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A Quality Mount Begins With Proper Field Care

Head and Neck shots should always be avoided whenever possible. Dragging and 4 wheelers are very detrimental on big game mounts in the shoulder areas as it removes top hair and hair completely from the shoulders.

Field Dressing

  • With deer on its back make a shallow cut through the skin just below the breastbone. Make sure that you start your cut well away form the brisket allowing plenty of uncut skin for shoulder mout. Insert two fingers of the free hand, cradling the blade, to hold the skin up and away from the entrails (Figure A).

  • Cut straight down the belly and around the genitals, separating but not severing them from the abdominal wall. Slit the belly skin all the way to the pelvic bone (Figure B.)

  • Cut deeply around the rectum, being careful not to cut off or puncture the intestine. Pull to make sure the rectum is separated from the tissue connecting it to the pelvic canal. Pull the rectum out and tie string tightly around it to prevent droppings from touching the meat. Lift the animal's back quarter a bit, reach into the front of the pelvic canal, and pull the intestine and connected rectum into the stomach area.

  • If you want to make a full shoulder mount, do not cut open the chest cavity. Cut the diaphragm away from the ribs all the way to the backbone area. Reach into the forward chest cavity, find the esophagus and windpipe, cut them off as far up as possible ( Figure C ), and pull them down through the chest.

  • Roll the deer onto it's side, grab the esophagus with one hand and the rectum/intestine with the other. Pull hard. the deer's internal organs will come out in one big package with minimum of mess.

A Quality Mount Begins With Proper Field Care

Note: When field dressing a trophy to be mounted, DO NOT cut into the brisket (chest) or neck area. If blood gets on the hide to be mounted, wash it off with snow or water as soon as possible. Also, avoid dragging the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, rickshaw, or 4-wheeler. The rope, rocks, or a broken branch can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you do need to drag it out with a rope, attach the rope to the base of the antler and drag your trophy carefully.

Caping for a Shoulder Mount

  • With a sharp knife slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at approximately the mid-way point of the rib cage behind the front legs. Slit the skin around the legs just above the knees ( Figure D). An additional slit will be needed from the back of the leg and joining the body cut behind the legs ( Figure E); There is a ridge of hair on the back of the legs making it easy to follow up the leg, just be sure to stay out of the armpit region. (You may also tube skin the legs and let the taxidermist make the slit.)

  • Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw exposing the head/neck junction. Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from this junction. circle the neck cutting down to the spinal column ( Figure F). After this cut is complete, grasp the antler bases and twist the head off the neck. This should allow the hide to be rolled up and put in a freezer until delivered to a taxidermist. These cuts should allow plenty of hide for the taxidermist to work with in mounting. Remember, the taxidermist can cut off excess hide but he can't add what he doesn't have.

A Quality Mount Begins With Proper Field Care: Caping for a Shoulder Mount


Note: Caping the face should be left for the taxidermist. Properly skinning the delicate nose, mouth, eyes and ears is invaluable toward producing a quality mount. Sometimes it may be necessary to cape the face so that the hide can be frozen without the antlers, such as with a moose or elk. If this happens, make a "Y" incision along the back of the cape on up to the back of the antler burrs. Be careful caping around the burrs, keeping the knife blade as close to the skull as possible. Be sure to cut the ear butts close to the skull. Leave eyelids and lachrymal (eye) glands intact on cape, leave as much nose cartilage attached to the cape and obtain as much of the gums as possible. Once caped off the skull, the hide should be folded skin to skin and rolled into a ball, placed into a bag as air tight as possible and then placed in a freezer. The antlers can then be cut from the skull ( Figure H ). Deliver cape and antlers to a taxidermist as soon as possible.

Skinning Life-Size Big Game

If you can't take your big game immediately to a taxidermist, skin the animal, leaving the feet, head and tail in, fold skin to skin, role up, place in air tight bag and freeze.

The Abdominal Method (For rug mounts, mountain lions) ( Figure I)

The Dorsal Method (some lying down positions, bears standing on rear feet, fur bearing animals) (Figures J & K )

Small Mammals (coyote size and smaller)

The skinning should be left for your taxidermist. DO NOT gut the animal. Small mammals will spoil quickly. If you can't take the small game animal immediately to a taxidermist, as soon as the carcass cools completely, put it in a plastic bag and freeze. Note: Always take safety measures against rabies when handling mammals.


DO NOT gut the bird. Rinse off any blood on feathers with water. Take bird immediately to your taxidermist or freeze it. Place the birds head under one wing, place bird into a nylon stocking (will help hold the feathers in proper arrangement), then place into a plastic bag for freezing. If the tail feathers do not fit in the bag do not bend them. Let the tail stick out of the bag and tie the bag loosely.


DO NOT gut the fish. If you can not take your fish immediately to a taxidermist, wrap it in a very wet towel and put it in a plastic bag, making sure all the fins are flat against the fish's body (to prevent breakage), and freeze it. * A fish will loose its coloration shortly after being caught. A good color photograph immediately after the catch may enable the taxidermist to duplicate the natural color tones of the particular fish. Before wrapping the fish in a wet towel, Borax can be gently rubbed onto the skin to help preserve the color (NEVER rub against the scales).

General Tips

Keep your trophies as cool as possible. Avoid keeping in the sun or laying on top of hot vehicles. Excess heat promotes bacterial growth which results in hair slippage. The cooler it's kept, and the sooner it's frozen, the better.

Always have appropriate tags with your trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not cut the ears for attachment.
If planning a hunt where there is no available taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about thoroughly skinning your trophy and salting the hide. This will preserve your hide for later mounting.
Contact your taxidermist with any questions on how to properly preserve your trophy for mounting. We are here to help and want your trophy to last a lifetime and longer.

Good luck and shoot straight.


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