It’s not easy to learn how to make your own mount, but here are some tips to get you started.
So you’ve killed a trophy buck or some other prized animal and you want to preserve it, but you don’t want to go through a professional taxidermist to get the job done.
If you find yourself in this situation, you may have several reasons for not wanting to hire a professional, and they are all respectable. Whether you can’t afford a pricey taxidermist job or don’t trust the “professionals” because you’ve had a bad experience in the past, you are perfectly justified in not wanting to surrender your kill to another human being, even if would be just for a temporary period of time.
This same thought process is the reason that many hunters eventually learn how to butcher and process their meat themselves, and it will likely lead you to the next logical step in this conversation: making your own taxidermy mounts.
Unfortunately, taxidermy is more difficult than butchering or processing. While deer meat processing is definitely a craft that you will become better at as you go, taxidermy really is an art, and there is a reason the best experts out there charge a lot of money for their services. If you want to be your own taxidermist, you are going to have to learn the ways of preserving and mounting, and like anything else, becoming competent with those skills will take some time. In other words, don’t make your biggest buck your inaugural taxidermy project. Instead, start on a smaller, less notable kill and work your way up.
Once you have an animal you want to mount, freeze it to preserve the skin while you acquire the necessary materials for your work. You will not only need a sharp skinning knife, but also a needle and thread (from a sewing kit of some sort), whatever you plan on using to stuff the animal, and whatever agent you plan on using to preserve it.
Arguably the best way to stuff an animal – a deer especially – is to create a plaster cast of the creature that you can then use to mount skin, fur, antlers, and other preserved parts of the beast. Since deer are the most popular choice for taxidermy projects, you can actually buy pre-made plaster casts that more or less match the animal you killed. You can also make your own plaster cast, but this can be difficult to get right, especially if you are a beginner. Our advice? Start with a pre-made form and move up from there.
Check out another article about what to do with deer antlers.
Once you have the plaster cast, you can move on to removing the skin from your animal, drying it, and preserving it. If you’ve removed skin from a deer or some other animal before – in other words, if you’ve butchered your own kills before – you know what to do; just make sure you are being as careful as possible with the skin. If you haven’t skinned an animal before, look around online for meticulously detailed guides on how to do it for whichever given animal you are preserving.
Compared to creating the plaster form and skinning the animal, actually putting the two pieces together and mounting the taxidermy project is almost easy, playing out like a detailed art project.
Arrange the skin on the mount, taking care to avoid any bumps, lumps, or obvious signs that the animal is fake. You can fix any issues with the plaster cast or the skin prior to sewing the animal up, but once you do the sewing, everything is permanent, so make sure you like how it looks. False eyes and the animal’s real teeth and antlers – usually glued on – bring the project full circle.