Spence & Sam -
Soap can cure the hide quickly and fairly easily, but the problem is it also cures the fur/feathers at the same time. Besides stripping all the natural oils with strong soap, the boiling water the method employs does bad things to the hair fibers/feather barbules, too. Curling hackle barbules and drying out material a few times this way savvied me up. IMO, dishwashing soap (Dawn is a good one) is best used for degreasing and cleaning hides/necks prior to throwing cured hunks of hide into a dye bath.
Dry methods are best because they cure the hide, but leave the stuff we care about alone. The method I use is simple, cheap, maintains optimal material quality and leaves you with fairly supple and even fully tanned hides if you want to do the extra steps - not garment quality but perfect for fly tying. If done properly, the hide won't ever get funky and the hair/feathers won't slip. I've got a few necks and strips of fur that are at least 30 years old and still going strong. I've done hundreds of critters this way over the years with excellent results. There are several ways to skin the cat ;), but here's what I do.
1. Begin with a pegged and fleshed hide hair/feather down. Cover with salt. Don't rub it in, just spread and firmly pat. You want to draw the excess fat and moisture out not impregnate it (that comes later). It should completely cover the hide deep enough so that the salt's surface is completely dry. You will need to sprinkle more on the wet spots after a few hours on the moist spots.
2. Brush off the salt after a day or two & re-flesh before the residual turns to jerky and becomes exponentially more difficult to remove. Reapply salt as before. I'll do this several times, the number depending on the critter.
3. At some point (when the hide is dried out) I'll rinse the salt off with a hose and brush and then rub borax into the wet hide. Be aggressive with the rubbing and liberal with the borax. When the hide has absorbed as much as you think it will, add and rub some more. The last step at this stage is to add a layer as was done with the salt. Again, add more later to the wet spots. As with the salt, you will have to brush off the old and reapply again. I've never had to do this more than once.
4. When it is fully dried, shake off the excess (don't brush it this time) and store the cured hide in a bug free zone. BTW, leave it pegged if you have room.
In leu of step 4, the hide can be brushed clean, trimmed, rubbed with a little neatsfoot oil and cut into squares for immediate use. The reason for step 4 is aging in storage for awhile further degrades the saccharides in the hide. This is so it can better absorb the oil or be brain tanned. Working strips of tanned hide over a rounded object with a shoe polishing motion leaves it beautifully supple (not fluffy soft). Supple is easier to work with most of the time. I don't like garment soft because it is harder to work with. Brain tanning fresh hides without drying in salt or borax first will produce better results with less steps but you have to get on it right away and is too labor intensive. If you live in cold country you can leave them in a safe place frozen until you have time I suppose, but I'd worry about mice or other critters getting to them first.
There's more to it than can be covered in a single post, so ask away if you are interested, Sam.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman