Catching fish on hand-tied flies can be extremely rewarding but imagine using a hand-tied fly with homemade rabbit strips… that’s next-level cool. There are a few ways to make your own rabbit zonker strips that range from easy to difficult. The easiest option is to purchase tanned rabbit pelts and cut strips out of them. The more complex option is to use a non-tanned pelt and tan it yourself. Although time-consuming, it can be a rewarding process.
How to Tan a Rabbit Pelt
I went hunting a few months ago and got some rabbits with the interest of making rabbit strips. Once the pelts were cleaned I got some tanning solution and followed the instructions on the back of the bottle. It involved a considerable amount of salt and a couple of weeks of processing them but it turned out decent.
Steps for the Tanning Solution I used:
- Rub table salt into the flesh side of pelts and fold over. Let sit for 24 hours.
- Scrape salt off and repeat step 1.
- Scrape salt off and make a salt bath using 1/2 lb of table salt per gallon of hot water. Let the salt bath cool and add immerse rabbit pelts for 6-8 hours.
- Remove pelts from the salt bath and rinse in clean water. Hang them to dry for a couple of days but check them periodically because you don’t want them to get stiff. (I waited too long and they got a bit stiff so I had to put water on the pelts)Once the skin is mainly dry but still moist and flexible, add the tanning solution. Heat the bottle in warm water and apply it to flesh using gloves or a paintbrush. Rub the solution into the skin and fold pelts onto themselves. Let dry for 2-3 days.
- If the skin is still stiff add water to pelts and repeat step 5.
It was my first time using this solution and I thought it worked fairly well. I would suggest getting a solution from your local sporting goods supply store. There are other tanning processes that use eggs or other non-solution remedies.
How to make the Rabbit Zonker Strips
This part is easy, all you need to do is take the tanned hide and cut it into appropriate sized strips for the fly you want to make. The best part about using full pelts is that the strips easily cater to whatever is being created.
Show us your Zonker creations in the comments!