1. With deer on it's back, make
a shallow cut though the skin just below the
breastbone. Make sure that you start your cut
well away from the brisket, allowing plenty of
uncut skin for your shoulder mount. Insert two
free fingers of the free hand. cradling the
blade, to hold the skin up and away from the
entrails (Figure A).
2. Cut straight down the
belly and around the genitals, separating but
not severing them from the abdominal wall. Slit
the belly skin all the way to the pelvic bone
3. Cut deeply around the rectum,
being careful not to cut off or puncture the
intestine. Pull to make sure that the rectum is
separated from the tissue connecting it to the
pelvic canal. Pull the rectum out and tie a
string tightly around it to prevent droppings
from touching the meat. Lift the animal's back
quarter a bit, reach into the front of the
pelvic canal, and pull the intestine and
connected rectum into the stomach area.
4. If you want to make a full shoulder
mount, do not cut open the chest cavity. Cut the diaphragm
away from the ribs all the way down to the backbone area.
Reach into the forward chest cavity, find the esophagus
and windpipe, cut them off as far up as possible (Figure
C), and pull them down though the chest.
5. Roll the deer onto it's side, grab the esophagus with
one hand, and the rectum/intestine with the other. Pull
hard. the deer's internal organs will come out in one big
package with a minimum mess.
CAPING: The process of skinning out
a trophy animal, is best left to the taxidermist. Their
experience skinning, especially the delicate nose, mouth,
eyes, and ears is invaluable toward producing a quality
mount. Damage to a hide is costly to repair. Some types of
damage simply cannot be "fixed" by the
Most trophies are ruined in the first few hours after
death. As soon as the animal dies, bacteria begins to
attack the carcass. Warm, humid weather accelerates
bacteria growth. In remote areas, or areas not near you
taxidermist, a competent person may be required to cape
out the hide in order to preserve it.
Every taxidermist has a preferred method of caping a hide.
Contact your taxidermist prior to your hunt in order to
get instructions on their caping requirements. However,
the following techniques are generally acceptable.
SKINNING LIFE-SIZED BIG GAME:
There are two major methods of skinning for a
large life-sized mount such as deer, elk or
bear. These methods are the flat incision and
the dorsal method.
THE FLAT INCISION: This
method is used for rug mounts and for a variety
of purposes. The areas to be cut are shown in
Figure 1. Make these slits (cutting the feet
free from the carcass) and pull the skin of the
carcass. The head is detached as with the
Note: if you can't take your hide immediately to
a taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist's
THE DORSAL METHOD: This method of skinning
involves a long slit down the back from the tail
base up to the neck (Figure 1A). The carcass is
skinned as it is pulled through this incision.
The feet/hooves and the head are cut from the
carcass as with a shoulder mount explained
later. Only use this method with approval and
detailed instruction from your taxidermist. Use
this method only when the skin can be frozen
quickly after skinning.
CAPING FOR A SHOULDER
1. With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling
the body behind the shoulder at approximately
the mid-way point of the rib cage behind the
front legs. Slit the skin around the legs just
above the knees. An additional slit will be
needed from the back of the leg joining the body
cut behind the legs (Figure 2A and 2B).
2. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaws
exposing the head/neck junction. Cut into the
neck approximately three inches down from this
junction. Circle the neck cutting down the
spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp
the antler bases and twist the head off the
neck. This should allow the hide to be rolled up
and put in a freezer until transported to the
taxidermist. These cuts should allow ample hide
for the taxidermist to work with in mounting.
Remember, the taxidermist can cut off excess
hide but he can't add what he doesn't have.
Note: When field dressing a trophy to be
mounted, don't cut into the brisket (chest) or
neck area. If blood gets on the hide to be
mounted, wash it off with snow or water as soon
as possible. Also, avoid dragging the deer out
of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled,
rickshaw, or 4-wheeler. The rope, rocks, or a
broken branch from a dead fall can easily damage
the fur or puncture the hide. If you need to
drag it out with a rope, attach the rope to the
base of the antlers and drag your trophy
Note: Because of the various
diseases that wild game can transmit to humans, always use
extreme caution when handling the carcass. Use rubber or
latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and
water after handling.
SMALL MAMMALS: Animals, coyote sized or smaller,
should not be skinned unless by professional. Don't gut
the animal. Small mammals, especially carnivores, will
spoil quickly because of their thin hide and bacteria. If
you can't take the small game animal immediately to a
taxidermist, as soon as the carcass cools completely, put
it in a plastic bag and freeze it. With the epidemic of
rabies evident in many areas of the country take every
safety measure necessary when handling your game.
BIRDS: Do not gut the bird. Rinse off any blood on
the feathers with water. Take the bird immediately to your
taxidermist or freeze it. Put the bird into a plastic bag
for freezing being careful not to damage the feathers,
including the tail. If the bird's tail feathers do not fit
in the bag do not bend them. Let the tail stick out of the
bag and tie the bag loosely.
FISH: Do not gut your fish. If you can not take
your fish immediately to a taxidermist, wrap it in a very
wet towel and put it in a plastic bag, making sure all the
fins are flat against the fish's body (to prevent
breakage), and freeze it. A fish frozen with this method
can safely be kept in the freezer for months.
Note: A fish will loose its coloration shortly
after being caught. A good color photograph immediately
after the catch may enable the taxidermist to duplicate
the natural color tones of that particular fish.
TIPS: Always have appropriate tags with your
trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not
cut the ears for attachment.
Songbirds, eagles, hawks, and owls are protected by
Federal Law and can not be mounted unless with special
For situations where you are hunting with no available
taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about
techniques to skin out the entire cape (including the
head) and salting the hide. This is the only method in
remote locations that can preserve your hide for later