Proper Field Care For Game

The moment arrives too infrequently when bag a trophy animal or catch a trophy fish. So when that moment does arrive we should be prepared with the knowledge to properly care for our prize.

I have participated in taxidermy for most of my life. In that time I have seen some terribly cared for specimens that were to be mounted. The primary mistake I see is cutting the cape too short on a prospective shoulder mount, but the mistakes do not stop there. Sportsmen and women of today are much more knowledgeable than just a few years ago, but continuous improvement is what we all should seek.

To avoid cutting the cape too short, simply make the incision, while skinning your trophy, at least six inches behind the shoulder. By doing this there always will be enough cape for the taxidermist. However, prior to the skinning process the trophy will have to be transported from the field.

While in transport most trophies are subject to hair loss from simply dragging the animal. This severely reduces the quality of the finished product. To avoid this problem consider investing in a game cart. There are numerous models on the market that are inexpensive and work great. A game cart will help reduce damage to the trophy and also make hauling your animal out easier. If the animal must be dragged, try to be to be careful and make sure that the front shoulders are elevated above the ground.

While in transport most trophies are subject to hair loss from simply dragging the animal. This severely reduces the quality of the finished product from the taxidermist.

Keep The Animal Dry
When dealing with mammals or birds try to avoid getting them wet — whether it is by body fluids or a water source. The reason staying dry is so important is because dampness promotes bacteria growth, which in turn may cause hair slippage. Also get the animal to the taxidermist or into the freezer as quickly as possible especially in warmer weather.

If the trophy happens to be a bird the key is to avoid all reasonable feather loss; this is probably the worst complication from mounting birds. Nothing looks worse than a duck mount with shabby grooming, which commonly occurs to those with feather loss. To avoid feather loss avoid letting the bird flop around after the shot. Get to it as soon as possible if it is still alive and lift it from the ground. By doing this it will significantly reduce damage to the bird. Also try to handle all birds very gently. A world renowned taxidermist can’t help a poorly cared for specimen.

If plans are made prior to an outing to collect a specimen for mounting purposes the wise hunter will carry some cotton balls and a woman’s stocking or hosiery. The cotton balls will be used to insert into any body opening (mouth, anus, ears or shot holes) preventing leakage of body fluids. After all holes are taken care of gently slip the bird headfirst into the stocking. This will keep all feathers flowing in one direction and will help prevent feather loss. If the bird isn’t taken directly to the taxidermist place it into a heavy duty plastic bag and store it in the freezer, preferably on the top shelf to prevent the head or tail from being broken.

The most common problems that I’ve seen for those who would like to get a fish mounted is the loss of scales and freezer burn. Many may not realize the effects of scale loss, but it can make the difference between a good mount and a great mount. Scale loss seems to affect the warm water species significantly more than those of the cold water variety. That’s because most warm water species have larger scales making their loss more noticeable. Regardless, the prevention of any scale loss is the most desirable. To prevent this handle fish gently. To prevent freezer burn, wrap the fish in a wet towel and place it into a heavy plastic bag then into the freezer.

Those who follow these tips will benefit by receiving the best quality mount possible. Technology in the taxidermist field has grown tremendously. The quality of the work that is done today is significantly better than just a decade ago, but most can’t perform miracles.

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