By Tim H. Martin
Taxidermy has improved since the days of neck mounted, bug-eyed bucks with ears pointed straight ahead, fading fast and hair falling out in clumps.
The subject of preserving your trophy is often overlooked. These tips will allow you to admire your mounts 20, 30, 40 years from now, or longer.
Many hunters are not aware of what’s available to them nowadays, or how to get it right from the start. Here are a few things to consider:
Hair slippage occurs when clumps of hair fall out of a mount, years after it was taken. Prevention begins in the field.
From the moment the animal stops breathing, bacteria is the enemy. The absolute best thing you can do is to take the animal to your taxidermist ASAP so it can be caped or, at least, cooled in a meat cooler. If you can’t get it to the taxi immediately, make sure to get it out of the heat and iced down pronto.
Something Buckmasters’ camera crew and editors have done for years is, before taking photos with a harvested animal, we use baby wipes or Windex spray to clean blood from the mouth and cape.
This serves two key purposes: It makes cleaner photos and better preserves the cape for taxidermists.
The alcohol in disinfecting wipes and Windex kills much of the bacteria that attack hair follicles. When you see hair slipping from a mount, it’s likely it could have been prevented had the hunter removed blood and fluids by wiping down the cape with sanitary wipes.
The Y Cut
Splitting a deer’s neck all the way up the back is old school and a no-no. Your taxi will thank you for saving tons of stitches and helping your mount look better by caping the deer with the Y Cut. For details click here.
Tanning or Borax?
Find out if your taxi sends capes to the tannery. This is important! Tanned skins add cost, but they will hold up much longer and are less likely to succumb to Dermestid beetles, fading and hair slippage over the years.
Tanned capes are fleshed (scraped) thinner and allow the sculpted muscles in today’s gorgeous deer forms to be seen better than capes treated with simple Borax.
Go Taxi Shopping
There are differences in great taxidermy, good taxidermy and bad taxidermy. Do you know them?
You wouldn’t hire a landscaper without first driving past some of their work. Visit different taxidermy shops or look at their work gallery online to get an idea of what they can do. Do they win awards in competitions? If you see a mount you like in an office or a friend’s trophy room, ask who did it.
If it’s a large operation, find out if they use a variety of people to do the work. You don’t want an intern learning on your prize. Request the best.
Ship it, if necessary. Different taxis are better at different critters. If you see a bobcat that looks alive, write down the taxidermist’s name and send yours to him. The same goes for hogs, ducks, African game, as well as whitetails. Just because one taxi does a nice whitetail doesn’t mean his/her raccoons will look dynamite.
You usually get what you pay for. Taxis who send your cape to a tannery are usually more expensive than the Borax users. And those who use premium forms and eyes might charge a little more. But years from now, when your trophy still looks great, you won’t remember the money.
Study the details of their work. Look closely for natural looking eyelids, nostrils, crisp ears, and visible facial muscles, as well as the paint job. These separate the great taxis from the good.
Be patient. Exceptional work takes time; don’t bug the taxi six months after you drop it off. A year, or even longer, turnaround time is not unusual for good artists. When I drop off a critter, I try to forget all about it. When I get the call that it’s ready, it’s like Christmas!
Sunlight — Another Enemy
Think ahead about where you will hang the mount. Will it receive strong sunlight?
Realize, if a trophy head receives even a little UV each day, the damage adds up over time. Consider this when you choose a spot to hang your trophy unless you don’t mind your dark-caped buck inexplicably turning blonde.
Choosing the Form
The average whitetail hunter brings their trophy to a local taxidermist and says, “Left turn” or “Right turn.” There’s an array of other great options to consider.
Consider a pedestal or wall pedestal. Several form manufacturers, including McKenzie Taxidermy, have seen growing demand for these, as well as extended shoulder forms. They add drama and show much more interesting side muscles than traditional shoulder mounts. Make sure to cape the deer far enough back to ensure plenty of hide to work with. Start caping at the deer’s mid-section, just to be safe.
Get a Preview
After the antlers are removed, ask your taxi to screw the rack on top of different forms, then stand back and look. You’d be surprised how forms you hadn’t originally considered might present better tine angles.
Trust your taxi; ask for their opinion about which form to use. They do this for a living and they know better than you. You might even ask them to try something they’ve always wanted to do.
My favorite taxidermist in north Alabama always wanted to mount a buck looking slightly upward, to the point the lower teeth would show just a tiny bit. This is what happens in nature. I said, “Go for it!” The result was unique, beautiful and an attention-grabber.
Don’t Forget the Eyes
The eyes are the focal point of good work, so ask for the good stuff. A well-made glass eye costs only a little more, but adds so much to the biological believability of a mount.
Look Through Catalogs
Part of my enjoyment when getting an animal mounted is looking through catalogs and reviewing my options. Ask your taxi to show you his supplier’s catalog and see what’s available.
McKenzie Taxidermy Supply
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