Frequently Asked Questions & General Info

How do I properly prepare my big game animal prior to bringing it in for mounting?
Field Dressing

1. With deer, elk, caribou, moose, antelope etc… on its back, make a shallow cut though the skin just below the breastbone. Make sure that you start your cut well below the brisket area, allowing plenty of uncut skin for your shoulder mount. Insert two free fingers of the free hand. Cradling the blade, to hold the skin up and away to avoid puncturing the entrails (Figure A).

2. Cut straight down the belly and around the genitals, separating but not severing them from the abdominal wall. Slit the belly skin all the way to the pelvic bone (Figure B).

3. Cut deeply around the rectum, being careful not to cut off or puncture the intestine. Pull to make sure that the rectum is separated from the tissue connecting it to the pelvic canal. Pull the rectum out and tie a string tightly around it to prevent droppings from touching the meat. Lift the animal's back quarter a bit, reach into the front of the pelvic canal, and pull the intestine and connected rectum into the stomach area.

4. If you want to make a full shoulder mount, do not cut open the chest cavity or cut the animals throat. Cut the diaphragm away from the ribs all the way down to the backbone area. Reach into the forward chest cavity, find the esophagus and windpipe, cut them off as far up as possible (Figure C), and pull them down though the chest.

5. Roll the deer onto its side, grab the esophagus with one hand, and the rectum/intestine with the other. Pull hard and the deer's internal organs will come out in one big package with a minimum mess.

Caping: The process of skinning out a trophy animal is best left to the taxidermist. Their experience skinning, especially the delicate nose, mouth, eyes, and ears is invaluable toward producing a quality mount. Damage to a hide is costly to repair. Some types of damage simply cannot be "fixed" by the taxidermist.

Most trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death. As soon as the animal dies, bacteria begins to attack the carcass. Warm, humid weather accelerates bacteria growth. In remote areas, or areas not near you taxidermist, a competent person may be required to cape out the hide in order to preserve it.

Every taxidermist has a preferred method of caping a hide. Contact your taxidermist prior to your hunt in order to get instructions on their caping requirements. However, the following techniques are generally acceptable.

Skinning life-sized big game: There are two major methods of skinning for a large life-sized mount such as deer, elk or bear. These methods are the flat incision and the dorsal method.

The flat incision: This method is used for rug mounts, you will also use this method on any short haired animal. The areas to be cut are shown in Figure 1. Make these slits (cutting the feet free from the carcass) and pull the skin of the carcass. The head is detached as with the shoulder mount.

Note: if you can't take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist's specifications.

The dorsal method: This method of skinning involves a long slit down the back from the tail base up to the neck (Figure 1A). The carcass is skinned as it is pulled through this incision. The feet/hooves and the head are cut from the carcass as with a shoulder mount explained later.

Only use this method with approval and detailed instruction from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after skinning. When freezing any animal ensure that you do not roll it, you want to fold it skin to skin and then start from the back and fold forward making sure that the head/skull is on top. It takes a couple of days for the head to freeze and can cause slippage on the most critical area of your trophy.

Caping for a shoulder mount:

1. With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body well behind the shoulder at approximately the mid-way point of the rib cage behind the front legs. Slit the skin around the legs just above the knees. An additional slit will be needed from the back of the leg joining the body cut behind the legs (Figure 2A and 2B). Be sure to cut up the back of the leg and do not cut the “arm pit” area.

2. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaws exposing the head/neck junction. Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from this junction. Circle the neck cutting down the spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp the antler bases and twist the head off the neck. This should allow the hide to be rolled up and put in a freezer until transported to the taxidermist. These cuts should allow ample hide for the taxidermist to work with in mounting. Remember, the taxidermist can cut off excess hide but he can't add what he doesn't have.

Note: When field dressing a trophy to be mounted, don't cut into the brisket (chest) or neck area. If blood gets on the hide to be mounted, wash it off with snow or water as soon as possible. Also, avoid dragging the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, rickshaw, or 4-wheeler. The rope, rocks, or a broken branch from a dead fall can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you need to drag it out with a rope, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy carefully.

Note: Because of the various diseases that wild game can transmit to humans, always use extreme caution when handling the carcass. Use rubber or latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling.

Small Mammals:

Do not gut the small mammals. Animals, coyote sized or smaller, should not be skinned unless by a professional. Small mammals, especially carnivores, will spoil quickly because of their thin hide and bacteria. If you can't take the small game animal immediately to a taxidermist, as soon as the carcass cools completely, put it in a plastic bag and freeze it. If you have had the privilege of taking more than one animal do not stack on top of each other, this will hinder the cooling process and you can lose both animals.


What is the best way to prepare my fish prior to bringing it in for mounting?

There are couple of different methods you can choose from for your trophy fish. Both skin and reproduction mounts are popular. Whichever method you choose, Animal Art Taxidermy is an excellent choice.

Skin Mounts are done from the actual fish you catch. Not all fish are suitable for skin mounts due to size or oily skin a lot of times depending on what time of the year will also determine if it can be mounted. If you decide to do a skin mount, here are a few simple rules to follow:

* Never cut the fish in any way.
* Minimize scale loss by not allowing the fish to flop around.
* Keep your fish separate from other fish.
* Keep your fish in ice water until you are able to freeze it using one of the methods below.
* Take as many pictures as you can. Close-up photos of the fish are best and most digital cameras have a macro mode. This is very helpful to the taxidermist in individualizing your fish, and capturing all the detail.
* It is best to take the photos as soon as the fish is landed. The colors will fade fast as the fish dies.

Methods for freezing:

Method 1 (My preferred method for freezing)

* Use Borax, which can be found in most grocery stores in the laundry detergent area.
* Cover the fish from head to tail, both sides.
* Lay a piece of wax paper, shiny side up, on a rigid board that is as long as your fish at minimum.
* Lay the fish flat on the wax paper, taking caution of the fins.
* Lay paired fins along the body. ( Tail fin and dorsal fin are not paired fins all others are)
* Place the entire board with the fish in the freezer.
* Once frozen solid, place (only the frozen fish) into two heavy duty plastic bags such as leaf bags. Push out as much air as possible, and seal the end of the bag to where air does not leak back in.
* Place back in the freezer, and try not to stack anything on top of it.

Method 2

* Soak a bath or beach towel (depending on size of fish) in water.
* Wrap the wet fish with the wet towel(s), taking caution of the fins.
* Lay the fish flat into two heavy duty plastic bags such as leaf bags. Push out as much air as possible, and seal the end of the bag to where air does not leak back in.
* Place in freezer on a rigid surface, or as flat as possible, until fish freezes solid.
* Do not lay anything on top of the fish.

NOTE: Take extra care to prevent damage to the fish. Small damages can be fixed, but major damage to the fish may not be able to be fixed, and will cost extra.


This will be the method you will want to choose if you want to release your catch, eat it, or simply cannot get the fish prepared for a skin mount. This method will give you a beautiful reproduction of the fish you caught, that will last forever. For this method, if you want your fish to be as original as the fish you caught, please follow the following directions:

* Measure the fish length from tip to tip, and the girth of the widest part of the fish, which is typically in front of the dorsal fin. It is best to use a “soft” tape to get these two measurements.
* Take as many close-up photos as you can. However, if planning to release the fish, please minimize the photograph session. Use a digital camera on macro mode if available. The pictures will help enhance the individualism of your fish.


Do not gut the bird. Rinse off any blood on the feathers with water. If the head area is bleeding wrap the head in a paper towel. Take the bird immediately to your taxidermist or freeze it. Put the bird into a plastic bag for freezing being careful not to damage the feathers, including the tail. On most birds the size of a goose on down use a panty hose leg, start from the head and work the bird into the panty hose leg this will prevent the feathers from being pulled and not laying correctly. If the bird's tail feathers do not fit in the bag do not bend them. Let the tail stick out of the bag and tie the bag loosely.

Turkeys: Great care should be taken with any trophy you are planning to mount, but turkeys by their size and the often warm weather during the spring hunting season are often miss handled causing damage that make creating a nice mount much harder if not impossible. Quite often the over excited hunter inflicts more damage on the bird than the killing shot.

When retrieving your down bird get to it as quickly as possible if it is flopping, grab it by the legs holding it away from your body until the death convolutions have ceased. This will keep the bird from causing more damage to the wing and tail feathers. These big birds must be treated just as delicately as any smaller birds. Try to keep the feathers from becoming soiled in dirt or blood. Never grab the bird by the neck or drag it on the ground. When transporting the gobbler, place it on its belly, never on its back.


Always have appropriate tags with your trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not cut the ears for attachment.

• Songbirds, eagles, hawks, and owls are protected by Federal Law and cannot be mounted unless with special Federal permit.
• For situations where you are hunting with no available taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about techniques to skin out the entire cape (including the head) and salting the hide. This is the only method in remote locations that can preserve your hide for later mounting.