Now, what really gets that hide soft? Breaking it. You can hang it up a short while depending on how dry it is. Don't hang it in the sun, though and don't let it dry out completely anywhere. Dry spots will be hard spots. When it is still real damp it is time to pull it (break it). The way I like to break it is across my knees while sitting. Just put your knees together, stretch the hide over your knees, then spread your legs while keeping the hide tight across your legs, stretching the hide as your legs spread apart. Keep moving the hide around in circles and doing this till completely dry. You need to keep a hide pulling until it is completely dry. Don't let it fool you. To test for places where moisture is hiding feel for cold spots on both sides. If you can detect moisture, keep pulling. The advantage to pulling it on your knees in this manner as opposed to putting it in a rack and breaking it with a paddle is several fold:
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Some hides require much more than this though and in fact I have had to brain and stretch several hides more than once to get them to break. I do all my stretching at this time in a rack and use a variety of tools of varying sizes to work the hide. The toughness of the hide seems to vary based on several factors - time of year the deer was killed (summer and spring hides are much thinner and easier to work than fall or winter hides), size of the animal (although this theory breaks down also at times). There are those that argue that buck hides are tougher to tan than doe hides. I have not necessarily found this to be the case. I've seen some mighty thick and tough doe hides in my day.