When skinning an elk, the way you will go about it depends on where the activity will take place. For example if you plan to skin it in the field and it is a large bull it is going to be impossible to hang it. You can skin it on the ground. The elk should be field dressed at this point. It should be cut from the larynx all the way down to the vent (anus).
Start above the knee joints and cut completely around the leg. Make sure you only go skin deep. You don’t want to cut any of the tendons during this process. Next you want to start on the inside of the leg. Cut down towards the vent. Repeat this for the other side too. Cut around the vent and through the bone of the tail. This should free the skin from the rear.
You are going to repeat that process for the front legs of the elk. Cutting around the front legs and then down towards the top of the cut that was made when the animal was field dressed. Roll the elk onto either side. You won’t have too much cutting to do if you have plenty of help with peeling the skin. If you get any connected tissue just cut enough to remove the skin from the meat of the elk.
After you have successfully skinned the elk on one side, you can roll the elk over onto the loose skin. Repeat the process. After these steps have been completed you can cut around the head or the neck area. This will completely remove the skin from the body.
During this process, you want to be very careful. You don’t want to get any foreign contaminants on the meat. You also don’t want to get such substances inside of the elk’s cavity.
If you are lucky enough to have a place to hang the elk, you can cut through the skin on the rear legs. Stay as close to the knee joints as you can. Using ropes or meat hooks through the bones in the legs you will be able to raise the animal off the ground. Cut down the insides of the legs and around the vent. This process will allow you to start pulling downward on the skin.
Let’s not forget the bone in the tail. With the animal already being field dressed, you will be able to pull the skin and only need your knife when there are strong connecting tissues in place. Make sure to cut this as close to the skin as possible. By pulling and only cutting when necessary you can work your way down the body.
There will be lots of smaller hand work around the front legs to deal with. When you get to the neck you can stop there and remove the skin. The other option is to peel the skin further and remove the head with the skin still in tact. This is probably the easiest way to skin an elk.
If you plan on using the skin as a cape or selling it then you need to do a very clean and professional looking job. You need to be careful to only make cuts in the skin along differently colored hair lines. This will allow a taxidermist to re-stitch the skin with a seamless appearance.
Make sure you have a good quality skinning knife to do this work with. The sharper it is the better it will work. Don’t get discouraged as you skin an elk as it can take a long time to complete the process. The first time can be a rough learning experience. However, skinning an elk is like riding a bike – once you learn you will get better at it and faster.
For your first try, you should anticipate at least 2 hours for the process. Even though it may seem like it is taking a long time, you are going to save money. Processors charge $125 or more to skin a large elk.