Different Processing Options
An important aspect of trapping is utilizing the animals we catch. Truthfully that's what got me interested in trapping initially, the aspect of being able to sell fur and possibly make money. Over the last 15 plus years that I've trapped, I've come to the realization that making money is a rare possibility, at least in the south. The fur market is so varied that it is tough to rely on being able to make any money.
That being said, you can cover some costs, and depending on the market, sometimes make some money. In the first half of this article I'm going to discuss the different options for preparing your fur for sale, and in the second half I'll go over potential markets for selling your fur.
Different Ways to Process Your Fur
Generally there are 3 ways to sell fur
- Whole/on the carcass/in the round
- Green/skinned but not fleshed or stretched
- Fleshed, Stretched, and Dried
A major factor in how you process your fur is dependent on where you sell your fur and what that person or company is willing to buy. We'll delve more into this later.
1. For a trapper the simplest way to sell your catch is to sell it whole, preferably immediately after you catch it. This is often called "in the round." It is the least amount of work for the trapper, so far as processing, but it also usually results in the least amount of value from that fur, because the buyer then has to put the time into finishing the hide.
Of course, there are plenty of factors to take into consideration in deciding whether the reduced value makes sense for you. If you have a raccoon that the buyer is willing to give you $5 for whole, but you could flesh and stretch it and get $15, is the time it would take you to finish that hide worth $10? If you could finish 6 in an hour, that would effectively mean you are making $60 an hour, so I'd say that unless you have other time constraints that would be a worthwhile investment. This is all hypothetical, just to point out that the value differential isn't always cut and dry and you have to figure that out for yourself.
2. The next option is to skin the animal and sell the skin green. This is a step up in value since you are removing some of the work the buyer would have to do. But the buyer still has to flesh and stretch the fur. This step does add a little more work on the trapper as now you have to skin the animal.
3. The final option is to completely finish the fur. This involves skinning the animal, removing all fat and flesh from the hide (fleshing), and stretching the hide, placing the fleshed hide on a form and allowing the hide to dry. This results in a hide that has not had any chemical treatment, strictly air dried, but in this form the fur will keep for an extended period of time without requiring refrigeration/freezing, as long as moisture and bugs are kept away from the hide.
This hide is ready to be bought by a furrier and tanned to their specifications. This is the highest value form processing. There are no other steps required for the fur to be sold. Of course there is alot more work in one of these hides than selling the whole animal.
Not only is more work required but you have to know how to prepare different species. Most are case skinned (except beaver which are open skinned), which means a cut is made between both hind legs and the fur is pulled off inside out in a tube like form much like pulling off a sock. Each species has their own specifications for the board size that they are stretched on as well as how they are stretched. Some animals are stretched fur out, this is typically the case when color of the fur is a major factor to the buyers. Other animals are stretched fur in, leather out. These animals are typically more uniform in color so the quality of the leather what is of interest to the buyers. See the chart below for how certain animals are stretched.
Fur Out Animals
- Gray Fox
- Red Fox
Fur In Animals
Where to sell your fur
With selling fur there are 3 basic options as well
- Selling to a local or "Country" fur buyer
- Selling to "Regional" fur buyers
- Selling at an auction
Each option has its own pros and cons, which we'll discuss here. Again, its up to the trapper to determine what is right for your situation. And in some instances, the availability of certain kinds of buyers is what drives how you can market your fur. So lets dive in!
1. Selling to a local fur buyer or "Country" fur buyer is probably the simplest way to go. Many times these will be the same guys that run trapping supply businesses. They already know the trappers and the trappers know them so it makes sense. These buyers are your best bet for finding someone who will buy whole carcasses or green skins, which saves you work, but they have to have margin so the price you get will be less. A major plus for many people is you get paid immediately, or you may be able to swap fur for supplies. The down side is with the major volatility of the fur market these local buyers are getting few and far between, so you may not have anyone very local to your area.
2. These "Regional" buyers are companies who are in the fur business and buy a lot of fur. They usually have circuits they will run through several states with certain stopping points to buy fur. Usually they will advertise their routes in trapping magazines like Trapper and Predator Caller and Trappers Post. These companies may do business direct with furriers and have orders to fill, so they are not necessarily a middle man. You may receive more for your fur from these buyers, but still not probably as much as selling at an auction. They will usually buy green skins, not as likely to buy whole animals. Again, a major plus is you get paid immediately.
3. Auctions can fall into 2 categories - Local and Auction Houses
Local Auctions are often put on by state trapping associations. This is a great opportunity for trappers to gather together, hopefully find a little competition for their furs, and support the association. Sometimes these auctions permit the sale of whole animals and green skins in additional to dried skins. You get paid at the time of sale, and the auction takes a commission. This is a great opportunity to support your association, however this is still likely not going to bring you top dollar for your fur.
Shipping your fur to one of the major auction houses, is in my opinion, the best way to get the most value from your fur. That being said, you have to flesh and stretch your hides (some companies offer this as a service and it may be worth it to go that route depending on what they charge). There are agents in many states that make routes to pick up fur or you can ship fur directly to one of the depots. These auctions are attended by buyers around the world that are buying to use the fur for products, so you are eliminating any middle man.
The biggest drawback to selling fur through an auction house is it may be months before you get paid. They typically have 3 to 4 auctions each year, but there is no guarantee that your fur will sell at the next auction. If the market is good chances are it will but if the market is weak, as it has been the last several years, the auction houses have the option of not selling fur and holding it over for higher prices, hopefully anyway. This could result in a few months to over a year in delayed payment for your furs, which is a major consideration when you are talking hundreds to thousands of dollars in fur.
- They have some great info on fur prep and specifications here