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How to Skin an Animal With A Hunting Knife

Animal skin close up of a deer

Via: Animal Skin.

There comes a time in any hunter’s life when they may need to skin an animal. But you most certainly don’t want to be unethical with your hunting. So, to not be without these skills, we have created this post to teach you the basics of skinning an animal out in the field or on your return home. 

This process will leave you with clean animal skin, which you can create taxidermy (not that terrible stuff), hang on your wall, or fashion into a rug. In addition, the carcass is ready to be divided up for an evening meal or to freeze for a later date. 

It is much easier than it sounds, so let us get stuck right in!

1. Have a Sharp Knife Ready

Via: Stag Knives, featuring The Apollo ring from our parent company Thorum.

To skin an animal effectively, you need a durable, sharp pocketknife that can handle cutting into rough skins and smaller jobs requiring more precision. The Stag One Knife by us at Stag Knives is an excellent option for this very job, and it is the only hunting knife you’ll ever need out on the hunt.

The Stag One Knife only weighs 0.14 pounds (57g), making it perfect for cutting jobs requiring accurate slicing. In addition, its blade is of durable D2 Stainless steel, ensuring a life-long guarantee to take all hunting jobs thrown at it. So as you can see, this knife isn’t flimsy, and its comfortable G10 Black handle is held together by oiled Phosphor Bronze Caged Bearings. 

Consider taking your hunting game to the next level with The Stag One

2.  Place the Carcass on a Slope or Surface Belly Facing up

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

There are many positions where hunters might choose to skin an animal, but the stomach facing up on a slope is the handiest out in the field. This is key because skinning starts with the opening of the carcass from the head to the anus. 

3. Dependant of Law, Remove Genitals or Udder

Via: Unsplash.


If your country requires the sex of your animal to be kept until the end of the skinning process, skip this step and just be careful when cutting around this area. Otherwise, before you cut into the skin, remove any external genitals; this will make it easier with other parts later. 

Don’t throw these away, as you can find many uses for these unusual animal parts, from testicle soups or traditional medicines. Even if you don’t want them, someone likely does!

4. Remove Musk Glands at Knee

selective focus photography of brown deer standing on green grass field during daytime

Via: Unsplash.


Removing the musk glands around the knees of the animal will make it easier to remove the skin of the legs. In addition, you can keep these glands for certain animals like deer; glands produce musk, a substance sought after by soapers and perfumers. Again, we are not wasting anything here!

5. Cut Hide From Tail to Throat (Knife Facing Out)

Via: Skinning Guide (1904), from PICRYL. 

Now you’ve removed the genitals and glands, so you can start to cut into the epidermis and dermis layers of the carcass (the skin layer and fat layers of the animal). The essential technique to avoid damaging the meat side is to face the blade of the knife facing up and separate the skin by pushing it upwards out. Next, follow a straight line down the stomach side of the turned-over animal, starting at the throat and going to the tail. 

6. Slip the Knife In Between the Skin and the Body Cavity. 

Via: Skinning livestock (1912), from PICRYL. 

With the slice made, you can slip your knife between the skin and meat of the carcass and pull back some of the skin to reveal part of the chest and stomach areas of the animal. However, don’t get excited, as we are far from done yet.

7. Open Chest Cavity by Splitting Sternum

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL. 

Get yourself a vital instrument explicitly designed to carefully break the Sternum bone of the carcass chest cavity. This could be akin to the Lebsche (Sternum) Knife and mallet used by surgeons on humans or like the sternum cutter above. There are so many ways hunters deal with this sturdy bone holding the ribcage together; for some, it's not even worth taking it on! We will discuss these alternatives in the next section, where we explain the purpose of this step. 

8. Cut the Windpipe.

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL. 

We need to separate the windpipe from the closest point of the skull, and so by breaking the sternum, the process is made much more manageable. However, some may leave the sternum intact, push their hands and arms inside the chest cavity, and get as close to that neck area as possible where they pull it away, but to get the cleanest and most straightforward job is the first option is recommended. 

To remove the windpipe t, have your knife ready and avoid making a mess of your animal skin or other precious parts you may want to save for further usage. With the parts removed, do not throw them out. Just put them on a clean surface for now that keeps the bloody mess at bay. The tract is still attached to other vital gut organs. Therefore we will deal with them now. 

9. Gently Remove the Intestinal Tract and Begin Working Around Rear

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

The whole intestinal tract can now be taken down to the anus, although not taken out just yet. This will free the space to remove the looser organs, like the heart and lungs, before turning back to the tract. Next, cut off the stomach and other large organs attached to the tract, being careful of mess, and put them on the same clean surface as you have put other organs for now. However, leave the bladder till last and avoid cutting it). 

10. Cut Away the Bladder to Not Contaminate Meat And Remove it.

 Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

When you remove the bladder, be extra vigilant that you don't break it and contaminate the carcass or meat! Have a bag ready to put it in so that it won't be a bother even if you place it with the other organs.

11. Cut a Circle Around the Anus at the Corpse’s Outside and Pull this Inwards and Out. 

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

With all larger organs removed, you can cut a hole around the anus with your knife and pull the rest of the intestinal tract inwards and out. Once freed, place it with the rest of the organs and with the slightly bloody part of the skinning down, you can turn back to the skin itself. 

12. Roll or Hang the Corpse to Drain the Blood

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

When it comes to the final stages of the skin preparation, most here might carry the gutted carcass back to base before they begin the following process. Allowing the animal to bleed out will clear some leftover waste, making skinning a breeze. You can either roll the carcass over or hang it from a hook and allow the hand of gravity to help you. Once time has passed, you can start on the final stages. 

13. Remove the Hide by Cutting Along the Front of the Animal, Then cut From the Line Along the Length of Each leg. 

File:Man skinning a carcas of an animal at Craigburn(GN10046).jpg

Via: Man skinning a carcas of an animal at Craigburn (1936), from The History Trust of South Australia.

Now it's time to skin the beast! Using the first cut you made across the carcass's stomach, chest and tail, you need to make four more cuts to separate the skin from the meaty bone, as seen in the diagram above. With these cuts, you can begin the easy process of cutting the skin back using the blade and being careful not to over-cut into the skin. Eventually, you’ll be left this a perfectly naked animal, and skin!

14. Save Meat and Entrails for Food

Via: Seal Skinning (1890), from PICRYL.

We are passionate about ethical hunting at Stag Knives, so we are not only here to provide amazing hunting knives and solid hunting advice; we want all hunters to be great ethical hunters. This means saving all the parts of their kills and ensuring that we don’t kill for the sake of killing and leaving animals to rot where they fell. You can find a use for all parts of an animal, so if you follow our blog, we will come out with a guide shortly to tell you exactly what!

Until then, enjoy good meat and warm skins caught by your hand, and check out our guide on Ethical Hunting.

Final Remarks: How to Skin an Animal

Free A Man in Fur Jacket with Golden Eagle Stock Photo

Via: Free Stock Photo.

Skinning an animal is not as difficult as you might think. Those who have been doing it all their life see it as second nature, and the longer you do it, you’ll understand why. Regardless of the animal and your skill, it is the same basic principle every time. So follow this guide and note it down in your hunting book so when it comes time to take on your first skinning contract, you’ll be able to breeze through the whole process. 

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