February 09, 2024
Taxidermy is a longtime tradition that originated in Europe sometime during the 16th or 17th century. It’s been a popular trade throughout the years, but the art of taxidermy has truly evolved in the past few decades. Not only are modern game animal mounts extremely realistic and lifelike, but they’re more expressive (and expensive) than ever.
Many hunters feel the need to preserve their deer mounts after dropping hard-earned dollars on great-looking taxidermy work. But how is that done? Honestly, it isn’t difficult. Follow this four-step guide to keeping your deer mounts in top condition.
STEP 1: HUNTER CARE
Hunter care is the foremost factor the taxidermy owner can control. Josh West, owner of The Taxidermy Guy, knows his craft, and he says that hunter care following the harvest is a crucial step in the quality and longevity of a mount. “It starts with the hunter,” says Josh. “Take care of that animal quickly. You get those days, especially in September, when it’s hot. You can’t be driving all over town showing people your animal for hours. It needs to get to the taxidermist, caped out, and in the freezer as fast as possible.”
The same holds true any time of season. You always want to make sure animals are cleanly skinned and caped out in a timely manner. This will avoid the “slipping” of hairs in the hide, ensuring they remain firmly intact during the fur tanning process.
STEP 2: PREP WORK
Once you’ve properly taken care of the deer, and it’s ready for the taxidermist, proper caping is a must. Whether you or the taxidermist does this, it needs to be fleshed out completely. If you get all the meat off, and you really work the leather with a fleshing machine, you aren’t just getting rid of the fat and meat, you’re working slightly beyond that. Don’t take too much, though, as that creates problems, too.
“If you do a quality job with skin prep, there is nothing there to rot or stink,” Josh explains. “I hear horror stories of guys who get their deer back, and the mounts stink. That’s because of the hide prep. They’ve left meat and other things behind, and that means there’s bacteria left on it. But that’s the biggest key — skin prep. There should be nothing there but leather.”
STEP 3: QUALITY TANNING
The selected tanning process is another factor. The route used by the taxidermist can play a major role in how well your deer mounts hold up over time. According to Josh West, there are numerous types of tans that professional taxidermists pick and choose from. Josh explains: “There’s been this argument for a long time of which tan is better? What process is better?
What I’ve learned is that the skin prep is everything. Some guys just knock some of the meat off and dry preserve it. In most cases, that isn’t going to last as long as a cape that is properly fleshed and preserved at a tannery.
STEP 4: PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
Unsurprisingly, insects can get onto your deer mounts and wreak havoc on them. Moths and beetles can be problematic, especially at certain times of year. Your mounts really need to be kept in a conditioned space (not in a barn or garage) because of humidity and bugs.
“Once a mount is finished, there is a preservative product I use called Mount Medix Mount Protector,” Josh says. “You can use it for (virtually) everything except fish. You can put it on deer, birds, turkeys, etc. It helps keep bugs and all the bad stuff away.” While the product is ingenious, it’s simple to use. “I first use a Swiffer duster and dust all the animals,” Josh explains. “It doesn’t take very long. Then, I spray on the Mount Medix in a fine mist. That’s going to help protect hair from bugs. I recommend doing that every three months, or at minimum, twice per year. That will keep them looking good for years to come.”
Another final step to preserving taxidermy is to be careful of where you display your mounts. One surefire way to shorten the lifespan of a mount is to display it beside a window in full sunlight. The sunlight’s UV rays will quickly fade the natural colors of the hair on the hide — leaving behind a faded, duller version of the original mount.
All things considered; it doesn’t take a lot to preserve your deer mounts. It just requires proper care and commitment to quality by you and your taxidermist.