Shaving a vole

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Hardyrod1974
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Shaving a vole

#1

Post by Hardyrod1974 »

Living in the woods means mice. So this time of year I set traps around the exterior of the house. Occasionally I get a vole. They have tend to have a nice dark grey pelt.
I'm not sure how easy it would be to skin one, so I was wondering about about washing and rinsing one (intact) and then using a disposable razor to shave some of the fur off. Has anyone done something like this?

6tUc05
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Re: Shaving a vole

#2

Post by 6tUc05 »

There is one sure way to find out how easy they are to skin: Give it a try! Bet it will be much easier than trying to "shave" a dead animal. Moreover, you will not need a vehicle, a knife, or block and tackle to get the hide off like you would for an elk or moose.

16pmd
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Re: Shaving a vole

#3

Post by 16pmd »

I wouldn't bother. With all the "superfine" synthetics of various colors, in my opinion shaving a vole isn't worth the trouble. Some old-time patterns called for mole fur, which is much the same. I tried mole and found that, like other very short-fibered furs, it doesn't dub very well. Unless you spend an inordinate amount of time spreading a thin amount of dubbing evenly on the thread, it tends to clump up on the thread and make for a lumpy body. The much longer strands of fine synthetic dubbing go on the thread much more evenly.

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henkverhaar
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Re: Shaving a vole

#4

Post by henkverhaar »

16pmd wrote:
11/19/20 13:13
I tried mole and found that, like other very short-fibered furs, it doesn't dub very well. Unless you spend an inordinate amount of time spreading a thin amount of dubbing evenly on the thread, it tends to clump up on the thread and make for a lumpy body. The much longer strands of fine synthetic dubbing go on the thread much more evenly.
I respectfully disagree. I find that mole fur, especially when 'harvested' using a good dubbing rake, is excellent for touch dubbing with a very light addition of dubbing wax..

WiFlyFisher
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Re: Shaving a vole

#5

Post by WiFlyFisher »

I have never “shaved” an animal skin. I did decide a while ago to rid us of a pecky squirrel that made several holes in one of our sliding screen doors. Since the fur was in nice shape, I used fine scissors and snipped all the fur from the back and sides. Then put it in a large plastic jar filled with warm water and with a couple drops of soap, then shook the sealed bottle, dumped it all into a fine cloth seine and rinsed with tap water. Filled the plastic bottle full of water again added 2 drops of unscented conditioner (John Shaner’s great idea to keep the fur from clumping together) and put the fur again in the water filled plastic jar. After shaking the bottle, I poured it all back onto the cloth seine and lightly rinsed again. Last, placed the fur on paper towels and patted it. Finally, my wife’s hair dryer to speed up the drying. Then I stuck it in the freezer for a week. Then removed it from the freezer and put it in my blender. Now I have a big plastic zip locked bag full of gorgeous natural, dark gray squirrel dubbing.

It is a lot of work.

I also have several other bags of blended squirrel dubbing I have purchased over the years, as well as a full red fox squirrel skin, pine squirrel skin and gray squirrel skin I have purchased too. So I really didn’t need it, I just hated to waste the animal.

I also have a mole skin that I to use with touch dubbing and Bailey's wax.

BTW, I do prefer to use natural furs for the bodies on my wet flies.

6tUc05
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Re: Shaving a vole

#6

Post by 6tUc05 »

WiFlyFisher...

The need to "freeze, nuke, etc." a skin to rid it of vermin is a myth (which I assume is why you froze it for a week) as the ONLY vermin on the skin at the time of death are "blood suckers" such as ticks and fleas; NOT fur, hair, feather eaters!. (Bird skins might have mites, also blood suckers.) As soon as the carcass gets cold, they are off looking for greener pastures. The two real culprits are clothes moths and carpet beetles, which appear to be no longer as common in a home as they once were. To preclude clothes moths from destroying clothes is why closets were once almost all cedar lined! Carpet beetles were what destroyed bear (elk, moose, deer) skin rugs. Keep these two critters out of your house and you need not worry about your tying materials. (You might be better off freezing or nuking your whole house!) I, for decades, have kept a few Whole Cloves, available in the Spice Aisle at your favorite food market, in my materials storage boxes and ALSO in my fly boxes (clothes moths have been known to get into them too) with excellent results. (Learned this trick from the owner of my local fly shop. He kept a single clove in each individual bin.)

Regards

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Marterius
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Re: Shaving a vole

#7

Post by Marterius »

I would give it a try if I were you - both skinning and shaving. Sourcing and using odd materials is so much part of the fun, and add to the lore of our craft. I avoid synthetics in fly tying as far as possible. Being a Dean at university, I need to do something completely different in my spare time and synthetic dubbing is not different enough. :)

An old hunter once showed my how a squirrel should be skinned turning the skin outside in from the head down, hardly not using the knife at all. I guess it could be the same with a vole?

Regards,
Martin

6tUc05
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Re: Shaving a vole

#8

Post by 6tUc05 »

Years ago, I discovered a large Norwegian rat had moved into my garage. Caught it in a "snap" trap within a couple of days. When I went to "pitch it", I noticed how fine, and nice, the pelt was; so, I skinned and "cured" it. You cannot tell my Adams flies tied using it from those I tied using muskrat. Wish I had the pelts from many of the field mice I caught as a boy long before getting into fly tying.

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Barleywine
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Re: Shaving a vole

#9

Post by Barleywine »

WiFlyFisher wrote:
11/19/20 15:27

I also have several other bags of blended squirrel dubbing I have purchased over the years, as well as a full red fox squirrel skin, pine squirrel skin and gray squirrel skin I have purchased too. So I really didn’t need it, I just hated to waste the animal.
Yesterday, my wife pointed out a dead squirrel on our lawn. I didn't even notice it because I was intent on casting a cane rod that had just arrived in the mail. I was so focused on the rod, that I probably wouldn't have noticed a dead goat on the lawn. My thoughts were the same as WiFlyFisher's...I didn't need it, but I didn't want the squirrel to go to waste. Before I could get some gloves and scissors, I noticed a huge red-tailed hawk sitting on a tree limb above the dead squirrel. I figured that this was a problem that was about to take care of itself, and decided not to mess with the squirrel. Besides, the hawk would've killed another squirrel if I took the bird's meal away. Next morning: no squirrel on the lawn. I think the squirrel served a higher purpose inside the hawk than it would've on one of my flies.

–Chuck

6tUc05
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Re: Shaving a vole

#10

Post by 6tUc05 »

Marterius...

FWIW, what you have described relative to skinning a squirrel by "turning the skin outside in" results in what is known as a "cased" pelt. The preferred method of skinning for pelts headed to a furrier, and is perhaps the most widely used skinning method of 'professional" trappers.

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Marterius
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Re: Shaving a vole

#11

Post by Marterius »

6tUc05 wrote:
11/21/20 10:09
Marterius...

FWIW, what you have described relative to skinning a squirrel by "turning the skin outside in" results in what is known as a "cased" pelt. The preferred method of skinning for pelts headed to a furrier, and is perhaps the most widely used skinning method of 'professional" trappers.
Thanks, and I learned a new word! :) That is also the traditional way of skinning a fox here in Sweden, trapper or not. :)

billems
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Re: Shaving a vole

#12

Post by billems »

I've heard of many kinks. But shaving a vole? I'll have to hand it to you for breaking new ground.

DUCKMANNM
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Re: Shaving a vole

#13

Post by DUCKMANNM »

I always carry a number 10 coffee can full of mothballs in the truck. I've collected many nice squirrel tails from road kills. Pop'em in the can full of moth balls, till I get home. them wrap them in plastic wrap (loosely and sealed well) and nuke'em in the microwave to kill anything that got thru the moth ball fumigation.

6tUc05
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Re: Shaving a vole

#14

Post by 6tUc05 »

With respect to how to best handle and prep mammal skins for storage and to prevent "vermin" from destroying it, and any other similar materials you might have, simply contact the Wildlife Sciences Dept. of your nearest State Agricultural College as they will have museum cases full of bird skins and animal hides from world "parts unknown". It is of utmost importance to them that the skins and hides they prepare are free of detrimental vermin. They DO NOT go to the lengths that are oft cited by flyfishers who like to collect their own "natural" tying materials. They simply "skin, scrape, salt (borax), dry, stuff, and store 'em". NO FREEZING, NUKING, etc. THEY DO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO PREVENT DAMAGIG VERMIN FROM GETTING INTO THE STOARAGE DRAWERS. The museum case drawers is when, and where the mothballs (crystals) enter the program.

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Gnome
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Re: Shaving a vole

#15

Post by Gnome »

Actually, the Smithsonian has a protocol on how to properly mount skins with fur and feathers and one step in the process is to use a soaking in a chemical that will make the skins impervious to the Museum curators bane known as the Dermestid beetle (A very large family that is spread everywhere and they are little black buggers and brown buggers, and they eat the skins). This process was used By Henry Hoffman when he was raising his flock prior to the sale to Tom Whiting. If you have any Hoffman skins that Henry produced you will see they are a washed-out almost white/cream color and they almost feel like parchment paper, this is due to the chemical treatment that Henry used and Tom Tried and abandoned while I was working at Whiting farms.

And oddly enough the Dermestid is not only the bane of museum collections they are also used by museums for specimen preparation by having them eat everything but the skeleton. Hide fur feathers and meat and connective tissues. And there is a treatment that will prevent them from eating hides and fur and feathers.

It is toxic but not as bad as the Payne bluing formula and if interested PM or call me and we can talk about it in person.

NSA PDI gnome

Perry Palin
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Re: Shaving a vole

#16

Post by Perry Palin »

Interesting thread with good comments from all sides.

I have never shaved or skinned a vole or a mouse. If I were to keep a vole I would probably skin it and dry the skin. The fur is so short, I fear I would have trouble dubbing with it. I prefer natural materials, and I have shades of muskrat that I can handle just fine.

I have dried skins from small game animals (rabbits, squirrels) and a couple of road-killed non-game animals, (woodchuck, muskrat). My best method is to scrape the fat off, stretch the skin raw side out on a short piece of 1x8 board, and hang it from the garage or barn rafters on a piece of wire so the mice can’t reach it. This is a winter thing. In the summer the skin would bring in the flies. The skins are dry in a couple of weeks and then I bag and store them with my fly tying materials. No smell or mess, no bugs.

I’ve done the same with a few ducks and some pheasants and with the capes, saddles, and breast skins of domestic hens and roosters. Same process, same result. Small game birds like grouse and quail have thin skins and I pluck the feathers I want from those.

Whole wings and bird and animal tails have a little meat and fat, and they should be hung to dry like the skins.

The freezing/nuking process is a safety measure. I haven’t done it, and I’ve gotten away without, knock on wood. I used borax for a while, but that was another kind of mess, and I stopped.

In 55 years I’ve had two minor bug infestations in my tying materials. Both were many years ago, and I found them early and didn’t lose much. Both came in with materials purchased from mail-order fly fishing vendors. It seems materials are cleaner these days.

Barleywine‘s post reminds me that when we lived in another place, in the woods, one winter I picked up about a dozen squirrel tails from the snow, including a couple of black ones, leftovers from a neighborhood hawk dining in the trees. I shot the squirrel who found his way up the side of the house to reach a bird feeder hanging above a second story balcony. Not needing another skin, I threw the dead squirrel into the woods and that evening a barred owl picked it up and ate it in a tree while we watched from the living room.

joaniebo
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Re: Shaving a vole

#17

Post by joaniebo »

While you're shaving the vole, I could use some material to tie a "Hairy Mary"! :wave

PS - Pat- say a prayer for this Beadster, there's no hope, eh?

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flyfishingpastor
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Re: Shaving a vole

#18

Post by flyfishingpastor »

Great thread! I'm enjoying the pros/cons of conservation methods AND remembering that I didn't put mine in the freezer last year like I usually do. I don't know if this helps anything or not but I usually put all my natural materials in the freezer for a couple of weeks in the summer. I've never had any problems with any of the natural materials from a "vermin" perspective.

Pat
P.S. Robert. You're always in my prayers (so is Ed) so you're covered there. And, BTW, this is the Season of Hope! I never give up on friends. I never expect them to change, but I never give up. :)

slw
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Re: Shaving a vole

#19

Post by slw »

Back to OP's question...prior to buying one of the LAW dubbing rakes years ago, I just used the pop up trimmer on my electric shaver. Worked just fine.

As to using it for twist dubbing I also found that it's just not suitable. The fur is too fine and too short. It is, however, excellent for touch bubbing. Done right it creates a "mist" of fur that creates a slight halo effect that floats around the thread. I believe it matters to the trout...sometimes. Don't ask me to prove it. ;-)

To use the shaved fur for touch dubbing, form it into small lightly felted balls with your fingers....about 1/4" diameter is about right. Apply your favorite wax to your tying thread, genlty touch the fur ball to the waxed thread, and give the thread just a hint of spin to trap the fur. Then wrap the touch dubbed thread onto the fly. Don't over do any of these steps. The whole idea is not to form a shaped body. The thread is your fly body. The mole/vole/mouse fur is just the halo.

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Silver Doctor
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Re: Shaving a vole

#20

Post by Silver Doctor »

I use the Wasatch dubbing rake and it works really well. The Law rake is superior if I compare the two but I think you can still buy the Wasatch product.

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