Skunk Hair Club
By Rob Hood
If you have ever done anything that is completely repulsive to your friends and actually enjoyed it, you may be interested to know that you might be eligible to join an unofficial club Michael Baughman and I started several years ago.
We called it the Skunk Hair Club. Baughman is a serious fly fisherman, and his seriousness about tying his own flies reminds me of my own fondness for creating bass lures unlike those you can buy in a store.
One year while hunting for quail near Breckenridge Texas, a bundle of black and white fur in the grass caught our attention. My hunting buddies quickly identified it as a dead skunk. What I saw, however, was something else, a source for the black and white hair I wanted to use for tying quarter-ounce jigs that I had been using to catch bass.
The long, coarse hair of a skunk, I surmised, would be much more buoyant than deer hair. So, I quickly grabbed a pair of game shears we use for cleaning quail and snipped off the tail of the dead skunk. The deed, I might add, was accomplished under extremely harsh criticism from my companions.
In all honesty, the skunk really didn't smell all that bad, especially when compared to the road kills I have checked out on previous trips. Road kills usually are too smashed and too odorous. This one was in pretty good shape for a dead skunk.
One thing I have learned about the art of cutting off the tail of a dead skunk is that it really doesn't take very long to complete the task providing you have a very sharp knife or pair of game shears, are experienced at holding you breath, and are gentle.
In other words, you don't just rush up and whack off the skunk's tail unless you are willing to pay the penalty. No one knows that better than Baughman, who became the second member of the Skunk Hair Club by passing its initiation test one morning on a fly fishing trip to Colorado.
Baughman, who saw one of my skunk hair jigs catch a bass, realized the qualities of skunk hair for his streamer trout flies and, when he spotted a dead skunk on the side of the road, he stopped his truck, pulled out his pocket knife and went to work.
Unfortunately, Baughman had a good idea, but he didn't have a sharp pocket knife, which made the process slow. There wasn't much odor at first, but it quickly began to worsen.
Finally, Baughman couldn't hold his breath any longer. He sprinted about 20 yards, took a big gulp of fresh air and then went back to the skunk.
There really aren't any rules one must follow to successfully pass the skunk hair cutting test. A tail in hand is all you need. But, if the chore was to be graded, Baughman would have gotten a 70, at best, because he forgot one important part of the procedure, to be gentle.
When he rushed back to the skunk and jerked the tail up to finish the task, a jet of spray hit him square in the face, chest, and pants just as the tail severed. Unfortunately, Baughman was a long way from anywhere. The air was cold and the odor increased by the minute. His eyes even began to water.
Chilled, he turned on his truck's heater, but that didn't last long. It just made the smell worse. His only recourse was to continue driving and occasionally stick his head out the window for fresh air. That option, however, was abandoned a short while later. It was just too cold to keep his head outside the window for very long, and there was that repulsive odor.
Somewhere, in an unofficial Skunk Hair Club meeting, Baughman remembered hearing something about tomato juice being great for removing skunk odor. When he reached the nearest town, he bought six cans of tomato juice, drove to a deserted forest service campground, stripped naked and poured the tomato juice over his head, neck and shirt.
Baughman waited for the effect, but there was none. And, when he looked around the campground, he discovered there was no water. His hair and skin now were a reddish color. He now knew what a skunk that had taken a bath in tomato juice would smell like.
Back on the road again, Baughman discovered the smell was becoming too wretched. He stopped again, took off all of his clothes except his underwear and threw them in a roadside park trash barrel.
Twenty miles further down the road, his left rear tire blew out. He grabbed a pair of chest waders from his back seat, slipped them on and began to change the tire. He said several passersby stopped to see if he needed help, took a whiff and drove on. Finally, he got the tire changed and reached home.
It was two days before Baughman's wife let him sit at the dinner table, and it was three days before his dog stopped barking at him.
A mutual friend, although not a member of the Skunk Hair Club, told me Baughman went right out and bought a new pocket knife and a knife sharpening stone. I was glad to hear that, because if the skunk hair works on bass, I'm sure it will work on trout too. And, besides, I hate to see any fisherman give up a good idea.