Once you’ve shot a buck that you want to get mounted, putting in the work to keep the hide in good condition for the taxidermist is paramount. Here is a simple, step-by-step tutorial on how to cape out your buck for the trip to the taxidermist.
- With a sharp knife, make an incision around the deer’s torso, well behind the shoulders (marked in RED on the above diagram). It’s always better to make this cut too far back than to short the cape.
- Make a cut around each of the deer’s legs about halfway between the knee and armpit (YELLOW). I like to cut from this incision straight up the back of the leg, then across to meet the torso incision (TEAL). Although not entirely necessary, it saves me from having to wrestle the legs through small openings.
- Next, make a cut from the back of each antler burr to a point at the base of the deer’s skull (GREEN). Be careful not to cut the hair. To avoid this, carefully slide the knife point along the underside of the burr until you can get under the hide.
- From the point at the base of the skull where both antler-burr cuts come together, slide your knife under the hide and make a cut straight down the buck’s spine and between the shoulder blades until you get to the torso cut you made in Step 1 (BLUE). Keep this cut as straight as possible. (NOTE: Some people will only cut down the spine a short distance–maybe 10-12 inches—then turn the head through the small incision once it’s separated from the neck.)
- Now that your cuts are all made, carefully skin the cape off the shoulders and up the neck to the base of the skull. Leave as much meat and fat on the carcass as possible.
- Roll the hide up over the head so you have a clear view where the head and neck come together. Using a saw, separate the head from the neck between the first and second vertebrae. Be careful that the hide under the throat is clear of your saw.
Depending on timing and conditions, your next steps are equally critical.
If you are able to get to a taxidermist right away (within a couple of hours), unroll the hide from the head and lay it open so air can get to the skin side of the hide. Keep it cool and out of sunlight.
If it’s going to be more than a couple of hours, but within 24 hours, unroll the hide from the head, put skin side to skin side and roll the hide up like you would a pumpkin roll. Put it in a plastic bag (but do not tie it closed) and put it in the refrigerator until you are on the way to the taxidermist.
If it’ll be days, weeks or months before you can take your trophy buck in, follow the steps above but put the head in the freezer. After a few hours in the freezer you can tie the bag closed, but force as much air out of the bag as possible to avoid freezer burn.
If you are on a back country hunt and don’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer and it will be some time before you can get to the taxidermist, you have a whole ‘nother set of problems. I’d suggest reaching out to your taxidermist to get some help with the field care they would like to see you preform.
If you need a more visual approach, check out the video tutorials on Mossy Oak’s website by clicking here.
A little bit of work on the front side will help ensure you deliver a quality hide to your taxidermist, allowing them to do their best work for you. Have any other tips on caping a deer? We’d love to hear from you. Go to our facebook page for The Lexington Hunt Club and leaving a note in the comments section. You can also follow us on Instagram @lexingtonhuntclub.
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