Tips for all Animals
- Never drag an animal.
- Never cut the throat of an animal to be mounted.
- Never salt a hide unless it's been professionally fleshed.
- Never use a plastic bag, unless you are going to freeze the animal or hide.
- Do not cut up the back of the neck (unless you have to cape out the face).
- Always cut from the skin side up with a sharp knife and in straight lines.
- Make sure you leave more than enough cape on a shoulder mount (See shoulder mount below).
- Keep every animal or hide as cool as possible and bring in to the taxidermist as soon as possible.
- Freeze hide ASAP if you are unable to deliver to taxidermist quickly.
The shoulder mount is the most common way to mount a trophy big game animal. Whether you want a standard shoulder mount or a pedestal shoulder mount the caping process should be done as outlined below.
- When field dressing your animal it is important to not cut past the breast bone.
- Make a circular cut from the skin side out around the midsection of the animal half-way between the front and back legs (A).
- Make two more circular cuts all the way around each front knee of the animal (B).
- Cut up the back of each leg, following the natural hair line, until you reach the point where the leg meets the body (C). DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE ARMPIT.
- Cut straight back until you reach the original cut around the midsection. At this point no more cuts are necessary in the skin of the animal.
- Lift and pull the skin towards the neck and skin the animal up to the base of the neck. Cutting down the back of the neck is not necessary and this will be done by your taxidermist. Only cut the back of the neck if you are in a back-country situation and must cape out the entire head (D).
- Separate the neck from the body by cutting through the meat and bone just below where the skull meets the neck, being careful not to damage the cape.
- Get the cape and head cooled down and to your taxidermist as quickly as possible.
Small game animals should be brought to your taxidermist as quickly as possible or frozen whole. Larger animals that can't be frozen whole, such as bear or mountain lion, will need to be skinned as outlined below. Do not attempt to skin small game unless you are very experienced at skinning. Small game such as coyotes and bobcats have very thin skin and you can quickly ruin a hide if you are not careful. Always try to follow the natural hair lines on the animal when making your cuts.
- Make a straight cut from the anus to the base of the skull (A).
- Make another straight cut starting behind the front pad up the inside of the leg, straight across the chest, and down the other front leg stopping at the pad (B).
- Make a similar cut starting at the rear pad following the hairline up the leg, across the body intersecting with the first cut and then down the other leg stopping at the pad (C).
- Begin SLOWLY skinning the hide from the animal.
- When you get to the tail, strip or skin the tail if you are comfortable doing that. If not, skin to the base of the tail and then cut through the tail bone, being careful to not cut the hide.
- Skin down the the ankle or wrist joint and then cut each foot off at the ankle.
- Continue skinning until you reach the base of the skull. At this point, cut through the neck meat and disconnect the head from the carcass.
- Get the hide to your taxidermist quickly or freeze.
It is best to consult with your taxidermist before your hunt if you plan on having your trophy life-size mounted to determine what pose your animal will be mounted in and the best skinning method to use. Mountain Lions and bears must be skinned in the field, unless you are within 30 minutes of your taxidermist. Mountain Lions and bears retain their body heat for a long time and if you wait very long, your hide will slip and be ruined. Having a cooler filled with frozen water bottles is a great way to keep your hide in the best shape possible. For most life-size mounts, the dorsal skinning method will be used. In most cases, Mountain Lions should be skinned using the flat incision method (same as a rug). The dorsal skinning method is outlined below.
- Make a straight cut from the base of the tail up into the neck.
- Skin the animal as the carcass is pulled through the incision.
- Once you have skinned around the entire neck, carefully remove the head from the carcass a couple inches up from the base of the skull, the same as you would for a shoulder mount.
- Continue skinning all the way down to the ankle of each leg and then cut through the bone at the ankle.
- Cool and freeze the hide as soon as possible.
While it is best to let your taxidermist cape the head of your animal, some back-country hunts may require the hunter to cape out the entire head of the animal. If you find yourself in this situation, follow the instructions below.
- Follow all the steps above in the shoulder mount section.
- Make a Y incision up the back of the neck ending at the back of each antler.
- Skin and pry the skin from around the antler bur. A standard screwdriver works well for this.
- Continue skinning up to the base of the ear. You will be able to see where the cartilage meets the skull by wiggling the ear around. Cut through the ear cartilage as close to the skull as possible.
- Once the ears are disconnected, continue skinning down the face towards the eyes.
- As you approach the eyes stick your finger through the outside of the eye socket and pull away from the face as you skin. This will stretch the eye skin so you can see better and allow you to cut the skin as close to the skull as possible. Do not cut off any skin around the eyes, this should all be attached to the cape when you are done.
- Some animals will have tear ducts that are tucked deep into the skull below the eye. Take care not to cut through the skin here and cut the entire duct out. Many times you can pull the duct out without cutting.
- Continue skinning down until you are an inch or so from the opening of the mouth.
- At this point you will cut the lips free from inside the animals mouth. Make this cut all the way around the inside of the mouth where the skins meets the jawbone, leaving as much skin as possible.
- Cut again from inside the mouth on the top lip below the nose until you can see the nose cartilage. Once you can see the nose cartilage, cut straight back through the cartilage.
- Continue carefully skinning any hide that is still attached.
Freezing a hide incorrectly can damage the hide over time. Freezing can cause certain areas of the hide, especially the face and ears, to dry out. A hide should be brought into a taxidermist as soon as possible in order to provide the best hide possible for your mount. Following the tips below will help keep your hide in the best possible condition when the hide is frozen.
- Do not roll up the hide before freezing, instead fold the hide skin to skin and then fold again in roughly 1 foot folds. Rolling the hide causes the outer portion to thaw out faster than the inner portion and takes longer to thaw out.
- If the hide will be frozen for a while, wrap the head and feet in a wet towel and then fold up and freeze.
- Place the folded hide in a plastic bag getting as much air out as possible. Twisting and duct taping the bag's opening will also help to keep air out. Vacuum sealing also works very well if the hide will be frozen long term.
- Bring your frozen hide or animal to the taxidermist within a few months if possible.