MAKE YOUR TAXIDERMIST HAPPY
YOU'LL BE HAPPY TOO
By Bill Miller
In the world of writing computer code, the acronym GIGO is universally understood. It stands for “garbage in, garbage out.” In hunting, GIGO applies to taxidermy. Though your favored taxidermist may be the Rembrandt of fur and antlers, his work can only be as good as what you bring him. You deliver properly cared for trophies and pay a fair price, you’ll get great art in return; deliver garbage, you’ll get garbage.
GIVE HIM ENOUGH TO WORK WITH
The number one problem taxidermists see most are capes cut too short. Look carefully at a quality whitetail shoulder mount and notice how much hide is there. It’s a lot more than you think when you look at that deer on the ground. If you give him too much, it’s easy to trim, but if you cut the cape too short, it’s impossible to create an addition; he’ll have to find another cape. The best choice is to make the cape at least back to the mid-point of the body.
CARE FOR THE CAPE
Capes and hides left unattended too long are another big problem taxidermists see. The best option is to remove the cape and cut the head off right behind the skull, then get this whole bundle frozen as soon as possible. Unless you’re on a wilderness hunt, this shouldn’t be that difficult. If you can’t find a freezer, get it cool as fast as possible, but don’t let it go for more than a day or two, MAX—without taking additional steps to preserve the cape which means finishing the caping, removing all meat and fat, and thoroughly salting or freezing.
CUT DOWN THE BACKLINE
To remove the cape, insert a sharp knife through the hide at the back of the skull of the dressed deer and cut a smooth, straight line directly above the spine. This is most easily done with the deer hanging head down or on the ground, belly-down with legs splayed out to the sides. It’s far easier for the taxidermist to hide the seam up here on a shoulder mount than it is to hide any cuts made on the underside of the deer. Cutting front to the back with the lay of the hair will also reduce the hair you’ll cut off. When you’re gutting a deer you’ll cape, end the belly cut from the back at the rear of the sternum.
ONLY DO WHAT YOU KNOW
Your first big trophy buck you want on the wall forever is not the deer on which to develop your caping skills. Making the fine cuts and turning the lips and ears takes experience to master. If you’ve not done it under the instruction of an expert, then practice on a good number of non-trophies just to learn; you’re better off skinning to the ears and cutting off the head inside the cape, then paying the taxidermist a few extra bucks to ensure it’s finished properly. It truly is a case of “pay me now or pay me more later” as making repairs to a butchered cape is time-consuming and costly.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
High quality taxidermy is not cheap. Those of us who have experienced it, know the old saying is true, “When you look at a great mount on the wall you remember the hunt and the adventure. When you look at a poor mount on the wall, you remember exactly what you paid for it!”