is probably the best place to find skunks, though they have been known to explore the wilds of suburbia in search of food. Wire raccoon traps are good for actually catching a skunk, as they’re often found at Home Depot or in various sporting goods stores. The only disadvantage is that it’s difficult to avoid getting sprayed through a wire trap, though there is, of course, a technique to it.
Skunks eat both meat and vegetation. You can try bacon, canned fish, peanut butter or marshmallows as baits. Cat food will usually do for a lure, though you run the risk of catching a cat. (I speak from experience. Don’t tell my neighbors.) Keep in mind that just about every technique out there comes with the added risk of catching the wrong animal.
Catching a Skunk
Now comes the hard part: What you do once you have an angry skunk? Don’t laugh; you have to sneak up on it. Try to throw a blanket over the trap without letting the skunk see you coming. If the skunk can’t see you, it probably won’t spray you. Need I say it? Be careful. The easiest way to humanely and conveniently kill the skunk is to drown it while it’s still in the blanket-wrapped trap.
Skinning a skunk is really no different than skinning any other small animal, and the same goes for tanning the hide. The only really important rule is to avoid the scent glands for obvious reasons. You can find more detailed instructions online or in a book on the subject. You’ll need two hides, remember. The whole ordeal of tracking down your pair of skunks tends to be messy, and positive results are never guaranteed. Personally, I would always recommend leaving that part to the professionals and simply buying your hides.
Aside from the skunks, there are a few other things you need. Depending on how you prefer to make your hat, you’ll want either a needle and some heavy thread or a leather punch and laces. Quilting thread is usually thicker than the normal type and can be found at Wal-Mart or a craft store. You can use regular old thread if you prefer, just be careful and thorough. You don’t want your hat falling apart on you. Any needle should work fine. If you prefer the leather-punch-and-laces approach, they can both be found at a decent craft store or online. Make sure that your punch is up to the job, and that your laces are small enough to go through its holes. You’ll want some good scissors, too.
Unless you really want to stick your head into a dead skunk, you’ll need a cloth liner. It should be thick, like sturdy canvas or upholstery material. Don’t cut up the living room chairs unless your wife’s gone for the weekend. You may want to use a sewing machine as well, but it’s not too hard to just work by hand.
Now that you’ve got your skunks and other supplies, things calm down a bit. Decide which pelt you think looks coolest and set it aside. Now take the ugly one and cut off the tail, feet, and head; you won’t need those parts. The tail makes a lovely feather duster, though. Split the body of the skunk neatly lengthwise so that you’ve got two long, skinny ovals. These should be the sides of your hat.
Next, take your nicer-looking skunk and cut off the feet. Stitch one skinny oval to each side of this pelt, furry edge to furry edge, so that the seam is hidden, shaping it into a rough hat. You want it to be slightly larger than your head. The sewing could be difficult, but just hang in there. Don’t try the sewing machine on this part, as it’s likely to get fouled up.
Shaping the face of your skunk is delicate work. If your skunk doesn’t have a face, then all the easier; you can skip this part. If possible, though, I would always recommend including the face, as it looks pretty fantastic. Most skunk faces are going to be fairly unique, so improvisation is important. We begged some rather unsettling miniature glass eyes from a friendly taxidermist. If yours isn’t so agreeable, there are plenty to be found cheap online. You can just glue your eyes in place. Unless you have an unusual sense of humor, make sure they’re pointed in the same direction.
Our skunk required tacking down the ears, as they stuck out and looked rather creepy (meaning that they would have unnerved the Grim Reaper). You probably want to stuff something in the head of your skunk to make it more lifelike. You can use polyester stuffing if it’s on hand, or just pile in some old cloth scraps. You’ll probably want to sew in a darkly colored cloth patch behind your stuffing to make sure it doesn’t leak everywhere.
The Cap Liner
Next up is the liner. Cut a rough oval out of your cloth that is a little bigger than your head to allow for seams. Now cut a strip that’s about 3 to 4 inches (basically, the width of the sides of your skunk hat) by the circumference of your oval. You know what to do: Sew the two together so they resemble a hat. You’ll want to measure it against the skunks to make sure the two pieces fit together well, adjusting as needed.
Remember, it’s nearly always easier to adjust the liner than the skunk hat. Now turn your liner inside out and slip it inside of your skunks so that the raw edges face each other. You’ll want to sew the two rims together so that they don’t come apart. With all the fur, this part shouldn’t show, so don’t worry if it’s a little messy. Don’t use the sewing machine, however, for the same reasons as stated above. Remember that we’re going for a rustic look, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe you’ll even start a new trend.
Now You’re Stylin’ in Your Skunk Skin Cap
A skunk-skin cap adds flavor to any woodsman’s collection. It serves as a wonderful conversation starter (trust me), and if your wife can stand it, it also looks great on the mantle. The classic white stripes attract attention everywhere except their native habitat, the woods. In the society of humankind, they grant you indulgent laughter and immediate personality. In the forest, particularly during winter snows, they are an effective natural camouflage. And, of course, it’s the duty of every red-blooded American to make Davy Crockett proud.
This article is from the winter 2019 issue of American Frontiersman Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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by Jim Spencer / Feb 12, 2019