Good taxidermy begins with good field care with how you handle the animal. Without a good specimen, there are problems before work even begins. Skin begins to decay immediately upon death, so take care of your specimen as soon as possible. Keeping it cold slows this breakdown; freezing stops it. Always freeze specimens if they cannot be delivered to taxidermist within 24 hours.
How To Cape a Deer for a Shoulder Mount
Hunters can do the initial caping. There are only a few basic cuts you need to perform before delivering the head to the taxidermist. Leave the detail work of skinning around the mouth, nose and eyes to the professional. First, use a sharp knife. The cape should start by making a cut through the hide behind the front legs at the midpoint of the ribs, encircling the body. Next, slit the skin around the legs just above the knees, and then make a cut on the back side of the legs that meets up with the initial body cut. Carefully peel the cape up toward the head until you reach the ears and jaw. Now the junction of the head and neck is exposed. About 3 inches below this point, encircle the neck muscles (No more hide cuts!) with a cut all the way down to the spinal column. Grab the antler bases and twist, separating the head (with the attached hide) from the neck. Keep the hide clean, inside and out. There’s nothing worse than having to pick dirt and gravel out of a hide that someone tossed on the ground. Get it to your taxidermist right away if you can. But if not, simply roll up the hide and put the whole works in the freezer.” When you get your finished trophy back from the studio, you’ll be glad you did your part to help your taxidermist do the best job possible.
There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining the process. Here is one of them....
Skinning a Large Mammal for a Rug or Life Size Mount
There are two major methods of skinning for a large life-sized mount such as deer, elk or bear. These methods are the flat incision and the dorsal method.
1.) Flat Incision: This method is used for rug mounts and for a variety of purposes. The areas to be cut are shown in this image. Make these slits (cutting the feet free from the carcass) and pull the skin of the carcass. The head is detached as with the shoulder mount. Note: if you can't take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist's specifications.
2.) Dorsal Method: This method of skinning involves a long slit down the back from the tail base up to 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 instruction from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after skinning.
Field Care for Birds
If weather is warm, try to keep the bird as cool and dry as possible; keep it out of direct sunlight. When home, tuck head under the wing and place in a plastic bag and freeze at once.
Do not gut or cut the bird in any way. You want to make sure that the feathers stay as clean as possible.
Push a wadded paper towel into the mouth of the bird to prevent blood from getting on the feathers.
Field Care for Turkeys
It can take up to 48 hours for the turkey to freeze solid. Get to us as soon you can get, waste no time delivering it to us. If you cannot get the bird to us on the first day of the kill, then you will need to freeze the bird. Right before bagging the turkey, place its head into a small plastic bag and secure it. Fold the head back against the body beneath a wing. Gently fold the wings against the body, being careful not to bend the feathers. Once bagged, the turkey should go into a freezer immediately. Do not put the turkey into the plastic bag until you are ready to freeze as this may cause skin spoilage, which would cause the feathers to fall out. Place the entire turkey into a large plastic bag, head end first, and roll it gently to squeeze out most of the air. Tape around the tapered end of the bag containing the tail. Using cardboard panels or a flattened box, protect the tail feathers by positioning them flat between two pieces of cardboard secured with tape. This is very important! If the tips of the tail feathers or primary wing feathers remain bent during freezing or storage, it is almost impossible for them to ever look right again. You can temporarily place the bagged turkey in a dedicated large cooler with plenty of ice, but make sure the bag is air-tight so the bird is not saturated in water.