Hide Tanning and Taxidermy
FIELD CARE and SHIPPING of TAXIDERMY
TROPHIES and SPECIMENS.
Billington Ranch Taxidermy
Texas taxidermist Evelyn Mills pictured with her bobcat entry at the 2001 Texas Convention. This bobcat also won a second place at the National Taxidermy Association National in 2002.
Field care of any specimen is of utmost importance for the end result of your animal as a mounted trophy. Bad field care can end up in a mediocre mount even though it is done by a highly qualified taxidermist. Depending on the time of year and location of your hunt, warm temperatures and high humidity can wreak havoc on the hide of your animal.
Species extremely prone to hair loss are all canines ( such as foxes, coyotes and wolves), and pronghorn antelopes, due to their hollow hair structure. Other factors such as health of the animal, over which there is no control by either hunter or taxidermist, and treatment of the freshly killed specimen play a vital role in the quality of the hide.
One thing hunters tend to do is to drag their freshly killed trophy. DO NOT do this. Dragging it over rough terrain or through trees and brush can damage a hide significantly. Get a cart, sled, or truck (or even a horse) to carry your animal to the camp. If that is not at all possible and dragging is needed to get the animal out of the woods, have a good sturdy bag ready to put the animal in which will protect the hide.
Another big no no is for hunters to hang their trophy up by the neck with a rope. A rope can cut into the neck and cause the hair to rub off and even fall out. It can also leave a permanent impression on the hide which will not come out, and be visible even in the mounted specimen. Always hang your trophy either by the legs, or tie the rope to the antlers, and not the neck. DO NOT cut the throat. If your trophy consists of a deer, antelope or other antlered, or horned big game, cape it out as soon as possible and freeze the cape. This will prevent bacteria growth which can cause hair loss down the road. DO NOT salt the hide. Remember it is is always better to leave more hide on the animal than cutting it too short. Your taxidermist will thank you for it.
The best way to cape out any game such as deer, antelope, elk, etc. is to skin it out like a sock. Do not cut down the back or up the brisket. If you leave the backhide on, you can just pull the whole hide over down to the back of the head of the animal and then cut off the head underneath the hide to seperate it from the body. On the legs, just make a circular cut above the knee joint and pull the leg out. This will leave plenty of leg hide for the taxidermist to work with. On large game, you can cut off the backhide after skinning. Cut it approximately half way between the front legs and the back legs. This will ensure that your taxidermist will have plenty of hide to work with.
If you know how to remove the cape from the head of the animal you may want to consider this option. If you have never done this before, it is best to let someone who is experienced in this to do it for you.
When caping out the head (removing the hide from the skull), always use the short Y incision. You basically make a cut from the back of one antler burr to the middle of the head and then do the same on the other side. The point where those two cuts meet will look like a V. From this point make a short cut (approximately 2, to no more than 3 inches long) down the back of the neck. Then start to remove the hide carefully from the back of the head. Make sure you leave the ear butts on and cut the ear canal as close to the skull as possible.
Use a long screwdriver and hammer to remove the hide from around the antlerburrs by prying it off the antler rather than cutting it. Once you get to the eyes, insert your finger into the eye ball socket and pull the hide away from the skull. Carefully cut the skin and leave the inner eye lid on the cape. It is needed for mounting later on. Make sure you use a very sharp knife when cutting the inner eye lids as this will prevent cutting holes into the hide.
Once you work your way down to the nose, start cutting along the jawline of the mouth from the outside.
Reach into the mouth and pull back the lips and cut right along the jawbone. This will ensure that all the inner lip is attached to the cape. Peel back the nose with your one hand and cut through the cartilage making sure you leave as much of it as possible attached to the hide. Your cape should now be loose.
Take your time in doing this so you do not cut any holes. It is a bit harder to fix holes in the facial area due to the short hair. Again, if you are unsure on how to do this correctly let someone who knows do it for you.
If your trophy consists of a small mammal, like a fox or bocat, leave it whole, wrap it in a bag, and freeze it. Coyotes and larger you may want to skin out the body. For a lifesize mount, make a dorsal cut (cut along the back) starting from just behind the ears on the neck, straight down to the base of the tail (not the tip). Then just pull down the skin. If you do not plan to skin out the toes, cut the leg bone above the knee joint to give your taxidermist something to hold on once the animal will be skinned out completely. Leave the head in and don't skin it out. Cut the tail bone off and leave it in the tail. If you want a rug mount use a bellycut.
Once your trophy has received the proper field care it is time to ship it off to your taxidermist. Before you ship anything make sure it is frozen SOLID. You do not want it to thaw out during the shipping process. No matter what kind of animal you ship, the process is pretty much the same for all.
Wrap the frozen specimen in several plastic bags. Then wrap it with several layers of either newspaper or packaging paper.
Always use a styrofoam container to ship frozen items. Stuff the container with several more layers of paper to insure good insulation and to keep the animal from moving around in the container.
Do not use dry ice since it is not legal to ship dry ice in regular packages.
Make sure to label each animal on the outside as to what it is and how you want it mounted.
Also needed is your complete address, phone number, when and where the animal was killed and your hunting license number.
A tag is also needed for game requiring to be tagged. Bobcats require a tag from a bobcat pelt dealer if they are to be shipped into Texas from out of state. The tags are free of charge. Info on local bobcat pelt dealers can be provided by your DNR.
Certain species require a cites permit and this must also accompany the shipping of said animal. It is the responsibility of the hunter to check with all requirements prior to shipping the animal.
Once the animal is packed up properly, you need to decide on the method of shipping. If you reside within Texas, UPS is going to be more your best choice. Most packages can be shipped regular ground within Texas since it only takes one to two days at the most to get to their destination point.
Outside of Texas, you may want to send it either Express with the Postal Service, or 2nd day air with UPS or Fed Ex.
Never send anything priority mail or regular from out of state as this will take several days to arrive and the animal could spoil during shipping. Even though it may be cold where you are, here in Texas the temperature can reach into the mid to upper 80's even in the wintertime.
You will be notified by phone and or email as soon as your animal has arrived.
My name is Evelyn Mills, along with my partner, Mike Billington, we own and operate Billington Ranch Taxidermy. Our studio is located in Central Texas on a 300 acre ranch approximately 45 miles northwest of Austin, Texas. I have been doing taxidermy since 1995.
Texas whitetail shoulder mount by Evelyn Mills
In 1996 I entered my first two mounts in the Texas State Taxidermy Competition. The entry consisted of two lifesize raccoons in a snowscene. I took a first and second place in the small mammal division. The following year I entered a wild boar shoulder mount and took a second place. This boar also took a first place at the National Taxidermy Competition in Lubbock, Texas two years later. The boar taking a first place at the National Competiton also gave me my internet handle of Superpig, under which I post my replies on the taxidermy.net forum.
In 1998 I became a certified taxidermist by the National Taxidermy Association. I have competed at State and National levels ever since, and in 2002 received the Award of Excellence from the National Taxidermy Association. In 2003 I became a lifetime member of the NTA.
I have been approached by the NTA to do a seminar at the next National competiton in Huntsville Alabama in 2004. The seminar will be on proper fleshing of a deer cape with emphasis on the face. I am also in the works on assisting with a reptile mounting seminar.
We pay very close attention to all of our customers trophies and treat them as they were our own. A lot of detail work goes into each and every mount whether it be a gopher or a muskox.
Our turn around time is approximately 6 to 8 months for most mounts. Animals requiring a custom rock base might take a bit longer.
Mike is in charge of all habitats and form alterations. He is also the brain of the studio when it comes to solving any kind of problem. Mike brings over 30 years experience in sculpting and casting to the studio. His rock bases are of outstanding quality, with each of them being unique. No two will be exactly the same.
All of our capes are being sent out to Advantage Fur Dressing in Houston, Texas, which is a very reputable tannery in Texas.
We have plenty of mounts for the customer to view in our showroom. Our studio is not the biggest or fanciest in the state but I believe that our work speaks for itself.
I specialize in exotic gameheads such as blackbuck, axis deer, fallow deer, sheep and of course wild boar, and small mammals especially bobcats, foxes and porcupines.
All of my snakes and lizards are of high quality, and are usually one of a kind mounts since I don't use comercial mannikins for most of them.
We also do accept wholesale work on a limited basis on reptiles as well as small mammals. We do take in fish and birds, but they are not done by us personally so we can meet our 6 to 8 month turn around time on all the other mounts.
If you are interested in us doing some work for you call at:
Grey fox mount by Evelyn Mills
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Manufacturers of tanning supply products for the taxidermy trade.
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