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Field Care

Skinning & Caping Tips


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 your 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. 


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.


This method is used for rug mounts and for a variety of purposes. 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



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.


1. With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body 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). 

2. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaws exposing the head/neck junction. Cut into the neck at the base of the skull. 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.

Additional Notes:

1. 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.

2. 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:  Animals, coyote sized or smaller, should not be skinned unless by  professional.  Don't gut the animal.  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.  With the epidemic of rabies evident in many areas of the country take every safety measure necessary when handling your game.

BIRDS:  Do not gut the bird. Rinse off any blood on the feathers with water.  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.  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.

Other Tips:

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

2. Songbirds, eagles, hawks, and owls are protected by Federal Law and can not be mounted unless with special Federal permit.

3. 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.

*This information was provided by McKenzie Taxidermy Supply

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Lasting Impressions Taxidermy