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How do you skin a Gator?

Apr 27, 1999
Recently a member (Snickersnee?) mentioned alligator skinning and indicated that starting with a razor sharp knife he could skin a gator without stopping to resharpen (and he wasn't greatly concerned about high-tech blade steel). This interested me as a practical test of what's needed in a knife. I would expect aligator hide to be difficult to cut like a heavy plastic trash can. I would think that blade thickness would be an issue. (I might try something like a linoleum knife). Trying to get a cut going I would think you might want a rougher edge on that kind of hide rather than a smooth razor edge. Both the hide and the bone would test the toughness of the edge.

So anyone out there who skins gators:

How do you do it?
What do you do it with?
What is blade wear like?
Do you resharpen as you go?

"Defense against knife attack:
Option 1. If you have a gun shoot him."
I think aligator skins look much better on an aligator than on anything else so I would rather let the aligator keep his skin... Anyway, I already have my own skin.
I'm not real likely to skin any gators here in Colorado, this question just relates to how knife design influences the process and how the process affects the knife.

My family enjoyed feeding the gators when we made it down to Bayou country last year. They make surprisingly good eating too.

"Defense against knife attack:
Option 1. If you have a gun shoot him."
They made good eatting too.....
I am glad I am not in your family. Why did you feed your family to the alligators?
I skin gators about like any other animal, just on a different scale, and making exceptions for different biology. I'm better at demonstrating technique than describing, but here it goes.

Starting with a dead aligator, preferably hauled on to shore;

Make a cut all the way around the head, scutes, feet and butthole.

Make a cut from the head cut to the scute cut, from back of scutes down tail, from around feet up to scutes.

Then peel. The tail can be tricky. Some people prefer to lop off the tail entirely and worry about it later. The hide on the neck is probably the toughest. I liken it to heavy leather. I start the cuts with the serrations on my Project 1, but this is unnecessary. The cuts zip open pretty good once started.

You should be left with a naked carcass except for the skin on the head, feet, butthole, and the scutes.

Next you need to get the guts out. If you have a tree and some rope handy, you can elevate it by it's head and most will spill out. More often flip the son of a gun over and scoop out all the gore and yuckies untill you've got a nice, clean body cavity.

Then lop of the feet. I discard them. I don't eat pig feet either. Then split down to each leg joint till it's got no legs. Nothing wrong with leg meat at all.

The easiest way to get the meat of the ribs is just to cut it free. I like to keep a few ribs that still have the meat because comicaly oversized ribs are fun at bbq's. If you have to cut through the bone, do so with many individual and light hacks. Aligator bone can take extreme compression and is very tough. If you try to cut through in one whack, you will break your knife.

The meat gets weird under the scutes/back. I think it has something to do with how they make their body rigid. Perhaps Corduroy could clarify. You could probably eat it, but I'm betting it'd be tougher than hell.

So lop up the carcass into man-portable pieces, stick then in strong garbage bags, and a big cooler if you have on and away we go. When we kill a gator, we have a big get together and cookout within a few days, so it usualy gets eaten up pretty quick. I save th e head because somebody always wants a gator head. They make great door prizes. Claws too. I don't usualy resell the hide. But there's usualy somebody who wants to do something with it. I don't keep a lot of gear, so I don't mind trading it off/giving it away.

I'm going to be out of town this weekend trying out a new boar hunting tactic(keep the knife sheathed, wrestle him to the ground, then stick'em in the soft armpit of one of his front legs, this will either be a lot easier, or really, really stupid) so I won't be able to respond to any questions anybody might have. Feel free to e-mail me, and I'll get to anything posted here on Monday/Tuesday.

Take care,
Be careful wrestling hogs or you'll have a scar to remember them.Been there and have the reminder...
Thanks for the how-to Snickersnee.

So you use a Chris Reeve Project I for the job? A2 steel should handle any task well. The blade seems awfully long.

What do you sharpen the blade with? Do you leave a smooth edge or do you finish the edge a little course? How much does it get dull in the process?

Why do you wrestle hogs?

Do be careful.
Snick, either big ones or you are the dumbest person I have ever cyberknown...hope we hear from you monday without needing to plug the trodes into your ear to get brainwaves.
Snick, either big ones or you are the dumbest person I have ever cyberknown...hope we hear from you monday without needing to plug the trodes into your ear to get brainwaves.
Snick, please change your will. I think your knife collection should be auctioned off here on the forums, the proceeds will go toward your funeral expenses.
Of all the stupid things I have heard...

But doom'd and devoted by vassal and lord.
MacGregor has still both his heart and his sword!
-MacGregor's Gathering, Sir Walter Scott
I like to keep a
few ribs that still have the meat because comicaly oversized ribs are fun at bbq's.

Now that is truly a great idea. LOL!


There's more than one way to skin a cat!

I am truly touched to see how many of you care about me. I feel loved...

You wouldn't get much money from my knife collection. I only own two knives. Well, maybe you guys'd pay real high prices, on account of sentimental feelings for you old pal.

As to wrestling boar, well I had some sucess and some failure.

I found one(small, maybe 20" at the shoulder) I wrestled it, and it got away. I didn't do my usualy trick with the arrow. The idea was to run it into the water instead. Which has worked in the past, but not this time. I wouldn't want to do this on a big animal. That much I've learned. I may try again.

Yeah, I've been doing this awhile too. Trying to get in touch with my ancestral predatory roots. To learn more about myself and what it was like for early humans. Yup. I've got a scar.

Mostly it's not a big deal though. Just small cuts and scratches that heal well. Once I've got their hind legs/on their back it's over pretty quick. While the hunt must be primitive, it must not be cruel.

The Project 1 isn't big at all for a job like this, in fact I wish it was a bit longer. Remember, you can't legally shoot aligators;

To get one you must first harpoon it, let it wear itself out and get tangled up in your line(preferable with a stainless steel cable leader of at least 15-20ft, which is affixed to a bouy with has a rope that is attached to your boat, or a tree if you're hunting from the shore), drag it to the surface, get it's jaws shut and ducktape them, and then cut it's spinal cord. Quite an ordeal. I've fallen into the water a few times. A harrowing experience to say the least...

Anyway, the knife splits the spinal cord, it has to have some size. A2 is good steel. At various times I've used most every tool and carbon steel, and probably some 4xx stainless too. The main thing is you need a stout knife that can be sharpened.

Speaking of which, I sharpen on a six-inch long diamond stone of unknown manufacture. I bought it a year ago in a backwards town outside Altoona in Ace Hardware on my way to the gun range in Ocala Park while living in Orlando. I got it for my folder really, I like a stone as big or bigger than the blade for sharpening. I was still using an Arkansas stone, but wanted to try diamond because they are obviously tougher. I stripped off the wooden base to make it thin too. I tried ceramic, of of the SpyderCo jobs, but I broke it the first time out with it. I don't know how. It happened while still in my pack. Note that I subject my gear to harsh treatment as a matter of course, it'd probably be strong enough for regular use.

I don't really do anything special to the edge. Just make it "shaving sharp". The knife is definately in need of resharpening after doing a thousand-pound+ gator. It's not so bad on a smaller one though. Just needs a little touching up.

Somebody mentioned skinning with machetes. Yeah, I think you could use anything if you wanted to make it work. There's an outfit in Miami that makes high-end machetes. I have wanted to check them out and maybe get one for some time now, but only recently scraped the money together. I hear they're having legal trouble nowadays, Busch beer trying to sue them out of existance over some stupid ad art issue. Oh well. I do want to get a good machete someday. I don't really like the asthetics of the Ontario ones. I really like cocobolo, maybe if I rehandled... Anyway, it'd round out my collection; pocket-length, belt-length, sword-length. Besides, it'd be real handy.
I've got to ask some folks about the alligator physiology to answer your question, Snickersnee. I just got lucky knowing that one on the shark cartilage (did you see that response?)

I'm awfully impressed by this thread. Now this is hard field use of a knife! Snickersnee, if you'd risk using anything besides the Project I, I'll bet you could get some nice knives for free by offering to field-test for makers. I know you've got me interested, anyhow.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
I gotta ask: What does gator meat taste like?


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