While I’m personally more interested in venison than antlers, I know many of you will be doing your best this fall to help keep your local taxidermist employed. Before you head out, it’s ideal to check with your taxidermist for any special instructions.
But who really has time for that? Your taxidermist will thank you, however, if you at least keep these basic guidelines in mind to be prepared:
- Don’t cut your deer’s throat during field dressing to remove the esophagus. (By the way, you didn’t need to do that anyway.) Later, when you’re skinning your deer, don’t make any cuts along the throat or the front of the neck.
- Don’t drag your deer out of the woods for a mile over rocks and brush, and then expect your taxidermist to repair the damage. If you must drag your deer, don’t drag it backward for even a short distance. (Go ahead and walk backwards if you like, but bending those deer hairs backward will not make your taxidermist happy.)
- Don’t drag or hang your deer with a rope around its neck. Ever.
- Get your deer’s head and cape to the taxidermist as soon as possible; this is especially important in warm weather. If it’s warm, ice the head and cape—but keep them dry.
- Leave plenty of hide (or cape) attached to the head; taxidermists can always trim some off, but they can’t add more back on. Cut mid body to be safe. You might even want to leave the entire skin attached to the head and allow your taxidermist to skin the skull.
Al Cambronne is co-author of “Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison.” His most recent book is “Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness.” On Twitter: @AlCambronne.