Deer Mounting: How To Protect Your Trophy For The Taxidermist

Want To Mount That Deer Head?

By Pat Carrothers

When you finally get that prize deer, you want to do everything you can to preserve the moment.  That could mean taking a deer to the taxidermist for mounting.  If you do everything correctly, your hunting success can live on right on the walls of your house.

First, it is important to field dress a deer in the woods.  You have to cool down the meat as soon as possible and other aspects of the deer will not spoil as fast.

Anytime you go hunting and expect to field dress a kill, you need to have a few essential tools with you.  Make sure you have a sharp skinning knife such as a Havalon Piranta-EDGE.  The knife needs to be an item you are comfortable with no matter what brand you choose.  A short knife is usually easier to handle but you will want to make sure it is sharp and at its best.  There’s nothing as dangerous as a dull knife. It is also a good idea to pack disposable gloves and a few bags so you can carry your trash out of the woods.

Plan on about 20 minutes to field dress your deer.  If you have never gone through the process before, it may take longer.  If you’re an old pro with a Havalon, you’ll be done in five minutes or less.  To make the process go faster and easier, you may want to include a hunting buddy.  You could also take along water and paper towels to help you clean up after you are finished field dressing.

To field dress the deer, first put on the disposable gloves to prevent the transfer of any disease.  Put the deer on its back and find the sternum.  You will then get out your knife, cut from sternum to crotch clear through the hide and membrane.  Make sure you do not cut into the guts.

Once the cut has been made, take the guts out of the deer starting at the crotch.  You can do this while cutting the membranes that link the spine to the interior of the deer.  Be careful not to cut too closely to the spine or you could damage the tenderloins.  As you make these cuts and pull out the guts, expect to see plenty of blood.

As you near the end of this portion of field dressing, find the last membrane, sever it, and pull the rest of the guts from the deer.  You can then cut through the pelvic bone and cut the skin around the anus so you can pull the colon out.  Some prefer to cut around the “vent” first and work their way forward.  The key is to keep bacteria off the meat you want.  At that time, you can take the heart, liver, and lungs out.

How To Protect The Deer Head For Mounting

Protect the deer’s head as you drag it out of the woods.  You want to put the hooves above its head.  Plan for a way to shield the head and hide while you are dragging it out of the woods.   Avoid sharp branches or rocks that lay on the floor of the forest.   Then get your deer to a taxidermist as soon as possible.

If you have to pack out the deer head, be careful not to cut into the neck hide.  You want to deliver much more hide than it seems like you should attached to the head.  That’s why they call it “caping,” since you leave a long cape of hide still attached to the head of your trophy with no incisions in the neck, especially the front neck.  Start skinning for the cape just behind the front shoulders.

According to Bill Vaznis, professional hunter and writer, there are three common mistakes to avoid.

  1. Do not slit the deer’s throat to bleed it out. This kind of error is nearly impossible to repair. If the deer is dead it has already bled out.
  2. Begin caping (skinning) your buck from BEHIND the front legs, pull the hide back towards the head and sever the head at the base of the skull.  This will give your taxidermist an ample amount of hide to work with. If you must cut the hide, cut it along the top of the neck. Your taxidermist can sew the hide…you will never see the stitches.
  3. If you can skin a fox or mink, skinning out the head of your deer is easy. If not, get the head to a taxidermist ASAP or put the head and hide in a freezer. If you elect to freeze the head and hide…do not salt it or it will spoil even though it is in the freezer.

The outcome of the taxidermy process greatly depends on what you do when you field dress your deer and how you care for the head or pack the head for the taxidermist.

Steve Sorensen,, sums it up this way:

“The hunter should handle his buck like it’s the raw materials for top notch art. Keep it clean, cool it as quickly as possible, protect it from the wind in the back of your truck, and get it to the taxidermist as soon as possible.”

Got a tip on how you would protect a trophy for the taxidermist?  Share it below.


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