First, take pictures—lots of pictures!
This is the easiest way to ensure that your taxidermist knows what your animal looked like on the hoof. Take photos from as many angles as possible, and be sure to use a flash for some images.
Before skinning, take these measurements to ensure your taxidermist gets the shoulder mount correct and accurate to real-life size.
- Measure the tip of the nose to the inside corner of the eye.
- The circumference measurement of the neck at the throat and around the neck crossing the atlas of the neck.
- Measure around the neck tight to the head just behind the ears.
- Measure 3 inches below measurement No. 2 around the neck.
Skinning Big Game
There are two primary methods of skinning for a large life-size mount of a deer, elk or bear. The dorsal method of skinning involves a long slit down the back (from the neck down to the tail base). The flat incision method is used for rug mounts and for a variety of poses, making cuts that free the feet from the carcass.
Dorsal method: With a sharp knife or gut hook, make your dorsal cut, from the neck down to the tail base. Slit the hide circling the body on the farthest third of the ribcage behind the front legs, this will ensure that your taxidermist has enough hide to work with. Your taxidermist can remove excess hide if needed. It’s always better to have too much.
Slit the skin around the legs just above the knees, then make a slit from the back of the leg to the body cut behind the legs. Remove the skin beginning from the rib cage, pulling up toward the head exposing where the head and neck connect. Do this on both sides of the animal before removing the head from the carcass.
Take your time and keep as much flesh as possible off of the hide, this will keep you from having to go back and remove flesh later on. The longer the flesh is on the hide, the more difficult it becomes to remove, so do it right the first time.
To remove the head from the carcass, cut into the neck approximately 3 inches down from where it connects into the head, circling around the neck, cutting down to the spinal cord. After this cut is complete, grasp the antler bases and then twist the head off the neck. You might need a hand-held bone saw to help detach the head from the spinal cord.Additional Tips
- Talk to your taxidermist before your hunt to find out how to appropriately skin your animal based on the type of mount you desire.
- Hang your animal when possible; if not, the ground works, too. Skin and debone one side completely, then flip the entire animal over and repeat. This will help keep your hide and meat clean.
- If the animal is bloated, simply insert your knife at the sternum and turn it like a key allowing all of the excess gasses to expel, twist the knife back to your starting position and remove it. This should keep the gutting process clean without struggling with bloat.
- Every time you cut through the hide, you cut hair, and that hair can be difficult to remove from your meat. Try and make only necessary cuts to the hide. Also, when cutting through the hide angle the blade facing outward away from the meat and cut with the grain of the hair. This will help reduce the hair that’s deposited on the meat.
- Use your hand or fist when possible to pull hide from carcass as much as possible.
- Have your game bags ready to place animal quarters.
Bonus Video: Coyote Speed Skinning