deer taxidermy, field
Photo by Mark Catal

Your deer has hit the ground and you are being congratulated by the other hunters in your party. This is not the time to start thinking about what you are going to do with your trophy. Instead, stop by your taxidermy shop to get caping instructions before heading out for your hunt. Every hunter should give careful thought to field care for both meat and mounting.

Every year we see animals come into the shop in sad shape, with drag marks, slit throats, briskets cut too far, armpits cut out and inevitably not enough skin left on the cape, making it hard for the taxidermist to do his job. This can make mount prices rise with unnecessary repair fees and possible cape replacements, but a good taxidermist should never replace the cape without the hunter’s knowledge. Poor field care and lack of knowledge is usually the culprit and is easily avoided. What is funny is that hunters always blame their buddy for the mistakes.

Find a Pro

Choosing your taxidermist prior to going into the field is always best. It is important to get several references from people you know whose mounts you like. You invest time into scouting your hunt area and gathering your supplies, so invest time into scouting for your wildlife artist as well.

Never price shop over the phone for your taxidermist. I am amazed each year when hunters call the studio telling us about the fantastic hunt they went on and then start shopping for the cheapest prices in the phone book. After potentially spending years and hundreds of dollars booking a hunt, getting all of the equipment ready, bagging the first or biggest buck of your life, why would you then look for the cheapest taxidermist to do your work?

Visit the taxidermy studios you are considering to see what their mounts look like. Do the mounts look alive or do they look like dusty old mounts from the 1930s? Do the eyes and ears look natural and alive? Look for gaps in the sewing or at the base of the antlers. Don’t just look at the antlers!

How’s It Hanging?

Give some thought to the position you want the mount to have after your hunt. If you choose a shoulder mount, you need to decide which direction you want the head turned. (It is usually best to have the mount facing into the room, not looking at a wall.) Your taxidermist should have photos and be able to help you with your choices.

Give some consideration to what type of mount you might want. If you want only the antlers done, do you want a panel or European mount? How about a European mount, (they are popular now)? You should know that they will not stand the test of time since they become brittle and break easily. If you do choose to have a panel or European mount done, you might be able to trade some of your work for the cape or sell it outright to the taxidermist. And no, a doe cape cannot be used in place of a buck in most instances.

Before You Go

One of the most important things to remember if you want an animal mounted is to never slit the throat. Slitting the throat will destroy your cape.

A major problem for hunters can be hair slippage. Hair slippage is when the animal begins losing the hair on the cape, and it is caused primarily by bacteria growth and trauma. Pronghorns are notorious for this problem but all animals are vulnerable. Bacteria growth starts at 40 degrees, so you need to remove the cape right away and cool it down as soon as possible.

There can be some confusion with the terms hide and cape. The hide is the whole skin, while the cape refers only to the part that will be used in the mount.

If you have not been taught to fully skin an animal’s cape around the face, it is best left to your taxidermist. It takes skill to be able to cut around the eyes and lips without causing problems and making more work for the taxidermist.

If antlers are in velvet, do not grab, carry or tie anything around the antlers if you want to save the velvet. Doing so mats the velvet down and gives it an unnatural look. Velvet antlers must be kept in a cool, dry place out of the sun and taken to the taxidermist immediately. Get special instructions from the taxidermist if you think there will be a possibility of taking a deer in that stage. Antlers can be “re-velveted” if necessary, but it is costly. So be careful with the velvet while in the field.

This article is from the winter 2019 issue of American Frontiersman Magazine. Grab your copy at

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