Hunting and fishing season are upon us and we are all hoping to harvest the trophy of a lifetime. For many of you this will lead you to a taxidermist to preserve that trophy forever. The steps you take after the kill will determine the quality of the finished mount. The following tips should help you to avoid any problems when you arrive at the taxidermist with your trophy.
Large and Small Mammals
The most important thing to remember is to cool down the carcass as soon as possible. This is of great importance during the early bow season and bear season.
Excess exposure to heat can cause irreversible damage. Once this happens, there is nothing even the most experienced taxidermist can do. Upon killing the animal, field dress it in the usual manner. Do not cut the throat and do not split the brisket past the armpit area. Small mammals should not be field dressed. They can be bagged and frozen at this point. On large mammals, if you are considering a full mount, remove the viscera only and leave all other body parts intact.
You must be careful dragging your animal out of the woods. The hair is easily damaged. The best way to remove them is to wrap them in a tarp before dragging or remove them with an all terrain vehicle. When you get home, wipe off any excess blood and dirt. A quick rinse with cold water is okay, but don’t soak the animal.
When you arrive at the butchers, inform them that you want to mount the animal. The carcass should be kept in a cooler and processed within two or three days of the harvest date. Even if temperatures are near freezing, you should not let the carcass hang more than a few days.
Many butchers prefer to split deer and moose capes up the back of the neck. It is best not to do this as it is often improperly done and results in additional repair costs later. The skin should be rolled down the neck during skinning until you reach the skull neck junction. The head is then severed, taking care not to cut the hide. If you cannot get to a taxidermist immediately, double bag, removing as much air as possible, and freeze.
The most important step to having a beautiful mount begins the moment you shoot your birds. Birds must be handled carefully; the feathers can be damaged very easily. If you are hunting with a dog, take the bird away from them immediately. Once you have the bird in hand, remove any excess blood and debris.
Do not field dress the bird. The best way to protect your bird is to slip it into a pair of pantyhose or a sock. This will hold the feathers tightly against the body, preventing damage. If this is not possible, they can be wrapped in a shirt or slipped carefully into a pocket. With pheasants, grouse, and turkeys take care not to damage or bend the tail feathers, and as with any specimen, they can be placed in a bag. Seal the bag first, removing as much air as possible. The bird can then be put on ice or frozen in a freezer. A properly packaged bird can remain frozen for as much as a year with no ill effects.
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Photo: North American Bear Center (top)