As dedicated hunters, we spend countless hours working, preparing and scouting for our next outdoor adventure. It’s also safe to say our bank accounts take a severe beating when we purchase new gear such as bows, rifles, range-finders, binoculars, boots and game-cameras. Plus, we battle freezing temperatures, adverse weather, fatigue and tough hunting conditions that physically test our will, grit and determination season after season. Not to mention our personal investment in precious time spent away from our friends and family, but all the sacrifices we endure and challenges we face are well worth the costs at the end of a successful hunt.
Make no mistake; hunting is a way of life and extremely important to all of us, and so are the game animals we respect and relentlessly pursue. This is exactly why we expect and deserve a high-quality mount that will enable us to relive the hunt, remember the experience, and retell the story with a single glance. With that being said, let’s talk with an award-winning taxidermist and get some crucial taxidermy tips that will help you get the best mount possible this season.
Nathan Wilson of Wilson’s Wildlife Artistry takes his job as a professional taxidermist very seriously. In fact, the entire Wilson family does and you can clearly see that the first few seconds you spend in his jaw-dropping studio. It’s a full-time, family owned, and family operated outfit started by his father, Grady Wilson, a Vietnam Veteran with nearly 49 years of experience as a dedicated taxidermist. These folks don’t just crank-out an average run-of-the-mill mount either. They go the proverbial extra-mile to bring your hunting experience and memory back to life with a mount that will instantly put you right back into the treestand or on the stalk during that moment of truth. Here’s what Nathan recommends:
Tip 1: Avoid Field-Dressing Mistakes
Once you’ve recovered your whitetail, make sure you field-dress the animal properly without damaging the hide. Never cut or saw all the way through the chest cavity bone into the neck to reach the trachea tube. Instead simply reach into this area to make your cuts and pull directly out. Cutting the hide too far into the neck can potentially damage the cape, especially when you’re wanting a good extended shoulder mount on a high-quality form that shows muscle tone and neck definition.
Tip 2: Wrap & Protect
Transporting a heavy whitetail from the woods to your vehicle can be physically challenging and very difficult, especially when hunting remote areas with limited access. It’s a good idea to pack a thick-walled tarp or burlap sack with you in the field before dragging or pulling your deer out. Wrapping either material around the head and neck area (or the entire deer, if you are planning to get a full-body mount) will help protect the hide from jagged rocks, sharp sticks, coarse roots and other ground obstructions that can potentially cause major damage. Always pull the whitetail by the rack or head lifted high to avoid unnecessary ground contact and abrasion.
Tip 3: Eliminate Rope Burns & Abrasions
Never tie ropes, bungee cords or ratchet straps directly around the head, neck or shoulder areas when manually dragging or pulling the whitetail out with an ATV. This is a common mistake that will often generate serious rope burns and bald spots on and around key areas of the cape that can’t be hidden or fixed in some cases. Taking a little extra time and pains on how you transport your whitetail out of the woods can make all the difference in the world.
Tip 4: Cape It Out Right
If you’re taking your whitetail to a professional butcher or meat processor, make sure you tell them you’re having the deer mounted. Specify whether you’re planning on a shoulder, extended shoulder or full-body mount. For those do-it-yourself hunters, always make precision cuts and leave your taxidermist plenty of cape to work with when they start your project. There are several how-to-videos you can watch before you attempt to cape out your whitetail, but don’t be afraid to ask your taxidermist for help or advice.
Tip 5: Avoid Moisture & Bacteria
The last piece of advice is to avoid moisture and bacteria at all costs. Sometimes a butcher will cape the whitetail out and store it in a cooler for a few days while processing the meat. These areas are often sprayed frequently to remove blood and other byproducts, which can stay wet and damp. However, moisture is a major inhibitor of bacteria and this can cause the hide to begin shedding. The key is to get the cape from the field to your freezer as soon as possible to kill bacteria. Once the whitetail is properly caped out, securely store it in a garbage bag and get it to the freezer as soon as possible. Following these steps will help your taxidermist deliver a high-quality mount that you’ll be proud to hang on your wall.