A note of caution: Because of the various diseases that wild game can transmit to humans,
always use caution when handling the carcass. Use rubber/latex gloves and wash your hands
with soap and water after handling. Remember to contact your taxidermist prior to your hunt
in order to get instructions on their caping requirements. However, the following techniques
are generally acceptable.
With the animal on its back, make a shallow cut through the skin below the breastbone
Start your cut away from the brisket, allowing plenty of uncut skin\for your shoulder mount.
Insert two fingers of the free hand,cradling the blade, to hold the skin up. Cut straight down
the belly and around the genitals, separating but not severing them from the abdominal wall.
Slit the belly skin Note: Start th incision below the caping line.
Cut deeply around the rectum, being careful not to cut off or puncture the intestine. Pull to
make sure the rectum is separated from tissue connecting it to the pelvic canal. Pull the
rectum out and tie string tightly around it to prevent droppings from touching the meat. Lift
the animal's back quarter a bit, reach into the front of the pelvic canal, and pull the intestine
and connected rectum into the stomach area.
For a full shoulder mount, do not cut open the chest cavity. Cut the diaphragm away from
the ribs all the way to the backbone. In the chest cavity find the esophagus & wind pipe,
cut them off as far up as possible & pull them down through the chest. Roll the deer onto its
side, grab the esophagus with one hand and the rectum with the other. Pull hard and the
deer's internal organs will come out.
When field dressing a trophy to be mounted, don't cut into the brisket (chest) or neck area. If blood gets on the hide, wash it off
with snow or water as soon as possible. Avoid dragging the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, or a four-
wheeler. Rope, rocks, or a broken branch from a dead fall can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you
do need to drag it,, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy carefully. Caping is the process of skinning out a
trophy animal from the head and is best left to the taxidermist. Many trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death. As
soon as the animal dies, bacteria begins to attack the carcass. Warm, humid weather accelerates bacteria growth. Keep on Ice or
put hide and horns in a freezer.
Skinning Life-Size Big Game- There are two major methods of skinning for a large life-size
mount such as deer, elk, or bear. These methods are the flat incision and the dorsal method.
The Flat Incision- This is used for rug mounts and for a variety of poses. Make these slits
(cutting the feet free from the carcass) and pull the skin off the carcass. The head is detached
as with the shoulder mount .Note: Freeze after skinning or take to your taxidermist..
The Dorsal Method- This method of skinning involves a long slit down the back (from the
tail base up into the neck). The carcass is skinned as it is pulled through this incision. The feet /
hooves and the head are cut from the carcass as with a shoulder mount explained later. Only use this method with approval and
detailed instructions from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after skinning.
Caping for a Shoulder Mount- With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body behind the
shoulder at approximately the midway point of the rib cage behind the front legs. Slit the skin around
the legs just above the knees. An additional slit will be needed from the back of the leg and joining
the body cut behind the legs. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw exposing the head/neck
junction. Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from this junction. Circle the neck,
cutting down to the spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp the antler bases, and twist the
head off the neck. This should allow the hide to be rolled up and put in a freezer until transported to
the taxidermist.These cuts should allow ample hide for the taxidermist to work with in mounting.
Small Mammals- Animals, coyote sized or smaller, should not be skinned unless by a professional. Don't gut the animal. Small
mammals, especially carnivores, will spoil quickly because of their thin hide and bacteria. If you can't take the animal immediately
to taxidermist, as soon as the carcass cools completely, put it in a plastic bag and freeze it. With the epidemic of rabies evident in
many areas of the country, take every safety measure necessary when handling your game.
Birds- Do not gut the bird. Rinse any blood from the feathers with water. Take the bird immediately to your taxidermist or freeze
it. Put the bird into a pantyhose for freezing, being careful not to damage the feathers, including the tail. If the bird's tail feathers do
not fit in the hose, do not bend them. Let the tail stick out of the hose.
Fish- Do not gut your fish. If you cannot take your fish immediately to a taxidermist, wrap it in a very wet towel and put it in a
plastic bag, making sure all the fins are flat against the fish's body (to prevent breakage) and freeze it. A fish frozen in this manner
can safely be kept in the freezer for months. Note: A fish will lose its coloration shortly after being caught. A good color
photograph immediately after the catch may enable the taxidermist to duplicate the natural color tones of that particular fish.
Always have appropriate tags with your trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not cut off the ears for attachment.
Songbirds, Eagles, Hawks and Owls are protected by Federal Law and can not be mounted or harvested unless you possess a
special Federal permit.For situations where you are hunting with no available taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about
techniques to skin out the entire cape (including the head) and salting the hide. This is the only method in remote locations that can
preserve your hide for later mounting.
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