If you plan on keeping a trophy of your animal, it is important to follow the right pre-mount taxidermy tips as soon as you bag your game. Failing to do so could result in damage to the animal so it may no longer be able to be made into a trophy mount, rug, or life-size replica.

Tip #1: Be Careful When Field Dressing the Animal

Most mistakes are made while field dressing the animal. Most hunters want to remove the “guts” of the animal while still in the field. However, this is not always the best practice when you want a trophy.

With deer, elk, and other larger animals, it is acceptable to field dress the animal and remove its “guts.” Just make sure you avoid making an incision above the animal’s front legs. For life-size replicas, you don’t field dress or cut the animal open in most cases.

Once at home, if you want a trophy mount or European mount, you will want to remove the head just behind the forelegs and cut the forelegs just above the knees.

Tip #2: Take Steps to Protect the Animal in the Field

Take the time to find out the right steps you need to take in the field to prep the animal correctly. For instance, with small animals like squirrels and foxes, you would not skin or gut the animal in the field. Instead, carefully wrap the animal up using a plastic bag, and then place it inside a second plastic bag.

With birds like pheasants and duck, you want to rinse off the feathers, and then tuck the bird’s head under its wing. Place the bird inside a nylon bag and then into a plastic bag. With fish, wrap the fish up in a wet towel before placing it inside a plastic bag. With both birds and fish, you don’t want to “gut” them in the field if you want a life-size replica.

For larger animals, do not drag them on the ground. There are “sleds” you can use to safely pull the animal behind you. Some hunters will also carry the animal on their backs if it doesn’t weigh too much.

Tip #3: Get the Animal in the Freezer ASAP

Once the animal is no longer alive, it begins to deteriorate, and the flesh will start to rot. Bacteria will start to grow. Spoilage of the flesh can ruin your plans for a trophy mount, European mount, life-size mount, or even an animal skin rug.

Freezing the animal will help preserve it and stop bacteria growth. Additionally, if the animal has fleas or other such pests, freezing it kills these things too.

Tip #4: To Cape or Not to Cape?

Caping is the process of removing the skin from the animal. It is best to leave caping to an experienced taxidermist to avoid damaging the skin. Therefore, it is vital to get the animal cooled and in the freezer ASAP.

Tip #5: Verify the Taxidermist Uses Dermestid Beetles to Clean the Skull

European Deer Mount Top View

Whether you want a trophy mount or European mount, make sure the taxidermist uses Dermestid beetles. These beetles are the best way of how to clean a skull since they preserve the delicate structures and do not damage the bone.

By using these tips, as well as consulting with your taxidermist ahead of time, you can learn the best way to clean taxidermy mounts in the field, transport them home, and freeze them.

For more information about caring for your animal pre-mount, skull cleaning, European mounts, or to get your own Dermestid beetles, please feel free to contact Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy at (907) 942-2847 today!