The single most important factor in how your mount ultimately turns out, according to Danville taxidermist Joe Harris, involves field care.
“You see the photos – everyone grabs their buck by the antlers and drags it out to the truck, but you really have to watch what you are doing,” he said. “A lot of hair can be lost from the shoulder region alone – which doesn’t help when we are doing a shoulder mount.”
That includes not using a drag rope around the neck of a deer you plan to later have processed into a shoulder mount.
Randy Osman, owner of Brush Valley Taxidermy near Sunbury, suggests hunters plan ahead to help protect a potential trophy.
“I tell people to get one of those kid’s sleds that you can roll up and take along – and then use that to put your deer on to drag out to protect the hair,” he said. “I can’t fix what isn’t there.”
Vince Spellane, president of the Pennsylvania Taxidermist Association, urges efficiency in getting your potential mount to the taxidermist.
“The more it is handled or exposed to warm temperatures or bodily fluids, the chance of bacterial growth increases as well as the chance of degradation of the specimen,” he said.
Even when hunting in cooler weather of the later seasons, harvested animals need to be processed efficiently, according to Harris.
“You wouldn’t go buy a hunk of chicken and leave it in the fridge for two weeks before eating it,” he said. “Coolness slows the process, but it doesn’t stop it.”
If taking your harvest to a processor, make sure they have the knowledge to handle your specimen in a way that allows your taxidermist to preserve your trophy, according to Spellane.
When attaching the appropriate tag in the ear of a harvested deer, Osman suggests using a large diaper pin vs. slashing a hole in the ear that later would need to be repaired.
When preserving a fish for mounting, Osman recommends against wrapping it in newspaper or paper towel, as many suggest, because it can draw moisture out of the skin and cause freezer burn.
“Take a T-shirt or bath towel, make it wet and then wrap your fish in that,” he said. “Then you can place in a sealed freezer bag –
I always tell clients to double-bag them and make sure all air is pressed out.”
Finally, it is important to know all hunting laws, including the newer regulations on Chronic Wasting Disease and deer transporting.
“We’ve had to turn away two or three deer every year because someone shot them in other states and don’t follow protocol for chronic wasting,” he said. “Know the regulations, and find a taxidermist in the other state or region where there is chronic wasting and have them cape and prepare your animal for legal transport.
“I am not losing my license over someone else’s lack of knowing and following the regulations.”