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Taxidermy Field Care Information
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1. With deer on
its back make a shallow cut through the skin just below the breastbone.
Make sure that you start your cut well away from the brisket allowing plenty
of uncut skin for your shoulder mount . Insert two fingers of the free
hand, cradling the blade, to hold the skin up and away from the entrails
2. Cut straight down
the belly and around the genitals, separating but not severing them from
the abdominal wall. Slit the belly skin all the way to pelvic bone (Figure
3. Cut deeply around
the rectum, being careful not to cut off or puncture the intestine. Pull
to make sure the rectum is separated from the tissue connecting it to the
pelvic canal. Pull the rectum out and tie string tightly around it to prevent
droppings from touching the meat. Lift the animal's back quarter a bit
reach into the front of the pelvic canal, and pull the intestine and connected
rectum into the stomach area.
you want to make a full shoulder mount, do not cut open the chest cavity.
Cut the diaphragm away from the ribs all the way to the backbone area.
Reach into the forward chest cavity, find the esophagus and windpipe, cut
them off as far up as possible (Figure C), and pull them down through the
chest. 5. Roll the deer onto its side, grab the esophagus with one hand
and the rectum / intestine with the other. Pull hard. The deer's internal
organs will come out in one big package with a minimum of mess.
Caping, the process
of skinning out a trophy animal, is best left to the taxidermist. Their
experience skinning, especially their delicate nose, mouth, eyes, and ears
is invaluable toward producing a quality mount. Damage to a hide is costly
to repair. Some types of damage simple can not be "fixed" by the taxidermist.
Many trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death. As soon as
the animal dies, bacteria begins to attack the carcass. Warm humid weather
accelerates bacteria growth. In remote areas, or areas not near your taxidermist,
a competent person may be required to cape out the hide in order to preserve
it. Every taxidermist has a preferred method of caping a hide. Contact
your taxidermist prior to your hunt in order to get instructions on their
caping requirements. However, the following techniques are generally acceptable.
Skinning Life-Size Big Game
There are two major
methods of skinning for large life size mount such as deer, elk or bear.
These methods are the flat incision and dorsal method.
The Flat Incision
The flat incision is
used for rug mounts and for a variety of poses. The areas to be cut are
shown in Figure 1. Make these slits (cutting the feet free from the carcass)
and pull the skin off the carcass. The head is detached as with the shoulder
The dorsal method of
skinning involves a long slit down the back (from the tail base up into
the neck) The carcass is skinned as it is pulled through this incision.
The feet/hooves and the head are cut off from the carcass as with shoulders
mount explained later. Only use this method with approval and detailed
instruction from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can
be frozen quickly after skinning.
If you Can't take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to
your taxidermist's specifications.
Caping for a shoulder mount
1. With a sharp
knife slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at approximately
the mid-way point of the rib cage behind the front legs. Slit the skin
around the legs just above the knees. An additional slit will be needed
from the back of the legs (Figure 2A and 2B). 2. Peel the skin forward
up to the ears and jaw exposing the head / neck junction. Cut into the
neck approximately three inches down from this junction, Circle the neck
cutting down to the spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp the
antler bases and twist the head off the neck. This should allow the hide
to be rolled up and put in a freezer until transported to the taxidermist.
These cuts should allow ample hide for the taxidermist to work with mounting.
Remember, the taxidermist can cut off excess hide but can't add what he
doesn't have. Note: When field dressing a trophy to be mounted, don't cut
into the brisket (chest) or neck area if blood gets on the hide to be mounted,
wash it off with snow or water as soon as possible. Also avoid dragging
the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, rickshaw, or
4-wheeler. The rope, rocks or a broken branch from a deadfall can easily
damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you need to drag it out with a
rope, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy carefully.
sized or smaller, should not be skinned unless by a professional. Don't
gut the animal. Small mammals, especially carnivores, will spoil quickly
because of their thin hide and bacteria. If you can't take the small game
animal immediately to a taxidermist, as soon as the carcass cools completely,
put in in a plastic bag and freeze it. With the epidemic of rabies evident
in many areas of the country take every safety measure necessary when handling
Do not gut the bird.
Rinse off and blood on the feathers with water. Take the bird immediately
to you taxidermist or freeze it. Put the bird into a plastic bag for freezing
being careful not to damage the feathers, including the tail. If the bird's
tail feathers do not fit in the bag do not bend them. Let the tail stick
out of the bag and tie the bag loosely.
Do not gut your
fish. If you can not take your fish immediately to a taxidermist, wrap
it in a very wet towel and put it in a plastic bag, making sure all the
fins are flat against the fish's body (to prevent breakage), and freeze
it. A fish frozen with this method can be kept in the freezer for months.
Note: a fish will loose its coloration shortly after being caught. A good
color photograph immediately after the catch may enable the taxidermist
to duplicate the natural color tones of that particular fish.
Always have appropriate
tags with your trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not
cut the ears for attachment. · Songbirds, Eagles, Hawks, and Owls
are protected by Federal Law and can not be mounted unless with special
Federal permit. · For situation where you are hunting with no available
taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about techniques to skin out
the entire cape (including the head) and salting the hide. This is the
only method in remote locations that can preserve your hide for later mounting.
NOTE: Because of
the various diseases that wild game can transmit to humans, always use
extreme caution when handling the carcass. Use rubber or latex gloves and
thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling.
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