4. This is where I hang the possum up, but other folks may not bother. Hanging it helps to keep the meat clean, and it enables me to work at a comfortable height. I take a loop around one back leg. This can be tied, but I have a hook on the end of my rope that simply hooks back on the main rope to form a noose.
5. Grab the skin at the cut just above the pouch/testicle area. Pull it down. Work your fingers down between the skin and the carcase to part as much of the skin from the body as you easily can.
6. Work the skin off the back legs with thumbs/fingers. When there is a decent flap of detatched skin, I can grab the flap and pull it carefully to ease more skin off the legs. I have to make sure that not too much pull is exerted down through the cut edge of the skin as it gets close to the tail....it is fairly easy to rip the skin if it is pulled too hard. It is best to pull with a folded up bit of the skin that is well away from the edge (Hmmm...we really need a photo to explain this better). I sometimes bend each leg to make the knee stick out as I pull the skin off the legs.
7. With most of the skin pulled off the back legs, I work my thumbs in under the skin at the top of the legs across the back until I have a clear 'tunnel' right across the back that I can hook a couple of fingers under. This can be the hardest part of the operation. Sometimes when my thumbs have had enough of this hard work, I've forced the rounded end of my thin plastic pocketknife handle under the skin...but my thumbs (with thumbnails) seem to work better.
8. Standing behind the possum with its tail facing me, I grasp the loose skin on both sides of the tail and pull it gently back toward me. I often will pull in a rocking motion, pulling harder with one hand then the other. When the skin has come off a bit this way, I then slide two fingers of one hand under the tunnel I made in the previous step and pull up toward the tail. I may alternate pulling the skin above the tail, then the skin below the tail a couple of times until the skin comes away from the base of the tail completely. I continue this until the skin pops off the end of the poo tube.
9. Next a rope is hitched around the tail. Pulling the hitch tight, I pull the rope down with one hand, and the other hand lightly grips the hitch around the tail and also pulls down. The tail skin generally comes off fairly easily this way. Sometimes when the skin seems to be particularly stuck, the tail wants to pull right off the animal.... so I take my hanging rope and hitch it around the base of the tail instead of the leg. I make my hitch in the tail stripping rope by doubling the rope. I pass the 'eye' end of the doubled rope around the tail, then pass the two 'tail ends' of the rope through the eye to form what I think is called a cow hitch.
10. The skin can now be pulled right off the body of some animals. Other times it is necessary to stop when you get to the front legs. Sometimes, if insufficient skin has been 'thumbed' away from the belly for a start, the whole belly skin can rip and the guts spill out.
11. The skin can be worked off the front legs one at a time
12. Head skins seem to rip easily at times. I find it is often best to grab the headskin at each side and pull gradually with both hands.
2. Bending the tail downwards I cut across the tail at the base through the various tubes etc down to the tail bone. I move my knife along until I find a suitable joint, then force the blade through it. I twist the tail to break it away, and cut through the remaining tissue to completely remove the tail. At the base of the tail, buried in the tissue and maybe some fat, are a pair of glands which hold a thick, white, stinking fluid. Mostly I don't even see these glands, but if they are cut or squashed and the smelly goo gets on the meat, it may not taste too good. So if you are new to this, it might be best to actually find these glands to ensure that they are removed.
3. The possum is generally hanging by one leg at this stage. I cut through the knee joint of the 'free' leg and discard the lower part.
4. I then cut off the belly flap down each side of the back to the rib cage. Mostly this just rips away, but the knife is necessary to start the job. As I do this, I grab the poo tube and the tube above the bladder up by the pelvis and carefully pull them downwards out of the pelvic cavity. This generally leaves a nice clean hole right through the pelvis. The bladder and colon can then hang below the good meat and it doesn't matter if they 'leak'. I generally don't bother to remove the guts completely from the carcase because I mostly just keep the back half of the animal. But if you think the front half is worth saving, then you'll want to pull the guts right out. Practice makes perfect.
5. I cut through the backbone at the beginning of the ribs and discard the front part of the animal along with the attached guts. If the front legs looked good to take home, I would cut them off the body first.
6. Often a lot of fur will have stuck to the meat. I scrape as much of this off as I can before I cut through the remaining back knee joint. I try to remove any remaining fur when I get home by rubbing at the surface of the meat while running it under a stream of tap water. I carry clean plastic bags for the meat intended for the table.
I could catch a possum a night from our property in my live capture cage, but I dont know how to kill them once I catch them. I dont have a gun, and dont fancy putting my hand into the cage to pull it out and knock it on the head just in case it decides to climb me like a tree with those sharp claws. I want to live capture for the fur to sell and the meat for the dogs. Also, I saw a post saying someone cooks the possums for the chooks. I thought I would give remains to chooks - but why cook it? Is it a health reason or personal? It looks like free protein to me. I have also heard of people putting remains in a bucket with holes in the bottom so the flies can blow it and the maggots fall out the holes in the bucket and the chooks eat them. Maybe it will attract flies out of house towards the stinky possum carcass but stinky is not cool to live with:(
I am really motivated to use the resource on my back doorstep, possum, but NEED an easy kill method. Please help. As we have cats and small dogs, I dont want to use leg traps.
I'm not too sure of the latest rules, but I think it is possible to own a reasonably powerful air rifle without having to go to the trouble of obtaining a firearms licence. The Police or your local gun shop should be able to point you in the right direction. Shooting an air rifle pellet directly downwards into the top of the possum's head should do the trick, although you might have to be prepared to shoot more than once. You might be able to get a good second-hand air rifle at a reasonable price.
If you aren't squeamish, you could improvise a slender spear to thrust into the possum through the bars of the cage, although I imagine that any 'save the animals' people reading this will be horrified. However in nature animals kill other animals with nothing more than sharp teeth and claws... and a decent spear thrust into the possum between the shoulder blades will end things reasonably quickly. The blade of the spear should be very sharp and at least two centimetres wide to ensure that the animal will bleed freely. To be effective, the spear should penetrate the heart/lung area.
A rifle is a more civilized method. Perhaps your neighbor has one and might feel inclined to help you (provided that it is safe to do so.... and provided that you live in an area where it is appropriate to use a firearm).
You can boldly pull a possum from a cage trap by the tail and clunk it on the head, but this operation may not go well.... especially if you are lacking confidence or practice. If you do want to try this, I suggest using a heavy stick about 60 cm long rather than trying to be accurate with a hammer or axe. The club has to hit the top or the back of the skull to be quickly effective. Be prepared to swing your club more than once, especially if the first shot doesn't go where it should.
I've never tried it, but you could try getting a big sack and holding it over the cage while you open the door. The possum can then be tipped into the sack. The mouth of the sack is then bunched together to stop its escape .... and you can then judge where the head is to clobber it with your club.
Some professional trappers have a wire cable noose fixed firmly to a pole which they use to catch animals around the neck so that they can be removed from cages etc. The noose might be fixed directly to the end of the pole.... or the noose cable may pass down through a hollow pole so that it can be pulled and tightened from the operators end of the pole. I've never used one. You'd need to think about how you'd use such a pole with your particular cage. You'd have to snare the possum with the noose, then open the cage door and push or pull the possum outside where it could be clubbed. Your pole would have to be narrow enough to fit between the cage bars.
You could immerse the whole cage in a drum of water and drown the animal, but frankly I detest this method. I don't think it is a nice option.
If I were you, I'd be inclined to buy myself a Timms trap. These are traps that the possum sticks his head into to get at the bait.... and they are designed to kill the possum.
I would boil up the possums I fed to the chooks. That way they could pick meat off the bones in swallowable chunks a lot easier. You could try just skinning the possum and giving it to the chooks, but I think that it would be likely to dry up in the sun and become very hard to eat.... especially for toothless chooks. The possum might eventually rot and get soft, but there'll be a helluva stink and you might find that the rotten meat causes the eggs to become tainted. Yuk.
Because you have cats and dogs, you might have to be careful where you set the Timms trap. There are other kill traps available as well as the Timms. Your local farm supply store or local body might have info on these. Some can be set up in trees. DOC may be able to advise you on the safe use of Timms and other traps.
It is good you want to harvest possums. I think they are a great resource.
I'm sure that if you proceed with the harvest, it will be interesting to read about. Please keep us informed!! Best wishes from Nelson..... Coote.
Thanks so much for your reply. You gave lots of good advice and I will try the air rifle idea first. I can easily put it right up close to the possums head. My only worry is if I miss and the bullet hits the metal cage and ricochets back to me!!! The sack idea sounds really good too as it is something I can do and it is obvious where the head will be and as the possum will be contained, I can take my time to make it a good shot with a heavy club so that it dies immediately. I agree that in nature, animals kill each other much more slowly and cruelly.
Like you, I would not drown it, that is a slow scary death for a mammal.
I wish there was a stun gun out there, then I could stun it, then pull it out and knock it on the head with a death blow....
I do want to collect the fur, so want to do a live kill instead of the tims trap. It feels a better use of the possum resource. After a couple of weeks of free meat, and collecting fur I am sure I would be close to buying a gun.
Thanks again and I will keep you posted
Yes.... if you want to save the fur, then you are right about not using a kill trap. I've plucked cold, dead possums... but it is very hard work. Some were nearly impossible to pluck.
Also, a cage trap is the safest option if you have pets.
I don't think you are likely to get many ricochets if you put the gun barrel through the top of the cage and close to the possum. However I have experienced the occasional air rifle ricochet.... I once hit an old tyre with a pellet and it came back and hit me on the ear in line with my eye. Perhaps you could wear a pair of safety glasses.
I look forward to reading more.
OMG - lucky it wasnt your eye!! Did you damage your ear - these days kids purposefully make big holes in there earlopes LOL - not going there.....
It was a good lesson for me. I don't recall any blood or lasting damage.... but it was maybe forty years or more ago.
A while back I made a couple of 'traditional' box traps to see if I could catch rabbits in a neighbour's garden. I didnt get any bunnies, but I did catch a possum. With the shape of the trap and the way the possum was facing the light through the bars at the end of the cage, it was relatively easy to pull it out by the tail and klunk it. Here are some pictures of the rabbit traps, or rabbit 'gums' as they've been called: