Join acclaimed taxidermists Rick and Nickie Carter as they demonstrate how to skin a deer, and the importance of proper field care in obtaining the best quality taxidermy.
The path to quality taxidermy begins the moment your trophy hits the ground.
Here are some valuable tips on field care and skinning a deer.
If you follow these simple steps, you will provide your taxidermist with a top-quality specimen that will better enable them to give you the best possible mount.
Today, we’re working with a whitetail deer, but you can use these exact same procedures on an elk, antelope, mule deer, or any other antlered animal.
The two most common mistakes by hunters are making improper cuts in the hide while skinning, and failing to keep the head and skin cool before taking it to the taxidermist.
These are the key steps that need to be performed for proper field care:
- Avoid dragging your deer on the ground. Dragging can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. Instead, place your deer onto a sled or four-wheeler. If you must drag your deer out of the woods, pick it up by the antlers and pull very carefully. And remember, if they’re available, it’s always a good idea to wear latex gloves.
- Many trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death due to spoilage of the hide. As soon as the animal dies, bacteria begin to attack. And warm, humid weather accelerates bacteria growth. The hide must be kept cool in order to prevent spoilage and hair loss. So don’t leave your deer out in the sun, and don’t drive it around in the back of your truck.
- By far the most common mistake made by nearly all hunters is cutting the hide too short. In the video, Rick demonstrates where the hide needs to be cut off the deer for a shoulder mount. In order for your taxidermist to have enough skin to cover the full shoulder and brisket area of your trophy, be sure to follow the cutting instructions that Rick demonstrates.
- The belly cut that you make to gut the deer should stop well before you reach the front legs. Be sure not to go all the way up and split the brisket. With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at approximately the midway point of the rib cage, just behind the front legs.
- The next step is to cut the skin around the legs, just above the knees, circling completely around the leg. An additional cut will be needed up the back of the leg to join the body cut behind the legs.
If you leave plenty of skin for your taxidermist, you can choose any style of wall pedestal, floor pedestal, or shoulder mount without worrying about having enough skin. Remember, your taxidermist can easily trim excess skin, but he can’t add it back to the hide if you’ve cut it too short.
- Pull the hide away from the carcass as you skin. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw, exposing the head and neck junction.
- Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from the skull. Circle the neck meat, cutting through the esophagus and windpipe, into the spine, between the vertebrae. After the cut is complete, grab the antlers and twist the head off the neck. If you have cut correctly through the vertebrae, the head should easily disconnect from the body.
- Now the head and hide can be rolled up, and placed in a plastic bag, and put in the freezer until taken to the taxidermist.
Don’t attempt to skin the head out of the deer. Caping, which is the process of skinning out the head of an animal, is best left to the taxidermist. Their experience in skinning, especially the delicate areas around the nose, mouth, ears, and eyes, is invaluable toward producing a quality mount. Without this experience, the hide could be damaged beyond repair.
Once you have that special trophy on the ground, by following these basic field care steps, you will ensure that your taxidermist has what they need to create an exciting piece of art to commemorate your hunt, and a special memory you can share with others for a lifetime.
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