Hunters usually discard deer hooves after a kill, but in fact they can be recycled to make attractive gun racks. Using the hooves to make a gun rack is also a way to commemorate a person’s first harvest or a special hunt. And deer hoof gun racks make nice gifts for beginning hunters.
1. Cut the front legs of the deer off at the knee joint using a hacksaw. Insert the tip of a sharp knife between the hide and bone at the cut portion of the leg. Cut the hide all the way down the backside of the leg to the hoof. Do not stop when you reach the dew claws of the deer; continue to cut all the way to the hoof.
2. Cut below the last knuckle at the hoof to sever the hoof using the hacksaw or wire cutters.
3. Peel the skin off the bone all the way down to the hoof using the knife and pulling with your hands. When you reach the dew claws, use the knife to cut the dew claws away from the leg of the deer.
4. Pull the skin back away from the hoof so as not to cut it accidentally, and cut into each hoof, freeing tendons.
5. Cover an area generously with newspaper and lay both legs with hides out flat on top of the newspaper. Cover the hides generously with non-iodized salt, paying particular attention to crevices where cuts were made around the dew claws.
6. Roll up the salted hide and then fold it up in the newspaper. Allow the hide to “cure” for 48 to 72 hours. This will draw any remaining blood and moisture from the hide.
7. Open the newspaper and unroll the hide. Cover the hides generously with non-iodized salt, paying particular attention to crevices where cuts were made around the dew claws.
8. Wash the hoof, hide and hair using regular dish liquid and water to remove the salt. Be gentle when washing the hair.
9. Put on rubber gloves and use a 3-gallon bucket to mix 1 lb. of alum with 1 gallon of warm water. Add 1 cup of non-iodized salt to the brine solution and stir until the alum and salt have completely dissolved.
10. Place hooves into the brine solution. Using a wooden spoon, stir the hooves every 15 minutes for one to two hours or until the hide no longer floats. Allow the hide and hooves to soak for at least seven days and no more than 10.
11. Remove the hooves and rinse thoroughly while wearing gloves. Thread a needle using dental floss and tie a knot at the end of the floss. Make sure you allow enough floss to complete the sewing process.
12. Fill the areas in the hoof and dew claws using taxidermy clay. Wrap the hide around the foot form and begin sewing at the hoof by inserting the needle on the underside of the hide each time, working up to the end. Position the hide on the form where the seam will be in the back.
13. Using the end of the needle, pull out any hair that gets trapped by the thread; be sure to pull the thread tight after each stitch. Tie it off once you reach the end of the form and allow it to dry completely. Remove any excess hide at the end of the form with a sharp knife or scissors.
14. Decide where you want to mount the feet onto the mounting board and drill holes in the mounting board the same diameter as the ones on the form. Insert the bolts through the holes and arrange the hooves so that the tips are upright. Tighten the nuts to the bolts to secure the hooves onto the mounting board.
15. Apply one coat of clear varnish to the hooves for gloss and shine. When completely dry, apply a second coat.