Hudson Valley Taxidermy Studio
Preserving your memories, one trophy at a time.

Taxidermy Field Prep
To better preserve the quality of your specimen, we’ve provided field tips and preferences for game preparation. Contact Hudson Valley Taxidermy Studio for any questions or concerns you may have about preparing your trophy before or after your hunt to better ensure that your mount arrives in good condition.

Extra charge is applied for skinning, fleshing and degreasing whole animals.

Birds Field Care Tips

     •  Try to retrieve bird yourself if possible.  If not possible, do not let dog to over handle bird.
     •  Do not gut the bird.
     •  Rinse off any blood on the feathers with water.
     •  Take the bird immediately to our studio or prepare to freeze it.
     •  Put the bird into a plastic bag for freezing being careful not to damage the features,
         including the tail. If the bird's tail feathers do not fit in the bag do not bend them. Let the
         tail stick out of the bag and tie the bag loosely.
Fish Field Care Tips

For fish, we recommend subduing a fish you are going to mount as quickly as possible. It is important to handle a fish carefully as to not dislodge scales. A good method is to keep an old pair of lady’s nylons with you to slide a fish into after landing and subduing it, which will help in protecting the fish from losing scales. Place the fish into a cooler as quickly as possible.

  • Do not gut or cut the fish in any way.
  • Do not place fish in a wire basket or on a stringer.
  • Wrap fish in plastic trying not to curl the fins if possible.
  • DO NOT FREEZE FISH IN WET TOWEL. Towels and newspaper freeze to the fish and can pull scales off when thawed.
  • Leave the entire fish intact if possible. Do not clean if possible. If cleaned, damage can sometimes be fixed.
  • Keep fish cool and dry.
  • Freeze whole within 6 hours. Caution: too long in the frozen state can result in damaging the specimen. We recommend mounting within 3 months of the day of the catch. Note: fins are fragile when frozen
    • Take several photos of the fish as soon as it is caught. Give these to the taxidermist so he can have a guideline for painting the fish back to its original colors.

    • If you anticipate having a fish mounted take the necessary items with you on each fishing trip so you will have them on hand.

    • If you are in the field and cannot get the fish on ice keep it moist, cool and wrapped. This will preserve it for a day.

    • Do not clean or scale a fish that is meant to be mounted. This will render the fish useless for a mount. Keep it preserved intact.

    • Do not submerge the fish in water. Once the fish is dead prolonged exposure to water will weaken the skin.

     •  Take good photographs immediately on site, at the water’s edge or as quickly as possible. Fish
        quickly lose their color out the water.
     •  Measure the fish from nose to fork of tail. This is measurement A.
     •  Then measure the fish directly in front of the dorsal fin, located in center of the back, with the
         exception of pike, burbot, and other fishes whose dorsal fins are located further back. These
         fish should be measured around the center of the largest part of girth. This is measurement B.

Field Prep for Large Game

the process of skinning out a trophy animal, is best left to the taxidermist. Their experience skinning, especially the delicate nose, mouth, eyes, and ears, is invaluable toward producing a quality mount. Damage to a hide is costly to repair. Some types of damage simply can not be “fixed” by the taxidermist.

Many trophies are ruined in the first few hours after death. As soon as the animal dies, bacteria begins to attack the carcass. Warm, humid weather accelerates bacterial growth. In remote areas, or areas not near your taxidermist, a competent person may be required to cape out the hide in order to preserve it.

Every taxidermist has a preferred method of caping a hide. Contact your Hudson Valley Taxidermy Studio prior to your hunt in order to get instructions on their caping requirements. That being said, however, the following techniques are generally acceptable

Skinning Life-Size Big Game

There are two major methods of skinning for a large life-size mount such as deer, elk or bear. These methods are the flat incision and the dorsal method.

The Flat Incision

The flat incision is used for rug mounts and for a variety of poses. The areas to be cut are shown in Figure 1. Make these slits (cutting the feet free from the carcass) and pull the skin off the carcass. The head is detached as with the shoulder mount

Flat Incision Illustration

Note: If you can’t take your hide immediately to a taxidermist, freeze it to your taxidermist’s specifications.

The Dorsal Method

The dorsal method of skinning involves a long slit down the back(from the tail base up into the neck.) The carcass is skinned as it is pulled through this incision. The feet/hooves and the head are cut off from the carcass as with a shoulder mount explained in the next frame. Only use this method with approval and detailed instructions from Hudson Valley Taxidermy Studio. Use this method only when the skin can be frozen quickly after skinning

Caping for a Shoulder Mount

1. With a sharp knife, slit the hide circling the body behind the shoulder at approximately the mid-way point of the rib cage behind the front legs. Slit the skin around the legs just above the knee. An additional slit will be needed from the back of the leg and joining the body cut behind the legs (Figure 2A and 2B.)

2. Peel the skin forward up to the ears and jaw exposing the head/neck junction. Cut into the neck approximately three inches down from this junction. Circle the neck-cutting down to the spinal column. After this cut is complete, grasp the antler bases and twist the head off of the neck. This should allow the hide to be rolled up and put in a freezer until transported to the taxidermist. These cuts should allow ample hide for the taxidermist to work with in mounting. Remember, the taxidermist can cut off excess hide, but he can’t add what he does not have.

Note. When field dressing a trophy to be mounted, don’t cut into the brisket (chest) or neck area. If blood gets on the hide to be mounted, wash it off with snow or water as soon as possible. Also, avoid dragging the deer out of the woods with a rope. Place it on a sled, rickshaw, or 4-wheeler. The rope, rocks, or a broken branch from a dead-fall can easily damage the fur or puncture the hide. If you do need to drag it out with a rope, attach the rope to the base of the antlers and drag your trophy carefully.

Small Game Field Prep

Animals, coyote sized or smaller, should not be skinned unless by a professional. Don't gut the animal. Small animals, especially carnivores, will spoil quickly because of their thin hide. If you can't take the small game animal immediately to a taxidermist, put it in a plastic bag and freeze it as soon as the carcass cools completely. With the epidemic of rabies evident in many areas of the country take every safety measure necessary when handling your game.

Extra Tips

Always have appropriate tags with your trophies when you take them to your taxidermist. Do not cut the ears for attachment.

  • Songbirds, eagles, hawks, and owls are protected by Federal Law and cannot be mounted unless with a specific Federal permit.
  • For situations where you are hunting with no available taxidermist or freezer, ask your taxidermist about techniques to skin out the entire cape (including the head) and salting the hide. This is the only method in remote locations that can preserve your hide for later mounting.

    Because of the various diseases that wild game can transmit to humans, always use extreme caution when handling the carcass. Use rubber or latex gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling.

    This information is provided courtesy of McKenzie Taxidermy Supply - 2008


Located in Orange County New York, the Heart of the Hudson Valley, we are near the New Jersey and Pennsylvania state borders. Close to Middletown, NY and easily accessed by either Route 17 or Interstate 84. We specialize in Bird taxidermy, Deer taxidermy, Fish taxidermy - both fish skin mounts and replica fish mounts. We also are happy to work with both large and small game from Bear taxidermy to turkey taxidermy and everything inbetween like bobcat, fox, squirrel, and all game birds including duck, geese, and pheasants. Taxidermy prices are listed under our services page, or call us for a quote.
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