Trophy Displays: How to Prepare for Taxidermy After the Hunt

Published March 17th, 2023 by Justin Basch

On any free-range big game hunt, there are no guarantees of coming home with a trophy. But knowing that it’s always a possibility, hunters should be ready to make taxidermy decisions on how they’d like to display that animal. We are happy to recommend taxidermists but you might have one of your own on standby. Before dropping off the cape and skull, let’s cover the various options for taxidermy and display.

Hide Care in the Field

Keeping the hide in great condition is important. Based on your request, our guides will cape an animal for shoulder or full body mounts. Once it’s packed out of the field, you will need a plan to keep the hide in good condition until it arrives at the taxidermist.

Keep it clean and cool prior to delivering it to a taxidermist. Roll it up for transport from the field and even consider using game bags for an added layer of protection.

Deliver ASAP if possible or freeze the hide when delivering a few weeks or more down the road. Use skin on skin contact when freezing to stop freezer burn on the skin. Make sure the hide is dry and hasn’t been soaked in water before freezing as well. The cape and head can also freeze during storage. Capes are especially sensitive however and delivering to a taxidermist immediately is your best bet for a perfect cape.

Traditional Shoulder Mount

The most common option is the shoulder mount. The size of a very large animal like a bull elk or oryx makes it possible to mount on high walls and it’s a great look. When going for a shoulder mount, it’s important to leave plenty of cape for the taxidermist to utilize and to keep the cape clean. Don’t pull it across the ground or beat it up in the field.

For shoulder mounts, the caping begins right between the ears and runs past the shoulders before making a circular cut around the body. Cut a good foot or more below the shoulders to leave extra hide here. Again, our guides will know exactly what to do in the field – so be sure and communicate your wishes on what type of mount you intend to do.

If you have decided to do a shoulder mount, you will also need to choose the position of your animal. You can go with a straight on shoulder mount or a turn to either side. It’s all about preference, where it will hang, and the space available on your wall. If you’ve made all these decisions ahead of time, it makes the whole process smooth and easy without second-guessing.

Full Body Mount

If you have the space and harvest a unique trophy, a full body mount is an option as well. Fully body mounts tend to be popular for bighorn sheep, Barbary sheep and other mid-size to smaller sized animals. Field preparation for this requires some experience, which our guides will provide. The same principles of hide care apply and you can freeze if necessary. Again, it’s important to communicate these expectations with your guide so that they can approach field dressing and caping the animal with the end goal in mind.

European Style Skull Mount

Sometimes, mounting without the skin creates a beautiful, modern look. European style mounts with a bleached skull are fantastic and they save a ton of time and effort on the preparation side of things. This is also a good option if you are short on ceiling height or wall space in your home for a large animal like a bull elk.

Cleaning and preparing the skull takes some work at home. You must remove all the skin, boil, brush and pressure wash to remove all flesh. The easy alternative is to drop your skull at a taxidermist that does euro mounts. Many taxidermists offer beetle cleaning, which provides excellent results. They drop the skull with the bugs and they do all the hard work for you. Pick it up when the job is done and you will have a beautiful skull ready to mount.

Consult With Your Hunting Guide

If you have questions or you’re not sure what’s involved in taxidermy after the hunt, please let us know. And feel free to ask your guide questions along the way.

If you’d like to know more about our guided hunts in New Mexico, please explore the rest of our website and contact us for details.

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