How can you help your taxidermist create the perfect mount?
You're about to go on that great hunt... your bags are packed, you've checked all of your supplies, and you've gone through all of the scenarios in your head. You think you're prepared... but how will you prepare your trophy once you get it? What should you do to be sure that your trophy is in the best possible shape when you bring it to your taxidermist, and increase your odds of getting that perfect mount?
Many hunters believe that taxidermists are magicians and can "fix anything"; it just isn't so. High powered rifles and magnum loaded shotguns can do unrepairable damage to big game animals or delicate feathered birds. The mount will only be as good as the specimen presented, so use common sense and eliminate hard feelings and misunderstandings later. Some things just can't be fixed.
Many trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death. Bacteria will attack your specimen in just a short time. Whitetails and all large game should be skinned by a competent person, leaving the head intact and a large cape. Refrigerate the head/ skin, or freeze solid. Get the specimen to the taxidermist as soon as possible.
Blood is also another troublesome agent. Blood left on white feathers or white hair may stain the specimen permanently. Wash blood off immediately with wet paper towels or anything available. The key here is immediate attention, this applies to all species, not just light colored ones.
Never cut the throat, or make any unnecessary cuts on horned or antlered game. This could virtually ruin your trophy. Always leave plenty of cape for the taxidermist to work with. The cut should always extend beyond the front leg. Consult your taxidermist for his/her preferences when it comes to skinning/caping an animal.
Photographs of fish, habitat, and anything pertinent to the desired finished mount are very important. Don't trust your memory... photograph it! This will help the taxidermist and insure you will get a mount more like you had pictured.
Smaller animals should be left intact, and never field dress birds. Simply wipe all blood from them, keep tails, feathers and fur smooth and tucked into the body. Wrap the specimen in several layers of regular freezer wrap and freeze flat or in a natural position. Specimens can also be wrapped in sturdy plastic bags after the body heat has dissipated. Squeeze out as much air as possible and close the bag tightly. Again, the animal should be shipped or taken to the taxidermist as soon as possible.
Use common sense and keep in mind the taxidermist might be good, but isn't a magician... they just can't "fix" everything. Present them with a good quality specimen and they will do their best to return a life-like professional mount!
Your first cut should be at least four inches behind the back of the front legs. Your second cuts should be around the knees of the front legs. And the third cuts should follow the long hair on the BACK of the legs and connect the first two cuts. Do not cut the arm pit area! The last cut should be to separate the head from the neck. The photo below should help you cape your trophy.