Field Care & Preparation

Below are the preparation instructions that, if followed, will ease the mounting process and ensure that you get the best mount possible.

Note: Wild game can transmit various diseases to humans always wear rubber or latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

Field Dressing Big Game

Field-Dressing-Step-1With the Deer on it’s back, make a shallow cut right below the breast bone. Make sure you cut far enough from the brisket, leaving plenty of uncut skin for your shoulder mount. Using a hook or inserting your fingers of the free hand, cradle the blade, to hold the skin up and away from the entrails.

Cut straight down the belly and around the genitals, only separating (not severing) from the abdominal wall. The cut should run all the way to the pelvic bone.

Note: Incision should start below the caping line.
Cut deeply around the anal vent, being careful not to cut the intestine. Pull on it to make sure the rectum is separated from the tissue connecting it to the pelvic canal. Pull the rectum out and tie the end closed to prevent anything from getting on the meat. Pull the intestine and rectum up into the stomach area.

If you’re making a shoulder mount do not cut open the chest cavity. You’ll need to remove the diaphragm by cutting away at the ribs all the way to the backbone area. Reach into the forward chest area and find the esophagus and wind pipe and cut them off as far up as you can and pull them down through the chest.
Roll the deer onto its back and grab the esophagus and the rectum and intestine and pull hard. The entrails and internal organs will come out as one package with minimum mess.

Caping (the skinning process) should be left to the taxidermist. Experience in the delicate face area will be the difference in producing a quality mount. This will minimize any damage to the hide.

Every Taxidermist has their preferred way of caping a hide. Contact me for caping requirements. However the following methods are acceptable.

Skinning Full Sized Big Game

The two methods for skinning big game such as deer, elk, bear, etc, are the flat incision and the dorsal method.
The Flat Incision:Skinning-Big-Game
Typically used for rug mounts and a variety of poses. Make the slits shown in the diagram (removing feet from the carcass) and remove the skin from the carcass. The head should be detached as with a shoulder mount. If you can’t take your hide immediately to the taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist’s specifications.
The Dorsal Method:
The dorsal method uses a long slit down the back from the base of the tail to the neck area. Skin the animal pulling the carcass through the incision. The feet and head are removed from the carcass as in the flat incision. Only use the dorsal method if you have detailed instructions from your taxidermist, and only when the hide can be frozen quickly after skinning.

Caping for a Shoulder Mount

Caping-shoulder-mount-step-1With a very sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at about midway point of the rib cage. Slit the skin around the legs just above the knees. You will need to connect the cut around the body and the slit around the leg staying out of the armpits.

Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw exposing the head/neck juncture. Cut into the neck about 3 inches down from the juncture. Circle the neck cutting all the way to the spinal column. Once the cut is made remove the head and hide and freeze as soon as possible.

These methods and cuts should leave plenty of hide to work with for mounting.
NOTE: When field dressing a trophy to be mounted do not cut the brisket (Chest).

If blood gets on the hide wash it off with snow or water as soon as possible.

If possible try to avoid dragging the deer from the woods with a rope. Place the deer on a cart, sled, rickshaw, or a four wheeler. This will keep damage to a minimum. (If you need to drag the deer tie a rope around antler bases a drag carefully).

Do Not Gut Small Mammals, Birds, or Fish

Small Mammals

Animals such as coyote or smaller should not be skinned unless by a professional. Because of the thin hide on small mammals they will spoil quickly. If you can’t take the small game immediately to a taxidermist as soon as the carcass cools completely, put in a plastic bag and freeze. Don’t gut the animal.


Rinse any blood from the feathers and freeze as soon as possible. Make sure to lay feathers flat. If the tail feathers don’t fit in the bag leave them outside of the bag. Do not bend or fold them. Do not gut the bird.


If you cannot take it to your taxidermist right away, wrap the fish in a very wet towel and a bag and freeze. Ensure all fins are flat against the body. Do not gut the fish.