Tanning a deer hide is easily done in five simple steps, describes Field & Stream. After skinning the deer and boning out the tail, a tanner preserves the hide beginning with an abundant-amount of non-iodized salt. All fat or flesh particles are removed from the hide by knife before salting.
A layer of non-iodized salt on the flesh side of the hide both preserves the skin and begins the tanning process. After the salted hide is allowed to air dry, the tanner moves onto the second step by soaking the skin. The salted hide is placed into a plastic container or bin filled with clean water. Changing the water often, the hide is left to soak until softened.
Once soft, the water is drained and the hide is pulled in a back and forth motion across the edge of a wooden board. The hide is further scraped with the edge of a knife, but not enough to expose the hair roots. The container is refilled with 4 gallons of clean water and 2 1/2 pounds of salt. In a separate container, the tanner dissolves 1 pound of ammonia alum into 1 gallon of water. The alum solution is slowly mixed in the salt solution and the hide is soaked for a total of four days.
After four days, the hide is removed from the soaking container and tacked hair-side down to a piece of plywood. The hide is dried in a non-sunny location, followed by a coating of fat liquor oil. The liquor oil rub is composed of 3 1/2 ounces of foot oil and 3 1/2 ounces of warm water with 1 ounce of ammonia. Half of the mixture is rubbed on initially. After an hour, the process is repeated with the remaining amount. The hide is covered with plastic and allowed to dry overnight.
For the final step, the hide is removed from the plywood and dampened with a wet cloth. The skin-side of the hide is once again rubbed back and forth across the edge of a wooden board. This process is repeated, applying a small amount of fat liquor oil until the hide is soft and flexible. The edges of the hide are smoothed with fine-grit sandpaper.