Tips make for successful trophy

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

FAIRBANKS (AP) Here are some tips from local taxidermists that hunters should consider if they are thinking about bringing a trophy home to mount on the wall:

Talk to a taxidermist before going into the field. It's free and it can save you a bundle in the long run. The biggest mistakes hunters make in preparing animals for taxidermy are cutting capes too short and poor fleshing of hides, both of which can be addressed by your taxidermist before you head to the field. Ask about turning ears and lips, which can help prevent slippage. It's not that difficult and it will only take a taxidermist a few minutes to demonstrate.

Take plenty of salt. It's better to have too much salt than not enough and it's cheap. Immediate salting is crucial to preserving a hide for taxidermy. Depending on the weather, some hides start slipping in two or three days. At least 5-10 pounds of fine-grained, noniodized salt is needed for a sheep or caribou. Washing a hide requires as much as two or three times as much salt.

Take an extra tent just for animals when you go hunting. A tent will quicken the drying process by waterproofing the hides and increasing the drying temperature. It's warmer in a tent and it provides protection from the sun, which helps prevent slipping or loss of hair.

Never salt and then freeze a hide. Salt water does not freeze, which means a salted cape never really freezes.

Take time to thoroughly flesh the hide. You'll have major slippage if you don't get all the fat and meat off the hide. A glaze will form and prevent the salt from doings its job.

Don't cut the cape too short. Cut around the belly or rib cage, not the shoulder, so your taxidermist has some room to play with. It doesn't cost extra to leave extra cape on the animal.

If you want to save velvet on caribou antlers, poke holes in the tips to drain blood. You'll be surprised by how much blood the antlers hold. Also, use cloth backing if you tie the antlers with rope. That way, you don't scar the velvet.

Make sure you have room in your house for what you want to have mounted. You don't want to spend a bunch of money on a moose or caribou mount when you don't have room to display it. Figure out where you're going to put it before you shoot it and make sure you have a way to get it in the house.

Don't expect your mount back in a week. It takes about a year for most taxidermists to complete a mount.

Check into detachable antlers. It makes for easier and cheaper shipping and also makes moving the mounts in and out of houses much easier. It only costs an extra $20 and requires just one hole to be drilled.

Find out what's its going to cost before you commit to it. Mounts aren't cheap, even if you're just getting a basic antler mount. Find out how much money you're going to have to invest before you show up at the taxidermy shop with your trophy.

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