Tanning my first wallaby hide.

Why am I curing the Wallaby hide?  While I don’t have any definite plans for it… I would love a pair of moccasins, they look so comfortable.  My main plan is just practicing the methods of curing hides and trying to get a level of skill which will mean that it isn’t just luck when I succeed in the curing process.

I have tried curing hides previously, and while I have yet to perfect my method, I have had some success.  That said, lately every hide I tan has been failing.  Basically, I have succeeded in making rawhide.  Obviously, that is a great skill, yet it isn’t getting me closer to those moccasins.  I talked to some friends of mine, who have much more experience in tanning hides and they recommended I purchase some actual tanning solution.  I decided that while I would prefer to so my curing with all natural products, perhaps I should learn to do it with any product that works.

The hide after it’s salt covering. Orlaith is really enjoying the smell.

They recommended that I generously salt the hide, covering the skin side.  The hide should be then rolled up and placed in a safe place for a couple of days.  The hide will leak fluids as the salt works on the skin, so don’t put it anywhere you want to keep clean.

I modified this a little and I kept the hide stretched out on a frame while it was salted, allowing it around 5 days to absorb the salt.  Every day I would check the hide and add more salt to any areas that were bare.  After the salting process I allowed the hide to dry a little till I could arrange to stop off at the gun store to buy some tanning solution.

Orlaith is at it again, she likes to help. I am attempting to scrape the hide bare of flesh and fat.

Before I could soak the hide in the tanning solution I needed to scrape the excess flesh from the hide.  This process is apparently called “fleshing the hide”.  I did not have a special tanning knife, so I used items I had available…. My hatchet and a garden weeding tool.  These did an adequate job of cleaning off the flesh and excess fat.

After this step (and I don’t want to make it seem this step was easy… it took ages and my arms were pretty tired) I placed the hide into the to a plastic bucket with the tanning solution and it was time to play the waiting game.  Each day I would check to ensure the hide was fully submerged, and after a week I was satisfied the hide was done.  I verified this by, using a very sharp knife, I sliced at the side of the hide and ensured that the tanning dye had permeated the hide thoroughly.

I am so lucky my dog loves to help. This is the bucket of tanning solution after a week. I am about to rinse it clean.

I then stretched out the hide to allow it to dry, and apparently this was a bit of a mistake, as the hide still needs to be a little moist for the addition of Leather Lube to cause the hide to become soft and supple.  I still added the Leather Lube and I believe the hide is softer, yet it isn’t perfect.

This hide is now dry and ready for my project… now to collect a few more…

I have a lot to learn about tanning hides successfully.  This is something I will have to do with practice, so I guess I will have to get out there and hunt some more.  I also have a long way to go before I can make my moccasins… This one is only the start, I may need another three before I might be able to have another go at making them.  Those wallabies better look out!

My first wallaby hunt.

I am in the process of writing a guide on hunting Wallaby in Tasmania, something which may be helpful to those of you that want to get started, yet don’t have a clue how to begin.  While I am working on that document, I thought I would go into the story of my first Wallaby hunt.

One of my friends recently offered to take me on his large property and show me the ins and outs of hunting wallabies.  We didn’t really discuss it more than agreeing on a time for me to meet him, so when the night of the hunt came I was a little nervous.  I also wasn’t too sure what to expect, so I just packed some things which I thought may be useful.  In case we would be butchering the carcasses in the field, I packed knives, bags (for the meat), rubber gloves, and sharpening stones.  I also ensured I packed my rifle… I took my .22 rifle along with a box of ammunition.  Unfortunately, it turned out I forgot to pack hearing protection, yet it wasn’t so serious as I would be shooting .22 ammunition.

I arrived at my friend’s house and we prepared for our outing.  I had thought (and prepared) for a hunt where we would be walking around the property, stalking any wallabies we found.  My friend had actually revealed that we would be using his tractor for the hunt.  He had rigged up his spotlight to the vehicle battery so we could find the wallabies, and we would be able to bring home any killed animals with the vehicle.

A Savage 22…. not a picture of my rifle, yet it looks similar

My friend was driving, and spotlighting, while I rode on the back and kept an eye out for any wallabies.  I for the first part, we placed my rifle in a rifle rack he had installed at the front of his tractor. We had the plan that I would grab the rifle when we spotted a target, so I just held on to the tractor cabin.  I had a head lamp on my head, which provided a little extra light.  For the first 10 minutes we drove slowly around the edges of the property with my friend explaining some of the features by spotlight illumination.  After this ten minutes, we spotted out first wildlife, yet it turned out to be a spotted bandicoot.  We watched it scurry away before we drove on and finally found some wallabies.  I climbed off the back of the tractor and grabbed the rifle, yet before I could even chamber a round the wallabies had hopped away.  So after that we continued on out way and it wasn’t long before we spotted another couple of wallabies.  I once more climbed from the tractor back and recovered my rifle.  One of the wallabies stopped in the spotlight and this gave me a chance to take a shot.  I quickly chambered a round and tried to take a bead on the head of the wallaby, yet as I prepared to fire, the wallaby hopped away.  Another missed chance.  This time I put the safety on the rifle and decided to carry it with me to allow me more time to take a shot.

As we continued on our travels, a light rain began to fall, and in the extremely cold night air the light shower almost looked like snow.  I held the rifle tight in one hand while trying to keep a secure hold on the tractor, all the while attempting to keep my balance so I didn’t fall.  It was a fun ride and I mentioned to my friend that he could charge people for a night time ride around his property.

Before long we sighted a few more Wallabies, yet these ones were some distance from us and moving… not a target I wished to engage with my scope-less rifle.  I was actually having a nice time riding around and, in a way, I was glad that I didn’t get a chance to shoot any wallabies.  I turned off my head lamp as I decided I wouldn’t get a good chance to shoot any.  The relaxing moment was eventually past when we finally found a small group of wallabies.  They were standing still in the light of the spotlight and now was my chance to take a shot.  My friend urged me to hurry, so I leapt from the tractor and thumbed the safety off.  I raised the rifle stock to my shoulder, put my cheek to the side of the stock so I could look down the sights, and moved my finger to prepare to engage the trigger.  It was then that I realised my wonderful fibre optic sights were useless without any light… and I had turned off my headlamp.  I hesitated for a moment, trying to decide what to do.  The largest wallaby, the one I wanted to shoot, took a couple of hops before stopping again.  My friend whispered to me to take a shot.  In the light of the spotlight, I could make out the feint outline of the sights and I felt that I could see the Patridge iron sight over the wallaby… now was the time to shoot.  I squeezed the trigger with my index finger and it appeared the shot hit a log just next to the wallaby.  The wallaby moved its head and I had time to load another round before I took another shot.  This one must have wizzed past it’s head as the sound scared the animal so it fled.  My friend and I checked the area.  No sign of a hit, nor any blood.  I put the safety back on and we decided to head back to his home.  I didn’t bother turning the headlamp on and we drove on for a minute or so when we once again found a group of wallabies.  I was pretty surprised as we were making a lot of noise and I just shot.  I jumped down when my friend stopped driving and I again threw the safety off and took aim at the closest wallaby.  Once more, the headlamp was off and I couldn’t get a good look at the iron sights, so I aimed as well as I could.  As I was starting to squeeze the trigger I realised I wasn’t to bothered if I missed, as I was just having a nice night.  Of course, the shot went wide and the wallaby immediately left the area and hid in the scrub.  We checked to ensure I didn’t hit it, yet there was no sign of blood.  I decided to unload the rifle and we called it a night.

We rode back to my friends house and we talked about the hunt.  My friend was apologetic that there were not more wallabies, I was apologetic that I missed.  It must have seemed pretty funny.  We ended the night, chatting about how we had to do this again soon.