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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 can not be “fixed” by the taxidermist.
Many 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 bacterial
growth. In remote areas, or areas not near your 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. That
being said, however, the following techniques are generally acceptable.
Skinning Life-Size Big Game
There are two major methods of skinning for a large life-size mount such as deer,
elk or bear. These methods are the flat incision and the dorsal method.
The Flat Incision
The flat incision is used for rug mounts and for a variety of poses. The areas to
be cut are shown in Figure 1. Make these slits (cutting the feet free from the carcass)
and pull the skin off the carcass. The head is detached as with the shoulder mount
Caping for a Shoulder Mount
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 knee. An additional slit will be needed from the back of the
leg and joining the body cut behind the legs (Figure 2A and 2B.)
2. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw exposing the head/neck junction.
Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from this junction. Circle the
neck-cutting down to the spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp the antler
bases and twist the head off of 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 does not 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 do need to drag
it out with a rope, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy
Flat Incision Illustration
Note: If you can’t take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to your
The Dorsal Method
The dorsal method of skinning involves a long slit down the back(from the tail base
up into the neck.) The carcass is skinned as it is pulled through this incision.
The feet/hooves and the head are cut off from the carcass as with a shoulder mount
explained in the next frame. Only use this method with approval and detailed instructions
from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after