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Don't ruin beautiful trophy animals due to improper handling in the field.  With a little knowledge, many mistakes could be prevented.  This section is to help you get your trophy animal to your taxidermist in the best possible condition.  Proper field care, and knowing what NOT to do, is a big part of making your mount look like the real live article.

FISH - Skin Mounts

1.      Carefully examine the fish for any damage and determine what side would be the best "show" side.

2.      Take a good color photo.  Try to avoid bright sunlight and flash photos.  They can cause a bad glare that can make it difficult to tell the correct color and markings.

3.      If at all possible keep the fish alive but if not keep it cold.  If its going to be put in a cooler, keep the "show" side up and DO NOT put anything on top of the fish.  This if very important to keep the fish from getting blotchy.  No ice, cans, other fish...NOTHING goes on top of the fish!

4.      Bring the fish to the taxidermist as soon as possible.  If you can't make it to the taxidermist, then freeze the fish.  Wrap it in clean, wet rags or paper towels and then place it in a plastic bag.  Garbage bags work great.  Try to keep the fish as FLAT as possible when placing it in the freezer.

IMPORTANT......

1.      NEVER... Gut the fish.  This damage can be repaired but it will cost extra.

2.      NEVER... Wrap the fish in newspaper.  The ink from the news print can be absorbed by the fish skin and maybe hard to cover.  The newspaper also dries out the skin and makes the fins very fragile and brittle.

FISH - Reproductions

1.      Measure the fish's length from the nose to the tip of the tail.  Please fan or spread the tail out when measuring.

2.      Measure the girth (circumference) of the fish around the belly.

3.      If possible, weigh the fish.

4.      When possible, note the sex of the fish and if it was spawning or not.  This is most important for the members of the Trout and Salmon families.

5.      Take several good quality photos of the fish.  Preferably 35 mm or digital pictures.  Try to avoid bright sunlight and flash photos.  They can cause a bad glare that can make it difficult to tell the correct color and markings.

6.      After the photos have been taken you may do whatever you please to the fish.

 

BIRDS

Taking care of birds in the field is very easy.  The first thing to do is decide if the bird is good enough to mount.  Many birds that are brought in each year, especially waterfowl, are not fully feathered enough to make a decent mount.  Here are a few items to check for .

1.      Check for pinfeathers.  To do this gently lift or pull back the feathers and look for feathers that are not completely grown.  The best place the look for pinfeathers is the back of the neck, top of the head, rump, and the side feathers.

2.      Look at the size of the bird compared to other birds of the same species.  The older, more mature birds are generally larger.

3.      Check to see how badly it was hit.  If it has large holes, wing feathers shot or broken off or more that just a couple pellets in the head then it is probably in too poor of a condition to mount.  If you are unsure simply take it to the taxidermist so they can check it for themselves.

Let's assume that the bird is good enough for mounting.

    1.      Try to rinse and wipe as much of the blood off of the feathers as you can.

    2.      Place a small piece of toilet paper or paper towel in the birds mouth to absorb any fluids.

    3.      Tuck the head under a wing or place it along its side and place it head first into a plastic bag.

    4.      Keep the bird as cool as possible and bring it to the taxidermist as soon as you can.  If you can't make it right away, place the bird in the freezer.

    5.      Turkeys and other large birds may need to be field dressed in order to keep them from spoiling. 

    1.      Make a short incision from the vent to the base of the rib cage.

    2.      Remove the entrails and rinse the cavity with water, then place ice in the cavity.

    3.      Place the bird in a cooler/freezer or bring it in ASAP.

Some important tips...

1.      Handle the bird carefully and try to avoid staining the beak or breaking the feathers.

2.      NEVER EVER ring the birds neck.

3.      Try not to have your dog retrieve the bird.  This could damage the feathers.

4.      Birds may also frozen and shipped via UPS if you live a distance away.  Please call before shipping for complete instructions on packaging and the proper paper work to include.

Mammals

General Field Care Rules For All Mammals

1.      NEVER SLIT OR CUT THE THROAT OF ANY ANIMAL !!!

2.      If at all possible, bring it to the taxidermist fresh for he/she to skin.  If you canít make it to the taxidermist in a reasonable amount of time place the animal in a plastic garbage bag and freeze the animal whole.  See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ.

3.      While field dressing your animal, always make your cuts with the sharp edge of the knife UP.  This prevents the hair from being cut off.

4.      If the animal is going to be mounted as a ďFull BodyĒ mount.  Do Not cut off the genitals and rectum.  These must be left in tact.

5.      If you are forced to skin the animal yourself, then make as few cuts as possible.

6.      Donít drag the animal unless you have something such as a tarp underneath it to protect the hide.

7.      NEVER hang or drag the animal by the neck.  This can stretch the neck and damage the hide.  Drag them out by either the horns or the front legs and hang them with their heads down.

8.      When placing tags on the animal, place them as carefully as possible and do as little damage as possible.

9.      Keep the animal as cold as possible and bring it in as soon as possible.

10.  NEVER SALT any hide unless the head, feet, and hide are completely skinned and fleshed.

11.  ALWAYS freeze any hide thatís not fully skinned and fleshed.  See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ.

 

Small and Medium Mammals

The field care guidelines for small and medium mammals are pretty much the same as the ones mentioned above but there are a few other items to keep in mind.

1.      Check to see if the head is in poor shape and/or the hide has large holes in it.  If there are large holes or the head is in poor shape they will be very difficult to repair.

2.      To remove any pests such as fleas, ticks, and lice spray any type of pesticide such as RAID on the animal before placing it into the freezer.  The freezer will kill all of the pests but itís better to be safe this way.  See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ.

3.      NEVER gut or skin the animal unless itís absolutely necessary.  An example would be the weather is hot and you donít have any ice.

4.      The best rule of thumb is to keep the animal as cool as possible and bring it in right away intact.  Most of the measurements that are needed are taken directly from the carcass.

 

Large Mammals

Because of their size most big game animals require field dressing and skinning in order to make them easier to transport.  Follow the General Field Care Rules that were mentioned above when dressing the animal.  One thing to do before any dressing begins is to determine what type of mount you want to have done Ė rug, full body, half-body, or shoulder mount.  Please take your time, keep your knife sharp, and use a tape measure.

RUGS

Skinning a animal for a rug is very easy.  Take a look at the diagram below.

1.      Make the usual cut down the center of the belly to the rectum and field dress normally.

2.      After the animal is field dressed you can remove the hide.  Lay the animal on its back and continue cutting up the belly/chest of the animal and stop at the area where the "Adams Apple" would be.                                           

3.      Next start at the base of the front pad and make the cut up along the inside of the leg until you reach centerline cut that you made on the belly/chest area.  Repeat this step on the other front leg.  (See diagram)

 

  RugCuts.jpg (16167 bytes)

4.      Make a similar cut on the rear legs just to the inside of the heel pad.  Make the cut up along the inside of the leg until you reach the centerline cut again.  Repeat on the other rear leg.  (See diagram)

5.      Start skinning the hide off of the carcass by lifting and pulling the hide away from the meat as you skin.  Please take care not to cut any holes in the hide.

6.      Cut through the wrist and ankle joints by cutting through the tendons and muscle.  Be careful not to cut yourself.  This will leave the feet in the hide for the taxidermist to skin out.

7.      Roll the animal over onto its belly and continue to remove the hide.  If you can hang the carcass up by the hocks the skinning will be much easier.

8.      When you have pulled the hide all the way back to the head, sever it at the base of the skull and remove it from the spine.  BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CUT YOURSELF.  There will be a lot of muscle and tendons to cut through.  Take your time.  If you have access to a bone saw, it will help considerably.

9.      DO NOT SKIN OUT THE HEAD OR FEET.  Please leave this for the taxidermist to do. 

10.  DO NOT SALT THE HIDE.  The salt only works well if the head and feet are properly skinned out.

11.  Fold up the hide and place it in a plastic garbage bag or two and place in the freezer.  See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ.  If you donít have access to a freezer keep it in the shade but get it into a freezer as soon as possible.

12.  Keep the hide out of the sun.  The fur really sucks up the BTUís from the sunlight and can fade the coloring.

  The following is to be done only if you are in a situation where you don't have access to refrigeration or can't get the hide to the taxidermist in a reasonable amount of time, such as a base camp or you are up in the mountains.

1.      Skinning the feet.  Start by pulling on the paws as if you were trying to pull the hide off like a sock.  Keep tension on the hide if you can.  This makes the skinning a little easier.  Continue to pull / skin the hide off until you reach the 1st knuckle joint, this is where the claw attaches to the foot.  Cut through the knuckle here and turn the foot right side out.  A quick and easy way to check and see if you got down far enough is to take the paw and feel where the claw attaches to the hide, if you can feel another knuckle or flex the claw then you haven't gotten down far enough.  If you have gotten far enough, Congratulations.  Continue to do this until all 4 feet are skinned out.

2.      Skinning the head.  This will be the most difficult.  Invert the head and keep pulling the hide back while you cut.  Be very careful when you get to where the ears attach to the head.  Cut deep into the head to make sure that you get the base of the ear.  After both ears have been removed from the head continue skinning.  When you get down to the back of the eye socket reach through and pull the skin away from the head and CAREFULLY cut through that thin skin.  DO NOT CUT THE EYELIDS OFF !!  You also have to be careful around the front part of the eye where the "tear duct" is.  While pulling on the hide carefully cut down to the bone in this area.  Once both eyes are free continue down until you reach the back corner of the mouth.  Cut through the skin and separate the skin from the jaws.  Stay as close to the jaw bones as you can.  After the lips are free move on to the nose.  Be careful in this area because the skin is thin through here.  Skin down until you reach the nose cartilage and then cut down and stay close to the bone until the front lip is off.  You should now have just the hide to pack down.

3.      Pack up for transport.  Once the hide is off lay the hide on the ground skin side up and roll each of the legs up towards the center of the hide.  Then do the same for the head and continue to roll the entire hide up like a sleeping bag.  Tie the hide off or put it in a couple of garbage bags for the trip and keep it as cool as possible until you can freeze it.

 

Shoulder Mounts

This is the most popular way for people to display their trophies.  Once the animal is properly field dressed and registered, I highly encourage people to bring in the whole deer and I would be happy to remove the cape for you for free.  This allows me to make accurate measurements of the head and neck, which will insure a better mount and it will also allow you to see how to properly skin out the head in case you are in a situation where you have to skin out the head yourself.

If you are working on a animal that is to large to bring in then make the cuts along the grey dotted lines in the picture below.  This will ensure that I will have plenty of hide to work with.  A general rule to remember isÖĒMore is betterĒ.  Itís always easier to cut of and discard extra hide but itís very tough to make something out of nothing.

 

Skinning Gameheads/Shoulder Mounts  

When skinning out a deer, sheep, elk, or moose please follow the instructions below.  If youíre in a situation where you need to skin the head out completely make sure you take the following measurements.  See the diagram for details.

A:  Tip of the nose to the corner of the eye where the tear duct is. (Take before skinning)
B:  Around the neck about 3 inches down from the base of the skull.  (After the cape is off)

 

DeerHead.jpg (19699 bytes)

1.      Make a cut around the body BEHIND the front legs around the base of the rib cage.

2.     Make the next cut up the back of the neck to the base of the skull from the transverse cut that you made in step 1.

3.      Next make a cut up the back of the front leg to where the leg meet the body and then bring the cut back to the cut you made in step 1.  DO NOT CUT ON THE INSIDE OF THE LEG.  Repeat this step with the other front leg.

4.      Cut around both front legs just above the knee.

5.      Start skinning the hide by pulling the hide towards the head.  Pay attention and be careful around the ďarmpitĒ.  Try not to cut any holes in this area.

6.      Keep skinning until you reach the base of the skull and then stop.

7.      Cut the head off of the body 8 to 10 inches from the base of the skull.  This will ensure that there is plenty of neck left to take measurements from.

8.      Wrap the hide up and flesh side to flesh side and put it in a garbage bag to keep it from drying out.  NEVER SALT THE HIDE !!

9.      Once all of the above is done you can store the head and cape in a cool, dark area such as a garage or spare refrigerator.  If the temperature is above 45 degrees you need to get it to the taxidermist within 2 days.  If the temperature is about 60 you must get it to the taxidermist as soon as possible.  If you canít make it to the taxidermist right away freeze the head and cape and bring it in later. See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ. ImportantÖIf the head and cape arenít processed soon after skinning and the head isnít frozen then the hair will begin to slip and fall out.

  The following is to be done only if you are in a situation where you don't have access to refrigeration or can't get the hide to the taxidermist in a reasonable amount of time, such as a base camp or you are up in the mountains.

1.      Skinning the feet.  This is only done if you are going to mount the animal life sized.  Start by pulling on the shins as if you were trying to pull the hide off like a sock.  Keep tension on the hide if you can.  This makes the skinning a little easier.  Continue to pull / skin the hide off until you reach the 1st knuckle joint, this is where the hoof attaches to the foot.  Cut through the knuckle here and turn the foot right side out.  A quick and easy way to check and see if you got down far enough is to take the hoof and feel where the toe attaches to the hide, if you can feel another knuckle or flex the hoof then you haven't gotten down far enough.  If you have gotten far enough, Congratulations.  Continue to do this until all 4 feet are skinned out.

2.      Skinning the head.  This will be the most difficult.  Make a cut up the back of the head until you reach a point between the ears where you can make a even cut to each of the horns/antlers.  The cut will look like a Y on the back of the head and neck.  Start skinning around the base of the antlers/horns.  Stay as close to the bone as possible.  Keep pulling the hide back while you cut.  Be very careful when you get to where the ears attach to the head.  Cut deep into the head to make sure that you get the base of the ear.  After both ears have been removed from the head continue skinning.  When you get down to the back of the eye socket reach through and pull the skin away from the head and CAREFULLY cut through that thin skin.  DO NOT CUT THE EYELIDS OFF !!  You also have to be careful around the front part of the eye where the "tear duct" is.  While pulling on the hide carefully cut down to the bone in this area.  Once both eyes are free continue down until you reach the back corner of the mouth.  Cut through the skin and separate the skin from the jaws.  Stay as close to the jaw bones as you can.  After the lips are free move on to the nose.  Be careful in this area because the skin is thin through here.  Skin down until you reach the nose cartilage and then cut down and stay close to the bone until the front lip is off.  You should now have just the hide to pack down.

3.      Pack up for transport.  Once the hide is off lay the hide on the ground skin side up and roll each of the legs up towards the center of the hide.  Then do the same for the head and continue to roll the entire hide up like a sleeping bag.  Tie the hide off or put it in a couple of garbage bags for the trip and keep it as cool as possible until you can freeze it.

Full Body

Due to their size, larger game such as bear and depending on the situation elk, moose or sheep need to be completely skinned out before being brought to the taxidermist.  There are different skinning techniques for the different animals.

Bear

The following measurements must be taken while the bear is being dressed and skinned. See the diagram for details.

A: Tip of the Nose to corner of eye where the tear duct is. (Before itís skinned)
B:  Around the neck about 3 inches down from the base of the skull. (After itís skinned)
C:  Tip of the Nose to the base of the tail. (Before itís skinned)
D:  Around the middle of the animal at the base of the rib cage. (After itís skinned)

 

Fullbody.jpg (18154 bytes)

 

1.      Make the usual cut down the center of the belly to the rectum and field dress normally.  DO NOT cut off the genitals or rectum.

2.      After the animal is field dressed you can remove the hide.  Lay the animal on its back and continue cutting up the belly/chest of the animal and stop at the base of the skull.

3.      Next start at the base of the front pad and make the cut up along the inside of the leg until you reach centerline cut that you made on the belly/chest area.  Repeat this step on the other front leg.

4.      Make a similar cut on the rear legs just to the inside of the heel pad.  Make the cut up along the inside of the leg until you reach the centerline cut again.  Repeat on the other rear leg.  (See diagram)

5.      Start skinning the hide off of the carcass by lifting and pulling the hide away from the meat as you skin.  Please take care not to cut any holes in the hide.

6.      Cut through the wrist and ankle joints by cutting through the tendons and muscle.  Be careful not to cut yourself.  This will leave the feet in the hide for the taxidermist to skin out.

7.      Roll the animal over onto its belly and continue to remove the hide.  If you can hang the carcass up by the hocks the skinning will be much easier.

8.      When you have pulled the hide all the way back to the head, sever it at the base of the skull and remove it from the spine.  BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CUT YOURSELF.  There will be a lot of muscle and tendons to cut through.  Take your time.  If you have access to a bone saw, it will help considerably.

9.      Fold up the hide and place it in a plastic garbage bag or two and place in the freezer.  See the section on ďFreezing InstructionsĒ.  If you donít have access to a freezer keep it in the shade but get it into a freezer as soon as possible.

10.  Keep the hide out of the sun.  The fur really sucks up the BTUís from the sunlight and can fade the coloring.  

  The following is to be done only if you are in a situation where you don't have access to refrigeration or can't get the hide to the taxidermist in a reasonable amount of time, such as a base camp or you are up in the mountains.

1.      Skinning the feet.  Start by pulling on the paws as if you were trying to pull the hide off like a sock.  Keep tension on the hide if you can.  This makes the skinning a little easier.  Continue to pull / skin the hide off until you reach the 1st knuckle joint, this is where the claw attaches to the foot.  Cut through the knuckle here and turn the foot right side out.  A quick and easy way to check and see if you got down far enough is to take the paw and feel where the claw attaches to the hide, if you can feel another knuckle or flex the claw then you haven't gotten down far enough.  If you have gotten far enough, Congratulations.  Continue to do this until all 4 feet are skinned out.

2.      Skinning the head.  This will be the most difficult.  Invert the head and keep pulling the hide back while you cut.  Be very careful when you get to where the ears attach to the head.  Cut deep into the head to make sure that you get the base of the ear.  After both ears have been removed from the head continue skinning.  When you get down to the back of the eye socket reach through and pull the skin away from the head and CAREFULLY cut through that thin skin.  DO NOT CUT THE EYELIDS OFF !!  You also have to be careful around the front part of the eye where the "tear duct" is.  While pulling on the hide carefully cut down to the bone in this area.  Once both eyes are free continue down until you reach the back corner of the mouth.  Cut through the skin and separate the skin from the jaws.  Stay as close to the jaw bones as you can.  After the lips are free move on to the nose.  Be careful in this area because the skin is thin through here.  Skin down until you reach the nose cartilage and then cut down and stay close to the bone until the front lip is off.  You should now have just the hide to pack down.

3.      Pack up for transport.  Once the hide is off lay the hide on the ground skin side up and roll each of the legs up towards the center of the hide.  Then do the same for the head and continue to roll the entire hide up like a sleeping bag.  Tie the hide off or put it in a couple of garbage bags for the trip and keep it as cool as possible until you can freeze it. 

FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS

One of the most common problems I've seen is when the face (eyes, nose, lips), Ears, and Feet get dried out and freezer burnt.  This makes it much more difficult to skin out the delicate areas and can add to the cost of the mount.  Here are a few tips to make sure that your hide will be protected and pose no problems to any taxidermist you take it to.

1.      Wipe as much of the blood off of the hide as you can.

2.      Wrap the entire head in an old towel.  Make sure to completely cover the nose and ears.  Use more than one towel if needed.

3.      If the animal is has horns or antlers wrap the towels around the head again making sure to cover the nose and ears.  Then place the head in a garbage bag or two and force as much of the air out of the bag as you can.  After that try to seal the bag around the horns/antlers with tape to keep as much air out as possible.

4.      If the animal is completely skinned, roll all of the legs up toward the center.  Then, starting with the head, roll the hide up like a sleeping bag.  Keep the fur to the outside.  After itís rolled up place the hide in a couple of garbage bags and place in the freezer.

 

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