A few extra steps can help bring in more money on sale day
One of the most satisfying things about trapping, for me, is standing in the middle of the fur shed toward the end of January and looking at the rows and rows of well-handled pelts Bill and I have put up during the course of the season. Taking the pelts from “on the carcass” to skinned, fleshed, stretched and dried isn’t what I’d call a fun process — not as much fun as catching them, for sure — but the end result makes the game worth the candle.
But not everybody wants to go through the trouble of finishing their fur, and that’s OK, too. To each his own, and far be it from me to try to convince anybody otherwise. Many trappers, perhaps most, simply skin their catch and freeze the pelts for sale later, either directly to a fur buyer or through a regional or state association fur auction.
I’ve seen a lot of freshly thawed green fur come across the auction table since I started attending fur sales 30 years ago. Some of it was frozen properly and properly cared for during and after the thawing process. In most cases, that fur brought as much or more than comparable finished fur. On the other hand, I’ve seen a whole lot of green fur that brought little to nothing simply because it wasn’t frozen and/or thawed properly. If you sell your fur green and freeze it until the sale date, here are a few tips that might make you a few more dollars on sale day:
If you’re only going to leave the pelts in the freezer for a few weeks, freezing each pelt flat is probably the best choice. This allows them to freeze faster and thaw faster. If possible, lay the pelts on newspaper or freezer paper until they’re frozen, so they won’t stick to things in the freezer.
If you’re going to wait longer than about six weeks to either sell or process the fur, it’s better to roll each pelt tightly, starting with the nose and rolling backward toward the tail, then lay them in the freezer until solid. Then put each pelt into a plastic bag (bread sacks are OK, but zipper-type freezer bags are better), seal the bag and place it in the freezer.
When it comes time to thaw the pelts, do it over a period of a day or two in a cool, dry place such as a shed or garage. Take the plastic wrappers off any pelts that are wrapped. It’s OK to unroll the pelts as they thaw to speed the thawing process, but don’t force things or you’ll rip out guard hairs and degrade the fur.
With either freezing method, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, make sure each pelt is dry and free of mud and dirt before you freeze it. Wet pelts, when frozen, make an awful-looking mess when they thaw.
Second, when you’re freezing the pelts, spread them out in the freezer until they’re solid rather than piling them on top of each other. You want them to freeze as fast as possible, to avoid spoilage.
And finally, realize up front that when you freeze green pelts, you’re running the risk of losing some of their value due to spoilage, freezer burn and breakage of guard hairs due to them freezing to each other or to the sides of the freezer. It sometimes happens, no matter how careful you are.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.