Trophy Hunting Field Care Guide: Prepping Deer For Taxidermy

Author: Susan Slemmer

October 16, 2019

Now that whitetail archery season is open and firearm season is fast approaching in the Midwest, it’s the right time to be sure that you have a proper guide for field care if you plan to get any trophies this year.

Whether you have gotten an exceptional animal or you are looking to save a special memory, the steps you take in the field just after your hunt are critical to preserving the animal for mounting.

Each year, we get capes into our taxidermy business that have either been cut too short or cut too far up, making the cape unusable.

Other common problems are that the harvested deer has been left above freezing for too long and the hair is slipping (falling out) or the hide is in rough shape from the way the deer was taken out of the woods/field.

Here are a few tips for you on how to best handle your hide and harvest:

  1. Once the deer is down, it needs to be field dressed as soon as possible. It is recommended that you wear rubber or plastic gloves while field dressing. When finishing the belly incision, be sure to stop at the rib cage and do not cut into the chest/brisket area. You will have to reach up into the chest cavity to remove the heart. Try to keep the fur free of excess blood, dirt, and debris.
  2. Be careful when removing your whitetail from the woods. Deer fur is hollow, which is great for insulating the deer, but it also means the hair can break off easily. Wrapping the deer in a tarp will protect the fur from being damaged by sticks, rocks, and dirt while transporting it from the field.
  3. It is very important to cool the deer as soon as possible to prevent meat spoilage and hair slippage, especially if temperatures are above freezing. Take the deer to your meat processor as soon as you can. Let them know you want to have it caped to take to your taxidermist. If you plan on butchering the deer yourself, remove the hide and cape promptly. The hide traps heat, so removing it allows the hide and the deer meat to cool rapidly.
  4. Once the cape is removed, place it in a freezer or cooler. If cooling down with ice, do not let the cape get wet. Moisture promotes bacterial growth which causes hair slippage. You can double bag the cape in trash bags to keep it dry.

There are many online videos and diagrams available on deer hide and cape removal. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact your taxidermist – most will be more than happy to walk you through how to cape it and many will offer to cape it for you for a small fee (or even at no charge) to prevent a cape that is cut incorrectly.

Something to keep in mind is that you should always lean towards providing excess hide as opposed to not enough. Your taxidermist may be able to offer you an alternative cape if you do encounter extensive hide issues, but following the proper field care steps will reduce the chances of needing a replacement.

The highest quality mounts begin with a quality specimen, but you need to treat the hide and cape as you would the meat if you’re looking for a quality trophy: Get it cool quickly, keep it clean and dry, and prevent fur damage.

Proper trophy field care will help your taxidermist turn your memories of the hunt into a work of art that you will treasure for a lifetime.


About the authors:

Ben Slemmer is a licensed taxidermist and owns Log Home Taxidermy in Dorsey, Illinois.

Susan Slemmer is a licensed real estate broker with Trophy Properties and Auction in Illinois and also handles the marketing for their family taxidermy business. Give Susan a call to buy or sell your next Illinois property. (314) 974-7266

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