Field Guide to Caring for Your Big Game Trophy

December 17th, 2014 Randy Mayes

Once you have your hard earned trophy on the ground, as they say “now is when the work begins”.   Most hunters can handle field dressing their game and even skinning and processing it.  When you will be mounting the animal, there are a few things you need to do differently.

The first thing you will likely be doing is field dressing your animal.  If you will be doing a lifesize mount, it is important to retain the genitalia.   If you will be doing a rug, it is important that you keep your incision in the center of the belly.  If it is not in the center, it will throw off the symmetry of the rug.  Start your incision at the sternum and continue down to the anus.  Continue field dressing in the normal fashion.  If you will be dragging your trophy out, take care not to damage the hair in doing so.

If you are in a remote area or the animal is too large to drag or carry out, you will need to skin it on site.  If you will be doing a shoulder mount, use the diagram below to make your incisions.  The most common mistake is that the brisket area is cut too short.  Skin the animal up to a point where the neck and skull meet.  Cut the neck bone and meat at that point, leaving the head intact, unskinned.  If you will be doing a lifesize mount, use the diagram below for those incisions.

Shoulder Mount Diagram:

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Lifesize Diagram:

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Once you get the cape or lifesize skin off, if you can still feel warmth on the skin from the body heat, you can lay the skin out in a cool shady spot until the heat dissipates.  This may take 15 – 40 minutes depending on the temperature and the type of hide.  Once the skin has cooled down, you will need to put it in a bag.  In the field, it is best to put the skin in a fiber bag such as a feed bag or cheesecloth.  The only time you want to put it in a plastic bag is if the body heat has dissipated and you will be putting it directly into a freezer.

When packing the animal out, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the skin needs to be kept cool.  Once you have the animal out, you will need to get the cape or lifesize skin in a freezer, cooler or to the taxidermist as soon as possible.  If the temperatures are at freezing or below, the time factor is less crucial.   If you are not comfortable skinning or caping your trophy, it may be practical to take the whole animal to the taxidermist for this.

This video helps to demonstrate how to cape out your trophy:

You’ve taken the time to get your trophy AND to get it safely out of the hunting area.  Now make sure you don’t make a hasty decision as to what taxidermist does the work.  Top quality taxidermy is the name of the game.  Remember “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten!”

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