How to Grade and Size Wild Fur [VIDEO]

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Fur buyers will grade your furs and measure them before they buy them. When many of us look at market reports to see what fur is bringing, it can be difficult to know exactly what everything means. For example, a coon could be graded as a Grade I and sized at an XXL and will bring $22 from the fur buyer. This sounds (and often is) confusing.

Nobody knows what fur prices will bring, but hopes are high they will open close to where they closed last year. Having the best and biggest well-handled furs will bring you the most money. In this article, I will first define fur-grading terms and then will help you learn how to size your animals just like the pros do.

What is “green” fur? This phrase describes properly skinned, rolled flesh in/fur out, and kept frozen until time to sell. If you’re selling green fur, it’s best not to take it out of the freezer until 24 hours before selling. The fur needs to be thawed enough to be properly graded, but still fresh enough that it doesn’t spoil and can be quickly put up by the buyer. If you take it out of the freezer too long before selling, there’s a good chance it will taint and you won’t be able to sell it.

What is “finished” fur? This refers to hides that have been properly scraped (not too much, not too little), stretched on a proper-sized board, and completely dried. If you plan to finish your own fur before selling, make sure you know how to do it right. While properly handled fur will bring you more money, poorly handled fur is almost worthless. YouTube is a good way to learn the proper techniques, and there are many books and DVDs available to buy on this subject. Also, there are people willing to put your fur up for you for a small fee. I know a guy who will do a coon for $2, muskrat for $0.65, and all other fur for a minimal price. This is well worth the price if you don’t have the time or knowledge to do it yourself.

What does “in the round” mean? This is an animal that has not been skinned. Make sure you have a buyer before you plan on selling your fur this way.

What does “well-handled fur” mean? We use to describe a situation in which you have skinned an animal less than 24 hours after catching it, and cleaned all the mud, dirt, or burs from the fur. It also means that if you decide to finish the hide completely, you do not over scrape or under scrape it, and that you also stretch it to the proper width and shape.

GRADING

Raccoon
Grade I: Prime pelt, allowing one imperfection or small hole. Width no less than 5 ¼ inches across the shoulder area and 7 inches across base. The leather will have a creamy color, not blue or slate. The fur will have a black/silver appearance, not yellow or solid black.
Grade II: Just like the “I” grade, except with a solid yellow or black color to its fur. Pelts with a good silver/black color will get an “II” grade if they two or three small imperfections or holes. Also, pelts that have good fur, but a “slate” appearance to the leather may also fall into this grade.
Grade III: Pelts, which are generally prime but have several imperfections (3 or more) such as tick bites or small holes.
Grade IV: Pelts, which are unprimed or badly damaged. Coons caught very early in the season or very late in the season often fall into this grade. The leather is blue in color. Little commercial value.

Muskrat
Grade I: Thick fur, leather is creamy to reddish, pliable texture. Good guard hair and ample under fur. Nor damage or imperfections.
Grade II: Just like the “I” grade, but with one very slight blemish.
Grade III: Flat appearance to the fur, or 2 slight holes.
Grade IV: Very little guard hair and little under fur. Three or more damaged areas or small holes.

Mink
Grade I/II: Prime with white or creamy leather. Long guard hair, dense under fur. Red saddle should be visible.
Grade III: Good quality fur, but having some tick bites or scars. Guard hair is shorter and less dense.
Grade IV: weak or broken appearance in fur and leather. Lacks density and coverage. Leather is slate or dark blue in color.

Coyote
Grade I: No damage, prime fur, good guard hair and under fur.
Grade II: A pelt having little damage, but still has guard hair and under fur with no rub marks.
Grade III: Decent fur, but with 1 small rub mark or 2 small holes.
Grade IV: Pelt with large holes, cuts or fur slippage.

Fox
Grade I: Free of imperfections or holes. Good under fur and nice guard hair.
Grade II: Almost as good as an “I”. Slight variation in quality, but not enough to notice.
Grade III: Average pelts showing weakness in the flank and neck areas.
Grade IV: Poor quality pelt, having little guard hair. Little or no commercial value. Badly damaged, badly rubbed pelts.

Beaver
Fully prime under fur is 0.8” – 1.2” long in the kidney region. In comparison, the guard hairs are stiff, thick and long, gradually widening at the distal end and tapering to the tip. The guard hairs are 2.0” – 2.4” long when fully grown, and range in color from black to reddish.
Grade I and II: Good to average quality. Leather may be prime or of a slight blue color and may have minor blemishes.
Grade III: Flat quality. Fur is weak or loose density, fully covered. Leather color may range from clear to blue. May have more blemishes or imperfection than “I”. May have up to 3 small imperfections.
Grade IV: Fur has very weak/loose density. May have more blemishes or imperfections than “III”. Usually late spring skins or early skins. Four to 6 small imperfections, or up to 3 larger imperfections.

Opossum
Grade I: Prime pelt with good guard hair and under fur having no damaged areas.
Grade II: Prime pelts having one small hole or bite.
Grade III: Two small damages. Also, opossum with black fur go into this category.
Grade IV: Three or more damages. Little value.

STANDARD SIZES

Raccoon – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
SIZE LENGTH
5XL Over 38”
4XL 35” – 38”
3XL 32” – 35”
2XL 29” – 32”
XL 27” – 29”
LGE 24” – 27”
LM 22” – 24”
MED 20” – 22”
SML Under 20”

Muskrat – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
3XL Over 17”
2XL 15 ½” – 17”
XL 14” – 15 ½”
LGE 12 ½” – 14”
MED 11” – 12 ½”
SML 9 ½” – 11”
XSM Under 9 ½”

Mink (Male) – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
XL – L Over 21”
LM 19” – 21”
(Smaller males sized with females)

Mink (Female)
MED Over 17”
SML Under 17”

Coyote – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
2XL Over 42”
XL – L 36” – 42”
M –SM Under 36”

Fox – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
XL –L Over 28”
M – SM Under 28”

Beaver – Size is measured by adding the length and the width. For the length measurement, go from the ears to the base. For the width measurement, go from the widest point.
2XL – 3XL Over 65”
XL 60” – 65”
L 55” – 60”
LM 51” – 55”
MED 47” – 51”
SM 42” – 47”
XSM Under 42”

Opossum – Size is measured from the tip of the nose to the highest point at the base.
4XL Over 26”
3XL 24” – 26”
2XL 22” – 24”
XL/LGE 18” – 22”
M-SM Under 18”

Nobody can predict the grade and size of the animal they catch or shoot, but I hope this advice will help you know what you have to sell before you take it to your buyer. Also, this will help protect you if your buyer tries to shortchange you by telling you that you have a lesser fur than you actually do.

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Jason Houser
Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.

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