Tips for Quality Taxidermy Results
Dr. John Woods 12.08.14
Few things create more excitemenon for deer hunters than getting that first look at their prized buck mount back from their taxidermist. The result is either one of ecstatic pride or sometimes dreadful disappointment. It need not ever be the later if the proper procedures are taken to prepare a buck’s head for the mounting work.
Without proper care up front, the mount could turn out less attractive than was eagerly anticipated. Don’t let that happen to you. Plan ahead and get the job done right from the moment you shoot the buck until it hangs on your wall.
Well, likely you already know that the Misses does not really want another deer head mounted in the house, anywhere. That is unless it happens to be hers or one taken by one of the kids. In any case, it pays to do a little pre-plan thinking about where you might want to hang the mount and what kind of appearance, look, or mount angle that would look best in which room, wall, or other presentation options.
When you get to the taxidermist, they are going to ask you which way you want the head turned. At that point, you don’t have a lot of time to decide, so know what you want before you take the head to a shop. The standard of course is a straight on look. That style will fit just about anywhere.
But, if you already have one looking right or left, then you may want to consider having the next mount looking at the other one or reverse. Three mounts might look really cool if the center one is straight on with the other two looking toward the center. You know I’m just saying. If you can’t decide, then go with a standard mount.
Also, the taxidermist might ask what “look” or position to put the head in. There is the typical straight look, a sneak with the head bent down, or cocked sideways, or other options. As you research other mounts, decide ahead of time on these choices.
Do you want the head mounted on a plaque, wooden, synthetic, or no back plate plaque at all? Know this. I’ve seen them all kinds of ways and many options are available. Take some photos of mounts you like to show your taxidermist.
Sometimes picture does not tell the whole story. It’s often difficult to discern quality, reliability, dedication, value, and skill in an photo. When it comes to picking a good taxidermist, what does a hunter look for? Part of that decision depends on exactly what you are looking to have done and how much customization you are willing to pay for in production of the final product. Even so, a basic mount should be done well.
When it comes to mounting a white-tailed buck head, just about any ole “stuff it dead” shop that calls itself a taxidermy business can stretch a hide over a foam form, pop in some plastic eyes, and well, you know what I mean. Hopefully you don’t have a mount like that or even want one. If you do, then pay your money and take your chances. Maybe opt out for a European mount that could be less likely to be screwed up?
Otherwise, do a little homework before you rush to a taxidermist with that big buck you just knocked down and prepped for mounting. Actually, you can do this background research before you collect the buck so you’ll know where to take it once it’s on the ground and in the truck. Knowing in advance who you want to do your mount will reduce time and anxiety. Time is often of essence and a serious factor in getting back a quality mount from the taxidermy shop.
First, I would ask around and talk to other hunters. Get their recommendations. If you hear a name coming up time and time again, then there is a strong likelihood that is a taxidermy shop worth checking out. Visit that shop to inspect their display mounts.
Look or ask for evidence of taxidermy awards, winning contest ribbons, special recognition, training, certificates, or other evidence of quality performance. Get a brochure or listing of mounting services offered and a price list to compare to others in the business. Find out how long a deer head mount usually takes. For some shops it could be up to a year wait or longer.
If you happen to be in Jackson near the Trade Mart Building the first weekend in August, then buy a ticket to get into the annual Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Extravaganza to view the results of the Big Buck Contest. Be sure to inspect the buck mounts closely and for the ones you like the looks of, copy down the name of the taxidermist, which is usually named on the mount plague or again take a photo of the mount to show the style. This research should yield some taxidermy candidates to consider well ahead of the hunting season.
“Obviously I cannot be expected to produce a quality deer mount if the head is brought into my shop in poor condition. However, we do work wonders. You can’t let the thing ride around in the back of your truck for several days and then hope we can make a first class mount out of it. We need the deer head in our shop as soon as possible after the kill,” advises Dan Heasley of Dan Heasley Taxidermy on Highway 18 just east of Raymond, MS.
Dan runs a top shop with many years of experience in mounting all types of game mounts, from the regular stuff including whitetails, big game, birds, and fish to plenty of exotics as well. Heasley is an SCI official member and is a national, regional, and state award winning taxidermist. Check out his web site at www.danheasleytaxidermy.com.
“The real work toward getting back a quality deer head mount starts the minute the buck hits the ground. The quicker the careful removal of the head from the body of the deer the better it is. You don’t have to worry about skinning or caping the buck head before bringing it to us. It is a difficult task best left to those who know what to do.”
Heasley continued, “As you prep the head for delivery to our shop, if in doubt, leave lots more hide and hair down below or past the front legs as possible. This will give us more material to work with and we can always trim it back to what we need to cover the mounting form,” advises Heasley.
This is important. Never cut the hide too short above the front legs, and do not cut across the front of the deer on the lower neck area. There is a natural crease of hair that goes straight up the middle of the neck in front that should never be cut up toward the head. It could be sewn and repaired, but it is best never to cut that area open.
“If you cannot get the head to our shop that day, and the ambient air temperature is above say 50 degrees, then I recommend you put the head and attached hide in the freezer, laying the hide out flat first to cool down. Then roll it up. Likewise, if it is going to be several hours before you can deliver the head, put it in a strong plastic bag, and then put bags of ice around the head in the plastic sack. The biggest thing about keeping a buck head in good condition for delivery to be mounted is to keep it cool and dry. Get the cooled down head to us as soon as feasible. We’ll take it from there,” says Heasley.
Follow these directions from an experienced prize winning taxidermist, then relax and look forward to getting your significant other to help you put it up on the wall.