Travis Smola

Deer Taxidermy Options: 6 Different Ways to Memorialize Your Harvest

Here are some taxidermy options for that big buck you harvested this year.

Were you fortunate enough to harvest a nice buck this year? If you were, your next thought after how you were going to cook the backstraps was probably how you were going to display your latest harvest.

After all, you worked hard for that big mule deer or whitetail buck. You spent countless hours monitoring him on trail camera. During deer season you put in tons of hours on stand before he walked into your shooting lane. You want to keep the memories of that hunt alive and that's why it's time to look at different options for you or your taxidermist to put together.

Some of these mount styles can be done yourself, but most can be professionally done for a fee. prices vary greatly depending on where you are, but we'll try to mention cost where it's relevant.

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Antler Mounts

Deer Taxidermy Options

Travis Smola

This is one of the simplest ways to display one of your deer. Many hunters like this option because you can put together one of these mounts yourself. The one pictured above is a simple one I put together years ago with a mounting kit you can get at any Walmart.

Antler mounts kits of course, are like most things, you get what you pay for. The more expensive the kit, the better it will turn out. You can often get a taxidermist to do these professionally for you too. It'll be a little more expensive (compared to the generic wooden mount you buy), but you'll also get a nicer taxidermy mount as a result.

This wall mount option is good for those nice bucks that you want on the wall, but you don't want to spend more money on for a full shoulder or other more expensive display. We like this display for really sprucing up a hunting cabin. It will get you, your friends and family stoked for deer camp every year when you admire them on the walls and recall the memories.

European Mount

Deer Taxidermy Options

Travis Smola

The buck in the photo above is mine from 2019. A European mount is a classic looking display that fits in with the décor in any hunter's home.

Truth be told, I have two shoulder mounts and several Euro mounts. I think I like the deer skull mount look better. A big bonus to this and the antler mount over others is that they take up a lot less space on your wall. It's something to think about if your wall spaces are already cluttered. European mounts can be done yourself in your spare time. I've made a few of these taxidermy displays, but it is a ton of work to strip all the flesh off the deer's head and then boil it and clean all the tissue out of every nook and cranny.

If you're looking for a real project, a skull mount should give you all you can handle. Personally, I'm too busy. These days, I like to just pay to have a European skull mount done for me now. I have a guy I've taken three whitetail deer heads to in the last six years and he's done a great job every time. He charged me $100 for the work above. Well worth it to me for the time saved. Most pros are going to be around that range or a little higher. It's worth it for the professional-looking results.

Another popular Euro mount variation in recent years is hydro dipping a camo or other pattern onto the skull. Personally, I don't care for the hydro dip look myself, but I know plenty of others do. You'll find may taxidermists now offer this as an option over the traditional bleached white look.

Faux Euro Mount

This is an alternative to the usual European mount if you just want to get the job done quickly and cleanly. Several companies now offer these plastic European mounting kits. I haven't personally used one, but I recommend reading my fellow writer Brad Smith's review of them from last year. He seems to enjoy the look and simplicity of these kits.

One thing to keep in mind with a kit like this is that it does require sawing the antlers off the original skull plate at the base. If you are considering entering your harvest into any record-keeping organization, you might want to wait until after official scoring has taken place. Because without the skull plate, you can't determine the exact spread measurements and some organizations disqualify deer where this can't be determined. Just something to think about with these kinds of mounts. It seems Mountain Mike's now offers a variation of this mount that keeps the skull plate intact for just these reasons.

Standard Shoulder Mount

Deer Taxidermy Options

Travis Smola

The old reliable favorite and probably one of the most common forms of deer taxidermy out there is the shoulder mount. I have two myself. Above is a photo with several deer my dad, uncle and I have shot. Note the one on the far right, which is mine. It's a simple upright pose with a right turn. My other buck, the next buck to the left, is the largest I've ever shot. That buck is posed in a full sneak pose with the head position out slightly farther away from the wall. There are many variations to deer shoulder mounts. The buck to the left of my full sneak mount is in a semi-sneak pose that works great for showing off the wide rack of that buck.

I've noticed in recent years there has been a lot more hunters opting for a semi-upright pose. This pose is often accompanied with a more dramatic turn of the head. When choosing a shoulder mount pose, the best advice to give is to think about the antlers of your buck. What pose is going to work best to show off his best features? Let's say you've got a taller buck with a picket fence-like row of tines along his main beam. That mount angled semi-upright might work better than a full sneak.

A good taxidermist will be able to give you a recommendation on what is going to look best for your deer. The big downside to shoulder mounts is the wait time. It can be anywhere from four months to a year or two. They're also expensive. You're looking at anywhere from $400 to $700 depending on the taxidermist and area you live. Another downside is these take up a ton of wall space. Especially if you own more than one like I do. At this point, I've decided there's only two types of deer I'll consider shoulder mounting. One would be if I ever shoot a mule deer or blacktail. Otherwise, I'll only shoulder mount a buck that's bigger than my personal best.

Just remember good taxidermy is like many things in life, you often get what you pay for. But they are great for preserving the memories of the hunt down to the last detail!

Pedestal Mounts

Pedestal deer mount of two locked-up whitetail bucks.

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These deer mounts have absolutely exploded in popularity the last ten years or so. I must admit, the first time I saw a photo of one, I didn't get it. You must see one in person to really appreciate them fully. Now I think they're just a great look all-around. Especially if you just shot the buck of a lifetime and you want something a little bit more than just another shoulder mount.

There are two different kinds of pedestal mounts. There is the literal pedestal mount like the one pictured above where the mount is perched on a pedestal that sits on the floor. There is a ton of room for creativity here. Your taxidermist can probably add foliage, shed antlers, whatever you want to help accentuate the animal itself.

The other option is a wall pedestal mount. I made my mind up long ago that if I ever shoot another buck worthy of a full taxidermy job, it's going to be a wall pedestal. I love how it really shows off the mass and tines.

The folds in the neck look great, and you can almost see the fat rippling under the buck's neck. I keep waiting for him to turn and look at me. That's a sign you've got a great mount!

Much like shoulder mounts, the downside is the amount of space they use up and the costs, which are going to be over $500 most everywhere you price them. We'd recommend saving this one for a very special deer.

Full Body Mounts

A full body mount of a whitetail deer and a mountain lion.

Travis Smola

This type of mount isn't for everyone. As I mentioned with the pedestal mounts, this one seems to be a taxidermy job you reserve for one very special deer, and a particularly good taxidermist. A full-body mount is likely going to run you at least $1,000 at a minimum. For a more artistic job from a seasoned professional, you are likely looking at an even higher price tag. I've always told myself I would only consider it if I shot a piebald or albino deer.

You'll also see tons of incredibly creative new designs like the one above of a whitetail and mountain lion. I've also seen designs of two bucks fighting, bucks rubbing a faux tree and more.

Two full-body taxidermy mounts of whitetail deer fighting.

Travis Smola

Full body mounts almost always look incredible and are sure to be a conversation starter as the focal point of any room. The downsides again are the cost and the size. This is going to take up considerable space in your home. There's a reason you normally only see these in sporting goods stores and hunter's lodges. Make sure to do some measuring and make sure he'll fit before you go all out!

Deer Hide

A tanned deer hide with several knives.

Getty Images: Diane079F

One more option for memorializing your hunt that many hunters don't do anymore is to simply tan your deer hide. It is relatively easy to do on your own with a little preparation and the right ingredients. Or you can pay a taxidermist or sometimes even your processor a small fee to do it for you. A deer hide works as a great accent for many rooms. You could use it as a rug or as a cover for a table or the back of a sofa. A hide can even be used in conjunction with a Euro mount.

Let's say you've got a few you want to display on a shelf. Place the skulls on top of the hide for a truly great look. You could also simply tack them on the wall in between your shoulder mounts. In this modern age of hunting, not many hunters are saving hides anymore. Having one in your trophy room is another great conversation starter and something that will set your collection and home apart from that of your friends and family.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels