Taxidermy tips for successful deer hunters and bear hunters

Tyler FrantzCongratulations! The perfect doses of skill and luck just collided in your latest outdoor endeavor, allowing you to finally tag-out on that buck of a lifetime! After the smiling snapshots and storytelling subside, you begin to contemplate the notion of preserving the memory by having your trophy mounted for display in the den, office or family room.

Fortunately, our present day and age offers a variety of creative, modern taxidermy options from which to choose for enjoying your treasured mount for many years to come.

Taxidermy has come a long way since its earliest origins, when hunters would have upholsterers crudely stuff tanned deer hides with rags, straw or cotton, then stitch them up again, before tacking them to the hunting camp wall.

In recent years, the process has evolved into a specialized art form, where trained professionals take great pride in creating beautiful custom mounts for their clients using the industry's growing variety of products, tools and techniques. Taxidermy supply companies now manufacture an abundance of well-defined forms and accessories, specifically designed to accurately match the anatomy of a living creature.  

Jason Krause, of Krause's Taxidermy Studio, Pine Grove, Pa., describes the many options that customers encounter when bringing a deer into his shop. "There are roughly 15 basic poses for a standard shoulder mount to choose from as a starting point. From there, we can customize ear position, mouth posture, and even further alter the form itself if you want something different." Krause explained.

A skilled taxidermist can perform an assortment of diverse tasks to meet customers' special requests, including turning heads at extreme angles, building hand-crafted pedestal mounts, or even adding habitat to match the surroundings of where the deer was taken. "The options are really limitless. Its all up to the client's wants, needs and imagination," Krause says.

When asked what clients should look for in selecting a taxidermist, Krause explained that, "People should visit a few studios to compare the quality of workmanship on the mounts at each business. Ask about their training and if they regularly attend conventions or compete in any competitions to improve in their craft. After viewing the work and asking a few questions, you will be able to decide if you are comfortable leaving your trophy in that person's hands."  

No matter how talented the taxidermist, though, one cannot expect him or her to perform miracles on a specimen that comes to the studio in poor condition. There are certain things that successful hunters and fishermen can do, post-harvest, to ensure that the finished result of their mount can achieve its fullest potential.

Bruce Wilson, of Wilson's Taxidermy, Lebanon, Pa., offers helpful advice on getting an animal from field to workshop in good condition. "Guys should be really careful when dragging their deer if they plan to mount it. I recommend bringing the front hooves of the deer up by the head before securing a drag rope so the hide doesn't get all scuffed up or rubbed off," he says.

"Also, try not to put a huge slit in the ear when securing your tag. Large safety pins work great for this, and the hole isn't nearly as obvious as a large cut from a knife. We can fix that kind of thing, but it is going to look much nicer if we don't have to fix it," Wilson cautioned.

"Another important thing is to have the deer caped out and cooled down as quickly as possible. Most butcher shops know how to cape really well, and I have even skinned out deer for people here at the shop. But if guys aren't sure what they want to do, the best thing is to just put the cape in a garbage bag and throw it in the freezer so it doesn't spoil," Wilson added.

It basically comes down to using a little extra caution after harvesting an animal to help these wildlife artists begin their work with a reasonable canvas. Most taxidermists realize you are paying for their services and genuinely take great pride in producing satisfying results- but it certainly helps when customers do their part to ensure the mounts have the ability to turn out as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

A quality mount has the ability to rekindle the fond memory of a hunt, allowing you to relive the whole experience each time it catches your gaze, while creatively honoring the beauty of a magnificent creature for many years to come.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Pennsylvania – Tyler Frantz, Whitetail Deer

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