The joy of bagging a hunting trophy quickly leaves if your taxidermist tells you the animal is too damaged to mount. Animal hides are very delicate, and improper care immediately after the kill lessens the chance of a successful mounting. However, there are steps that you can take in the field to make the process easier. To preserve your favorite hunting trophies, follow these tips for better taxidermy.
- Knife—You’ll want one that’s sharp enough to cut the hide, but small enough that you can maneuver for precise cuts.
- Pickling Salt—For deer you need 12-15 lbs. and for larger game 15-20 lbs.
- Burlap Sack—Use burlap for storage instead of plastic, because burlap allows the hide to breathe and doesn’t trap heat.
- Freezer—It needs to be large enough for the hide and plenty of ice.
Before The Hunt
- Contact A Taxidermist—You need to know exactly what condition the taxidermist wants the hide to be in before taking it to the shop. Communicating with a professional before you leave for the field will eliminate confusion for things like: whether or not you need to remove the hide around the skull; how much of a cape you need to leave for mounting; and other details that affect the quality of the finished product.
- Learn The Skinning Diagram—If you only plan to stay in the field for a day or two and you freeze the carcass properly, your taxidermist should be able to perform all of the necessary skinning. For longer trips, you’ll have to skin the animal yourself. Skinning diagrams for they prey you’re hunting will show you exactly where to make your cuts to maximize the amount of hide, and preserve the integrity of the hide’s shape. Field dressing your animal also prevents hair slipping, which creates bald spots on the hide.
The kind of shots you take will have an impact on whether your carcass will make a good trophy. Click here to read about Bow Shots to Avoid.
After The Kill
- Make Your Cuts—Take your time and use your diagram to make the proper cuts. You’ll need to leave about 6-8 inches of extra flesh in the cape for shoulder and head mounted trophies, but the amount varies by taxidermist.
- Clean The Hide—It’s important to remove as much of the fat and skin from the hide as you can, as well as all of the blood. Doing so eliminates places where bacteria can grow on the hide.
- Cover In Salt—Sprinkle the hide liberally with your pickling salt, covering every inch of the hide. After the salt absorbs any visible fluids, remove the salt and start the process over again. Deer and other large game will take at least three coats to complete the process, so make sure you bring plenty of salt with you.
- Dry In Burlap—Choose a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to dry your hide. This will take a couple of hours, but makes freezing the hide easier. It’s important to note that you want to remove excess moisture from the hide, but you don’t want it to become completely dry to the touch. Overly dry hides are almost impossible to work with, and could destroy your trophy before you make it to the taxidermist.
- Freeze—Finally, place the hide in your freezer until you are ready to take it to your taxidermy professional.
Taxidermy is an involved process that takes several months to complete, especially at the height of the hunting season, so don’t be upset if your taxidermist quotes a six month waiting period.
Taking the right steps before and during your hunt ensures that your prized kill will make a beautiful trophy that you can be proud to display.