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 Care of your Trophy before you go to the Taxidermist 

          Rochester area Taxidermist

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It is imperative that you get a taxidermist lined up quickly after your trophy kill.  Click here to get a list of Washington State Taxidermists <click>

Butchers/Game Processing link

Things to remember when taking the shot

  • Remember that a truly dead big game animal will die with eyes open!  An elk or deer with closed eyes is probably still alive... Make sure your animal is dead before you start attempting to field dress it.

  • A head or neck shot will seriously damage the cape and could make your ability to mount the trophy impossible.

  • Do not slit the throat of your trophy animal if it is already dead.  “Bleeding out” the animal is unnecessary.  Blood no longer pumps through the heart of a dead animal.  With nothing to pump it, the blood will stay in the areas of the body and cannot move.  Slitting the throat will also ruin the cape.

  • After you’ve killed your trophy, take as many pictures of the trophy from as many views as you can before you start cleaning the animal.  Take as many measurements as possible such as distance from nose to antler, circumferences, everything.  Place an item  of known size in all pictures (or a use a small ruler if you have one).  The pictures will help your taxidermist get the best likeness of your animal.

  • If you shoot a bird that you will want to get mounted, don’t ring the neck.  Ringing the neck will ruin the feathers around the neck and make for a horrible mount.   You can quickly dispatch a wounded bird by compressing the chest cavity which will quickly suffocate the bird.

  • Do not drag your big game animal with ropes tied to it if you want to preserve the cape.  Ropes will easily destroy the fragile hairs and dragging it will pull hair out.

  • If you must drag the animal, use a tarp or an old blanket.  Put the animal on top of it and drag it by the tarp paying attention to whether or not the tarp is wearing through.

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Proper dressing of a trophy animal (Caping)

  • You must first determine what type of mount you will want of your animal.  For antlered animals (Goats, Sheep, Deer, and Elk), head/shoulder mounts are most popular.  For non-antlered animals (Bear, Cougar, Bobcat, etc), full body mounts and rugs tend to be most popular.  It is possible to have a full body mount of a deer or elk, but, few people have the space or the money to have it done.  How you want the animal mounted will dictate how you field dress the animal.

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Head/Shoulder mounts  

  • You should gut the animal in the traditional way, but pay strict attention to how far up the neck you go when opening up the body cavity.  Try not to cut above the breast bone and make sure that as little blood as possible gets on the hide.  While the taxidermist can clean it, it makes their job a bit easier.

  • Check with your taxidermist as to how much cleaning/skinning they prefer before you begin.  Some taxidermists want the whole head and some want the entire bone and meat removed.

  • For the next procedure, a very sharp and well made skinning knife is required.  A good skinning knife will have around 4-6 inches of curved blade and will be easy to use in removing the skin from the more delicate areas of the face.  Have a whet stone or a sharpener on hand to keep the blade working efficiently.

  • Make the first incisions like this.

  •  Proper skinning incision path for a head mount

  • The incision should be made from under the skin and not from on top.  Cutting from the top will damage the hair.

  • While pulling back the hide away from the skin with one hand, you should be able to easily work your skinning knife to sever the connective tissues all along the neck line and facial skin.  Pay close attention to the thickness of the skin as it is better to cut into the meat than to perforate the skin.

  • When you get to the antlers/horns, you will not be able to easily cut the hide from around the bases.  You should be able to gently pry the hide away from the base with a screw driver or a putty knife.

  • The  entire hide should be removed from the skull, including the nose, eyelids, lips, and the like.  The use of an X-acto knife works very well in these places.  Again, take your time… You do not want to have to repair any holes in the hide.

  • Check with your taxidermist to see if he/she wants the ears “turned.”  Turning the ears involves removing the connective tissue, cartilage, and meat from the ear and slowly… turning the ears inside out.  A lot of taxidermists will want to do this themselves on fresh heads, but, if you are going to wait a while and freeze the hide, it is much easier to remove the extra meat when the hide is fresh.

  • Once the hide is completely removed from the neck and skull, inspect the hide and remove as much extra fat or meat as possible.  The amount of fat and meat that stays on the hide will generate additional amounts of work for your taxidermist.

  • Now, cut the skull plate off of the head. Use a fine toothed saw and saw at a straight line from above the nasal cavity all the way through the ear canal and then through the back of the head.  The taxidermist will remove much more, but. you won't have to haul around a full skull. Remove as much meat, brain and the like from it.  Ask your taxidermist as to how he/she wants the skull prepared.  A number of taxidermists do not want the skull boiled as boiling can weaken the bone.  A number of taxidermists will place the skull plate in a wire mesh container outside to let the insects clean it up (they do a fine job).  The wire mesh cage will prevent critters from gnawing on the antlers or the bone.

  • Deliver the measurements, cape and the skull plate to the taxidermist.

  • For a typical mount, you should allow 3-6 months to receive your finished trophy back.  A lot of work is involved by the taxidermist to get the hide tanned and putting the entire mount together.

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Full Body/Rug mounts  

  • You should gut the animal in the traditional way, but pay strict attention to how far up the neck you go when opening up the body cavity.  Try not to cut above the breast bone and make sure that as little blood as possible gets on the hide.  While the taxidermist can clean it, it makes their job a bit easier.

  • Check with your taxidermist as to how much cleaning/skinning they prefer before you begin.  Some taxidermists want the whole head attached to the hide and some want all of the bone and meat removed.

  • For the next procedure, a very sharp and well made skinning knife is required.  A good skinning knife will have around 4-6 inches of curved blade and will be easy to use in removing the skin from the more delicate areas of the face.  Have a whet stone or a sharpener on hand to keep the blade working efficiently.

  • Make the first incisions like this.

  • The incision should be made from under the skin and not from on top.  Cutting from the top will damage the hair.

  • While pulling back the hide away from the skin with one hand, you should be able to easily work your skinning knife to sever the connective tissues all along the neck line and facial skin.  Pay close attention to the thickness of the skin as it is better to cut into the meat than to perforate the skin.

  • When you get to the antlers/horns, you will not be able to easily cut the hide from around the bases.  You should be able to gently pry the hide away from the base with a screw driver or a putty knife.

  • The  entire hide should be removed from the skull, including the nose, eyelids, lips, and the like.  The use of an X-acto knife works very well in these places.  Again, take your time… You do not want to have to repair any holes in the hide.

  • Once the hide is completely removed from the body, neck and skull, inspect the hide and remove as much extra fat or meat as possible.  The amount of fat and meat that stays on the hide will generate additional amounts of work for your taxidermist.

  • Check with your taxidermist to see if he/she wants the ears, tail, and feet “turned.”  Turning involves removing the connective tissue, cartilage, and meat from the ears, tail and feet and slowly… turning them inside out.  A lot of taxidermists will want to do this themselves on fresh hides, but, if you are going to wait a while and freeze the hide, it is much easier to remove the extra meat when the hide is fresh.

  • On hoofed animals, check with your taxidermist regarding how far down the ankles the hide should be removed.  The hooves will need to be removed to properly tan the hide.  The taxidermist may request that you retain the hooves for the final mount or they may simply utilize  

  • For antlered animals, cut the skull plate off of the head.  The taxidermist will remove much more, but. you won't have to haul around a full skull.  Remove as much meat, brain and the like from it.  Ask your taxidermist as to how he/she wants the skull prepared.  A number of taxidermists do not want the skull boiled as boiling can weaken the bone.  A number of taxidermists will place the skull plate in a wire mesh container outside to let the insects clean it up (they do a fine job).  The wire mesh cage will prevent critters from gnawing on the antlers or the bone.  Same goes with skulls of non antlered animals.

  • Deliver the measurements, cape and the skull/skull plate to the taxidermist.

  • For a typical mount, you should allow 3-6 months to receive your finished trophy back.  A lot of work is involved by the taxidermist to get the hide tanned and putting the entire mount together.

 ___________________________________________________________________________________________

Proper Care of birds.

  • Keep the carcass dry, cool and clean.  Do not field dress (gut) the bird, the taxidermist should make all of the incisions.

  • Fold both wings into the body of the bird. 

  • Wrap the bird in butcher paper and deliver to the taxidermist.

  • If you are going to wait for taxidermy, you can simply freeze the carcass. 

  • Request any usable/edible meat back from the taxidermist.  Remember that it is illegal in WA to waste any game animal.

  • Taxidermy of birds is an easy and great way to get started in the interesting field of taxidermy.  Purchase a book, get one from the library, or go to the multitude of websites devoted to taxidermy to learn more about it.  Birds are relatively easy and inexpensive to mount and can be a great potential new hobby for the off-season.

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Do it yourself skull bleaching/mount preparation.

  • Trim all the hair, skin, meat from the outside of the skull as possible.

  • Remove the eyes and use a screwdriver carefully placed in the back of the skull to "mix" up the brains.  Properly "mixed" a person should be able to liquefy the brains adequately to simply pour the brains out of the skull.

  • Boil the skull for as long as it takes to get all the rest of the meat off the bone.  Do your best to not boil the antlers.  And do not overboil as overboiling will soften up the bone of the skull to much.

  • Once you have a clean skull, purchase some peroxide from a beauty supply store.  Spread the peroxide over all bone and leave it outside in full sun to bleach out.  Do not get any peroxide on the antlers as it will surely turn the antlers white, as well. 

  • Use glue or a hot glue gun to permanently secure the teeth to the skull.  There is a good chance that your skull will lose teeth over time if this step is not completed.

  • Professional taxidermists have multiple ways of cleaning out skulls (live beetles, placing the skull in an anthill, and numerous others) and most can prepare these skulls fairly inexpensively.  But, by using the above technique on that great little two pointer or that smaller bear, you will have made your own trophy!

 

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