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Shoulder Mount Caping Methods and Trophy Care

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Caping of shoulder mounts-

The first step to a great looking mount is the removal and care of the cape. Here are some tips, common mistakes, and instructions to a standard shoulder mount cape removal and further care prior to delivery to your taxidermist.  The best way to make correct cuts is a flat open space with room to move.  This is not always available however so take your time when skinning your trophy. USE A SHARP BLADE and never cut from the hair side, always cut from the flesh side so as not to cut the hair fibers in half. Make a cut around the midsection, keeping well back from the back of the shoulders (figure 2A).  One of the biggest mistakes is the tendency to cut too far forward on the brisket. Slack and adjustments for shoulder mounts are dictated by the brisket length; leave plenty. The following cuts should be just above or at the first knuckle or knee of the animal (figuare2B). The most effective method is to ‘tube’ the cape up to the back of the head. Stop approximately 2-3 inches from the back of the head where the spine and skull meet and cut the skull from the spine (figure 3). The other optional cut, but not advisable, is a cut directly up the spine-line, up the back of the neck stopping at the skull. This cut is very easy to do improperly,  therefore it would be best to refrain from doing this in the field unless absolutely necessary.

Care after skinning-

After skinning the cape, lay it out, hair side down in a cool area out of the sun and let the flesh-side cool. After the heat is gone from the cape, fold the cape over on itself and roll it up, hair side out. Place cape in a cloth bag such as a meat bag; refrain from plastic bags! As soon as possible, unroll the cape and get cool again or get into either a freezer or pack on ice. Salting a cape should be your LAST option. Salting causes problems on ‘green skinned’ capes and should only be performed if your days out from a cooler or ice. Freeze if possible, ensuring the cape is not soaking wet as this will be cause freezer burn much sooner.

Tips and Care your Taxidermist will appreciate!
Keeping a clean cape- sometimes it’s next to impossible, but a clean cape free of debris and large chunks of meat are much appreciated and facilitates prepping the cape for form mounting.

When in doubt, leave more- don’t try and guess where the skin needs to be cut for the minimum amount needed for the form. More is better! Granted, more skin equals more weight for the pack out, but it could save you money if the cape ends up being too short and additional work is needed for patching or moderate/major repairs.  Some of the biggest mistakes are in the brisket areas…cut well back from the brisket areas.

Leave the head in- unless you are proficient in removal of the skin over the head DON’T try and attempt this yourself in the field. Eye, nose, lip, ear, and scent gland membranes MUST be retained for adequate and effective mounting. The best practice is to leave the head/skull in the cape and deliver to your taxidermist for final removal of the face/head skin.

Common Mistakes
1.   Cutting too close to the brisket.  When gutting, it’s a common mistake to come too far up and cutting into the brisket skin and inadvertently splitting part of the cape. This requires repairs by the taxidermist and potential problems, especially for early season/warm weather animals that carry shorter hair.
2.   Not making the round/midsection cut far enough back. Stay well back from the shoulders when cutting around the mid-section for the cape removal. Stay at least 4-6 inches back from the shoulder blades to ensure you have enough skin to cover a shoulder mount form.
3.   Improperly cut lines or a dull knife. If you are unable to or decided to make the cut up the back of the neck line, MAKE SURE your animal is squared up and you cut directly up the back of the cape. A ‘wavy’ or cut that goes down one side of the neck presents potential problems and more work for the taxidermist. Best practice is to ‘glove’ the neck and leave the cut up to your taxidermist. Use sharp knives when cutting, a dull knife will make rough cuts and make damage to the skin and hair.
4.   Not cooling the cape down. Capes spoil almost as quickly, sometimes SOONER than meat. Cool the cape as soon as possible and keep cold, freezing is best, but if a freezer is not available keep on ice and get to the taxidermist within 24-48 hours.

Every Taxidermist has his own method of caping and requests for care of trophies. Therefore, it is best to contact your taxidermist if you have any questions before your hunt.

Joel Swecker– BlackRiver Taxidermy

Thanks for taking the time to write this up, and refresh the information for our members.   Thank you. 

What's the reason for leaving 3 inches of neck on the head ?

Nice write up  :tup:

With especially deer, by the time the cape is gloved up to that point, it is actually  tough get to the magnum foremen (base of the skull) unless the cape has been split up the back (not advised). You end up fighting the rolled skin and mistakes can happen or injury. Therefore instead of trying to fight to get to that point, leaving 3 inches back ensures that you don't knick the cape AND the spine is actually easier to cut through at this point vs the large joint formation at the skull and spine junction.

Twice i have cut as shown on the diagram and had the cape be too short and that was with shoulder mount.  Pedestal would be worse.  I now play it safe and cut in the middle of the animal.  We have had good luck putting cooled hide and head in a plastic bag and pack with ice in a large tub. Keep it dry,  Cover with top and tarp and keeps for a week without a problem. 


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