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Skinning 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. 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.

Note: If you can't take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist's specifications.

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 from the carcass as with a shoulder mount explained later. Only use this method with approval and detailed instructions from your taxidermist. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after skinning.

Caping for a Shoulder Mount
With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at approximately the midway 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 and joining the body cut behind the legs.

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 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. Avoid dragging the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, a rickshaw, or a four-wheeler. The rope, rocks, or a broken branch from a deadfall can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you do need to drag it our with a rope, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy carefully.