The years of patience, training, and preparation (and maybe some luck!) have paid off, and you’ve finally captured that elusive game you’ve lost sleep over. You’ll never forget the agony or the thrill of victory this hunt gave you, and you want to find a way, and you want to find a way to show off your efforts to friends and family, should anyone doubt your tales.
The best way to ensure your take is preserved for posterity? Enter taxidermy, the art of preparing your prized hunt for display. There are a number of ways to display your trophy, and we’ll introduce you to three popular methods: the European mount, shoulder mount and full-body mount.
The European mount
European mounts, commonly known as skull mounts, represent a large portion of taxidermy work, and is typically seen as an easy, cost-effective method of display. This method earned the moniker “European Mount” due to its prominence in Europe, as very few taxidermists across the Atlantic can get their hands on materials imported from the U.S., and keeping skin and hair on the animal can be prohibitively expensive. This mount features only the skull and horns or antlers, if applicable.
Taxidermists use traditional means to prepare the game, working to preserve the natural coloring and darkness of horns and antlers. Advances in technology and methods allow hunters to create European mounts on their own, with commercial kits available and a wealth of information available online.
European mounts are seen as an inexpensive means for hunters to display their prize in areas without much extra space, as the lack of the animal’s neck and hide doesn’t take up too much real estate. Lastly, skull mounts can be accomplished at home using materials found in most grocery or hardware store, making it a great method for those looking to get an introduction to taxidermy.
The shoulder mount
(Photo courtesy/Revolution Taxidermy Supply)
Shoulder mounts, in terms of deer, represent the most common type of mount seen in the U.S. This mount, as its name implies, features the animal’s head and skin down to the sternum, and includes skin from just below the shoulder. Using a shoulder mount allows hunters to display their trophy in a way that recalls the beauty and expression of the animal as it appeared in nature, while not using as much space as a full mount.
Unlike skull mounts, which feature just the animal’s skull and antlers, shoulder mounts include the skin, fur and facial features, such as realistic, proportional eyes that feature expression, properly textured nose presentation, and correctly tanned capes. Choosing the right position and mounting surface are critical to capturing the essence of the animal, or else you could wind up with a bizarre, even horrifying monster of a mount. Taxidermists often orient the animal's head in a lower position, known as sneak, to make the mount appear more lifelike.
In many cases, it’s best to leave this job for a professional taxidermist, as creating the perfect mount involves precise measurements, preserving as much of the original cape with as few cuts as possible, and ensuring the dried, tanned skin adheres properly and tightly to the mold. This isn’t to discourage novices from trying, but be aware that perfecting this process can take years of practice, and you may not want to risk your prized game on a do-it-yourself experiment.
The Full-Body mount
(Photo courtesy/Taylor Studio Taxidermy & Art)
When you have plenty of space – and plenty of funds – pursuing a full mount of your trophy animal is the ultimate way to capture the majesty of the game as it was in life. This is, naturally, the most labor-intensive and time-consuming type of taxidermy project, but as such, allows for the most flexibility in creating a lifelike scene, achieved through a combination of pose manipulation and type of base.
When considering a full-body mount, considerations must be made for how much space your trophy will take up once mounted, and how much the project will cost. Some low estimates from taxidermists exceed $2,000. However, depending on how important the animal is to the hunter by virtue of its size, beauty, rareness or value in commemorating a truly special hunt, the full-body mount serves as the most true-to-life, complete representation of the animal.
Before you decide on which kind of mount you want to display your trophy, always do your homework. Research the various mounting styles before even visiting the taxidermist, as good practitioners will likely be busy preparing other animals. The taxidermist will appreciate you knowing what you want, and it may inspire you to consider a different presentation option.
Know where you want to display your mount, and be sure you have the appropriate amount of space to do so. Mounts should look majestically and naturally out into your room, not occupy too much space or be relegated to a corner somewhere. If you need help, research examples online of semi- and full-sneak, upright and pedestal mounts, and if you are at all unsure on how best to prepare your animal, seek the help of a taxidermist right away.
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