Don't Ruin Your Trophy Mount

By Dr. Shawn Campbell
Ph.D -  Animal Nutrition - Texas Tech University
Victoria, TX 77901
361 550 0282        

You have spent the last year feeding, scouting and preparing to harvest that big trophy buck to hang on your den wall, don't ruin the mount by not properly caping your deer.  I was talking with Steve Novak owner of Wildlife Art Taxidermy located down in Beeville, Texas.  He told me that too many nice trophy bucks come in to his shop in very poor condition.  He says it is mainly due to improper skinning for shoulder mounts.  The biggest problem is hunters don't cut far enough behind the front legs and leave enough cape for the taxidermist.  Another big mistake is that hunters cut into the white hair on the back of the legs when caping out the buck.  Mr. Novak provided me with 5 basic points in skinning for shoulder mounting deer. 

How To Cape A Deer
"Always cut from the flesh side up"
Courtesy of Steve Novak

1.        Make a circumferential cut, minimum of 6-8 inches behind the front legs around the torso (see A, in figure 1 below).
2.        Make leg cuts around the foreleg (B, figure 1).
3.        There is a line on the back of each front leg where the brown hair and white hair meet (D & E, figure 2).  Cut on that line and follow all the way back to your circumferential cut.  Never Cut White Hair!!!!
4.        On a bucks' back there is a dark line of hair, cut along this line forward to the head (C, figure 1).
5.        Carefully separate head from neck as close to the head as possible using a saw or knife.  (You can use your knife where the first cervical vertebra connects to the base of the skull.  Use the point of your knife to cut the connective tissue on the lateral sides of the occipital condyle.  You may have to twist a little while cutting to get your knife in the cervical joint then sever the spinal cord and it should be separated and ready to go to the taxidermist. 

Fiqure 1. Shows two cut lines.
"A" is the circumferential cut 6-8 inches behind the front legs.
"B" is the cut around the front legs above the knee.
"C" is the back cut forward to the head.

Figure 2. Shows the two cut lines, on the underside, form the circumferential cut to the leg cuts.  NEVER CUT WHITE HAIR!!!
"D" & "E" are the cuts along the white/brown hairline to the back of the front legs.

6.        Don't forget to remove the lower jawbone or have your taxidermist do it so that you can age the deer and record it in your harvest data. 
7.        Get good measurements on the horns if it is a buck (Boone and Crocket measurements).
8.        Take a weight before and after field dressing the deer.
The last few points will help you in your management plan.  You will get a better feel of the horn, age, and weight structure of the deer on your ranch or hunting lease.  If I can leave you with anything to remember if you haven't shot that trophy buck yet, don't be to fast to pull the trigger before making sure he is a mature (5.5 years or older) buck.