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Proper Field Care Presentation
Field Tips and Tricks
Field care of your trophy is extremely important. If you are not going to be able to get the skin to us or freeze it within 1 or 2 days it is important that you prep the skin. This will begin the preservation process and avoid damage such as hair falling out. Once a skin has been damaged by improper care it is extremely difficult to salvage and usually requires a replacement skin be bought, which is very expensive.
Many times hunting trips are a week long or longer, especially here in Alaska. Here is a list of important items to take with you in the field that will help you care for your trophy.
1. I like to have a Tyto knife with me. Replaceable blade knives are extremely useful for detail work. I use them to skin the head and face, especially for cutting around the base of the horns or antlers and the pre-orbital gland in front of the eye. This is where a lot of mistakes are made. The skin around the base of antlers or horns and under the pre-orbital gland comes right down to the bone, so precision is necessary to avoid cutting the skin too wide.
2. Fine grain non-iodized salt. This is not table salt, such as Morton’s. Non-iodized salt can usually be found at a farm supply store. Here in Anchorage, I buy mine from Alaska Mill and Feed. It usually comes in 50lb bags for around $10. It is very important that the salt be non-iodized because the iodine in table salt will stain any light hair or fur and cause a reaction during the tanning process that can destroy your trophie's cape. It is equally important that you do not salt the skin without first properly turning and fleshing the hide. When a skin is salted without first removing the meat and fat two things happen. First the meat and fat dries to a very hard state that will make it very difficult to properly flesh later and will likely lead to hours of extra work and unwanted holes. Secondly the bacteria growth underneath the meat and fat remains unchecked and leads to the hair slipping and falling out.
3. It is not always feasible to pack enough salt with you on your hunt to care for your cape. In these cases a good substitute is a strong acidic spray, such as what you would use to spray your meat in the field. The idea is to slow the bacterial growth that causes the hair to slip or fall out. Once you have properly turned and fleshed your trophy, apply a liberal coat of the acidic spray to the non-hair side of the skin. Be sure to keep the skin cool and dry (do not allow the skin to air dry and become hard), just as you would the meat. I like to keep mine in a clean game bag or pillowcase.
Steps to proper field care
1. Once you have your trophy on the ground the work to preserve the skin begins. The first step you should take is to clean any blood off of the hair or fur as quickly as possible. This is very important with white haired animals, such as Mountain Goat and Dall sheep. These animals have hollow hair that retains the blood causing iron spots in the hair.
2. Before you begin skinning you should already have an idea of what type of mount you wish to have of your trophy. Whether it is a shoulder mount or a life size the natural hair patterns on the animal will show you where to make your cuts. Try to avoid cutting the hair or fur, as much as possible. To do this turn your knife upside down and make the cuts from the inside out. Be sure to leave plenty of skin for the inside of the eyes, nose and mouth. More is better than less. Be careful not to cut off the ear butts or short cut the eyes. The easiest way to avoid this is to stick your finger in the eye. This way you can feel the edges of the eye socket and the inside skin. Use care when cutting around the antler bases. Again, cut from the inside out. With your knife upside down slide the blade between the skin and bone upwards towards the base to the antler. This is where a flexible blade, such as a scalpel will really shine. Cut only a little at a time. When done properly this stage will take longer than the rest and all of the hair will be with the hide and not around the antler base.
3. Once the trophy is caped or skinned for a life size mount be sure to wash the hair again to remove any blood. Now the skin is ready to be fleshed and turned. Proper fleshing will remove all meat and fat from the skin. This is extremely important. Turning refers to the act of separating the tissue for the nose, eyes, and lips from the meat around those areas and flipping the ears inside out. Turning is also extremely important to ensure good quality hair on your mount.
4. Once the skin or cape is properly turned and fleshed, it is time to salt it. Lay the skin out flat and pour some salt in the middle. Use your hands to work the salt outward being sure to flatten all of the edges and areas that were turned. Make sure salt is on every inch of the skin. I also like to fill the ears with some salt on the hair side. Do not be conservative with the salt, you cannot use too much. If you are using the acidic spray, be sure to soak the entire non-hair side of the skin.
5. Tanned skins have a shelf life! A tanned skin will last for years, however its usability for mounting will not. Tanned skins left dry will have an average shelf life of only 6 months before they are no longer mountable. To greatly increase the mountable life of your capes, should you decide to wait on getting them to us, soak and then freeze your tanned trophy. Soak the tanned hide in a tub of warm water with approximately a cup of salt added for every 5 to 7 gallons of water. Soak for 3 hours. Set the skins up to drain. Once the skins stop dripping water, wrap them in saran wrap and double bag them in plastic grocery bags. Allow them to sweat over night then place them in the freezer. This trick will extend the usable life of the tan from a few months to a few years.
Mount Handling and Care Instructions:
Be extremely cautious not to bump or apply pressure to the fragile areas of the mount, which include
* The face-Nose, eyes, mouth, and ears.
* The feet and toes
* The tail
* The habitat
2. Do not display close to high heat sources, such as hanging over a fireplace.
3. Do not smoke by the mount. This will damage the hair and the paint
4. To clean use a dry duster. Do not apply any chemicals such as Pledge or Windex.
5. It is ok to use a dog grooming brush to gently comb hairs back in place if they have been disturbed during shipping or hanging. It is not uncommon for a few hairs to appear to fall out during moving or handling. These are just hairs that have previously been cut when trimming the extra skin off of the back of the shoulder mount and may have been stuck under other hairs or missed during the grooming process and are not a cause for concern.
Your mount is precisely groomed. Please follow the below instructions in order to avoid disturbing the look of your mount!
Transporting Life size:
Lift the mount by the bottom or backboard of the base.
If lifting the animal separately from the habitat lift in as close to the body as possible on the neck and legs.
When pushing a mount on its wheels attached to the base, push only on the very bottom of the base or gently on the body of the animal over an attached leg.