Trophy Care Tips

Trophy Care

Trophy Care Tips For Birds

A high grade quality bird mount can only be performed if the bird is kept in good condition after harvesting it. Be prepared when hunting to handle your bird properly for mounting. You must keep a few simple items in your pocket. The list contains: cotton balls, paper towels, and a nylon stocking. If they are kept in a zip lock bag they should become an automatic part of your bird hunting equipment. These items when used properly will help insure a good quality mount.

Ducks, Pheasants, and Grouse
Wipe off excessive blood from the feathers with your paper towel, blotting more than rubbing or wiping. Wrap another paper towel around the bird after it is cleaned off as a safe guard. Place a cotton ball into the mouth. This will stop any fluids from leaking out. Place your bird inside a nylon stocking head first. Now it can be placed in your hunting vest and transported without abusing the feathers. The main reason for the nylon stocking is to straighten and lay the feathers flat. This also prevents your feathers from bending and breaking during transportation. Remember prior to putting it in the freezer to place your bird inside of a plastic bag to prevent freezer burn.

I do not recommend keeping your upland game bird in a freezer for more than 6 months if you are planning to have a top quality mount. Take extra care with birds having white feathers. Taxidermists can remove a lot of stains but sometimes we cannot remove them all. Extra care in the field can make a good mount look great.

Waterfowl can be kept in a freezer for up to a year with good results because they have a higher fat content but it is not highly recommended. For best results with all birds you should get it to your taxidermist as soon as possible.

Trophy Care Tips For Whitetail & Large Game

Taking care of your trophy seems to take a back seat when it comes to showing it off! None of us know when we will put together the skill and luck that it takes to harvest that trophy of a lifetime. However when we do you can be sure that we will put it on tour. I cannot blame the deer hunter that shows their deer off to 20 of his closest friends and neighbors but while doing so they often forget about what kind of care should be taken for having it mounted. Here are some common mistakes that I see sportsmen do each year.

What To Do and NOT To Do

  1. Do not tie your deer on top of the hood or roof of your vehicle. Not only will this dry out the deer’s lips and ears so that they cannot be skinned properly (due to windburn which is equally dangerous as freezer burn) but this is also a tacky way for a sportsman to represent himself as a respectable hunter.
  2. Do not leave your deer exposed to direct sunlight. A deer with warm body temperature, in bright sunlight, laying on a black bed liner, on top of the muffler is a great formula for a big garbage can of deer later! A situation like this can spoil your deer skin and meat in about I hour at an outside temperature of 40-50 degrees.
  3. Do not cut the throat. This is the part where your hunting partner tells you to take better aim the next time you shoot a deer. A good shot placement is always better that watching an animal suffer.
  4. Do not leave your deer head at a meat locker more that I day. Meat lockers are in the business to cut meat; not mount deer. Every night meat lockers spray water on the floor of their coolers to clean up. Where is your deer stored that you told them to save for a mount? In most cases it is sitting on the floor waiting for you to pick it up. A skin that gets wet will swell up with water just like your fingers wrinkle when swimming. When this happens to a deer skin, the excessive moisture make the hair loose and then it will fall out! Please pick your deer and head up to the meat locker as soon as possible.
  5. Do not put deer head in a black or green trash bag and tie it shut. If sunshine hits your bag it will become like a greenhouse inside letting bacteria grow. This can cause your deer to spoil in as little as a half an hour (if conditions are right). Use a white bag or cardboard box to transport your deer. If you must use a black or green bag then please do not tie it leave it open for transporting. Remember: A deer’s skin will spoil before the meat does. Blood and guts should be known as bacteria accelerators.
  6. NEVER!!! roll up a skin like a sleeping bag and freeze, (especially bears). This adds 2 extra days to thaw out, possibly ruining your trophy in the process. Dry ice is recommended for bringing home trophies from Western hunts, especially antelope.

Causes of Hair Loss

  1. FOOD: blood, guts and skin tissue. Solution: Keep hide clean of any blood and guts. If soiled wipe it off with a paper towel and remove the potential problem.
  2. TEMPERATURE: primarily heat, sunshine, mufflers, or 4 days of hanging in the barn with warm temperatures. Solution: Freeze as soon as possible. If possible take it to a taxidermist immediately. Keep it out of direct sunlight and use caution when transporting.
  3. MOISTURE: bacteria likes damp moist places to live and grow. Solutions: Please do not hose off your deer with a garden hose to remove blood, mud, or dirt. This will be more dangerous than just leaving it as it was. Salting removes moisture from the skin as well as flint drying; however it is not recommended unless you are sure of the proper methods and procedures.

Eliminate any of these three sources and you can save your hide for a great looking mount.

When to Skin a Deer
I would like to expel a myth about hanging your deer in the barn for a week prior to skinning it out. In beef cattle the meat is hung for several days so that the meat becomes tender (called marbling). The enzymes in the meat break down causing it to become tender. This is also the start of the decaying process. Venison and beef are two different types of meat. Venison does not have fat running throughout the meat like cattle. It is all located on the outside of the meat up against the skin. Because of this deer do not get tender when they are hung in the barn or cooler for a week. The truth is that all you do is put your family in jeopardy of food poisoning. This is also when you get comments like this years deer sure does have a gamey taste.”

Cut Your Deer Up As Soon As It Cools Down
Depending upon the weather this could be just a couple of hours after harvesting your deer. This same situation holds true for mounting your deer. Get it skinned out as soon as possible. If it has been hanging around the barn for several days the likelihood of the hide working for a mount are slim to none.

When Refrigeration Isn’t An Option
When hunting out west for elk, mule deer, bear etc. and refrigeration or freezing is not accessible then salting is the only option.

Salting a hide will do nothing if all the meat and fat are not totally removed. Salt cannot do its job if its not touching the skin. Trim the meat around the lips, nose, eyes and the bases of the ears as much as you dare (without making any holes).

To salt a hide properly the skin must always be laying on an incline. Salting a hide on a flat surface will produce puddles of moisture on the hide. Remember what moisture on a hide does. It causes the skin to swell and the hair to loosen and fall out. Be sure to lay the hide on a slope so that the liquid runs off the hide.

Please remember that salt is cheap and hides are expensive therefore use lots of salt. It is worth it. Fifty pounds of salt will only cost you $4.00 – $5.00 at any livestock feed store. Mixing salt is your first choice and pickling salt would be your second choice all though it is a little more expensive. Do not use rock salt or iodized salt.

Put new salt on the hide every day for the first three days, shaking off the old prior to adding the new. The old salt can hold bacteria. Do not be cheap here.

Trophy Care Tips For Fish

You never know when you are going to catch that fish of a lifetime and will want to display it proudly in your home. Will you know what to do when you hook your trophy fish? I would like to share some of the techniques that I’ve seen customers use in taking care of their fish. Some of these methods are good ways to prepare them for getting it to the taxidermists and some of them are just pitiful.

Freezing a Fish
Let’s start with what I feel is the most correct way to freeze a fish until it can be taken to a taxidermy artists studio. I tell my customers that once you have caught that trophy to take an old bath towel and soak it in water. Not damp but wet, wet, wet! Then role the fish up in the towel, place the rolled up towel inside a plastic bag and freeze it solid until you find the time or money to have it mounted. The sooner you take it to your taxidermist the better; however a fish that is prepared in this manner can last in most freezers for up to 12 months an still be in perfect condition. If it gets to be any longer than 10-12 months I recommend that you take the fish out and re-wet the towel.

Towels Are Important
The water on the towel will do two very important things. First it prevents freezer burn which can make the skinning process very tough or even impossible and the fins cannot be spread open to their fullest extent. Secondly the towel will also protect the tail fin from breakage. This is an area that is often overlooked. The wet frozen towel wrapped around the tail fin acts like a splint or cast, keeping it from breaking or being damaged while in the freezer. Most customers do not even realize that they have broken the tail fin in two or more pieces when they bring it in frozen just in a plastic bag. This is a lovely surprise that the taxidermist must deal with because the customer swore it was in perfect condition.

Newspapers Are Not a Good Choice
Some fishermen think that they are doing a good thing by wrapping wet newspaper around their fish and then freezing it. Why not? They think I’m not going to give up my old beach towel when I can put newspaper on it. Wrong again! Newspaper never gets fully wet. It takes a long time to saturate newspaper inside and out. What happens when supposed wet newspaper is placed around the fish and frozen is that the paper draws moisture out of the fish like a sponge causing freezer burn extremely fast. Also have you ever tried to remove half frozen wet newspaper from off of a fish in your sink?

Aluminum Foil Is Not a Good Choice
I see fish with aluminum foil wrapped around them and I have no explanation for this. Why? Saran wrap may work a little better but again; Why?

You’re Not Bringing Your Fish To the ER
I get a chuckle out of the fishermen who are also on a Fire Departments Life Squad because they bring their fish in duct taped to a flat board in a straight position as though it may have a broken neck or a back injury. This is unnecessary.

What To Do and NOT To Do
Do not leave a fish that has died in water, on a stringer, in a live-well, or in a cooler on melting ice. A dead fish skin will absorb water, similar to what our fingers do from swimming too long. This swelling of the skin causes the scales to loosen and fall out. This makes the skinning process difficult and your fish will not have those lost scales replaced. This happens a lot with Striped Bass. You go to Lake Cumberland, fish all day, we put our trophy fish in the cooler of ice for the road trip home. By the time you get home the fish is soaking in a cooler of melted ice. You take your trophy and drive around bragging and showing it off to 20 of your closest friends. Meanwhile the scales are beginning to slip. The next afternoon we may think about taking it to our local taxidermist but it has already sat in melted ice water for nearly 24 hours. Yes it still looks good from the outside but I can guarantee that it will have scales dropping off when it is skinned. But remember” it is always the taxidermists fault.” NOT! Try placing it in a plastic bag prior to putting it in the ice chest for the road trip home. This can mean the difference between an O.K. mount and a quality mount.

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