Skinning & Preparing Game for Taxidermy


Active Member
Jan 6, 2011
San Diego
Provided By: By Mr. Kim J. Mikules &

Skinning & Preparing Game for Taxidermy

Many trophy game specimens are ruined every year due to the wrong and incorrect type of field care. If you will follow the directions below, you will not have any problems with your trophy. Also, the taxidermist will not charge you extra for repair or replacement of skins, hides or capes. All you have to do is deliver it to the taxidermist. It is better to allow a professional taxidermist, or other trained and experienced person, fully cape and perform all of the detailed game head skinning. This includes the turning of the ears and nose and the splitting of lips and associated facial fleshing. Most taxidermists charge extra for this service and it is well worth the small cost to insure the quality of your raw skin, hide and cape. Remember; if at all possible, FREEZE your trophy as soon as possible until delivery to the taxidermist. NEVER ALLOW THE SKIN TO AIR DRY!

The general guidelines for skin, hide and cape care:
Never let any skin, hide or cape sit in the sun or near any source of heat. Do NOT allow the skin to air dry. Cool the skin quickly. Never let it just lay around. Freeze it if you cannot work on it right away.
Never slit or cut the throat of any game animal. Do NOT cut up into the brisket or chest area of the cape while field dressing. If possible, consider removing the cape and head of the animal before you field dress it.
After skinning, always remove all of the fat, meat and flesh that were left on during the skinning process.
If needed, and if possible to do so, wash the skin in cold water and drain. This will remove any blood, dirt or other fluids which have contaminated the hair and could cause staining and or hair slippage.

Try NOT to cut the skin in the skinning and fleshing process. Take your time and do a good job. No sense in ruining a trophy by rushing your work.

Always place the skins on a sloped surface to allow all excess fluids to drain and help prevent any pools of blood or other fluids.
Always use plenty of salt. Salt everything! You can NOT over salt! Use Hay and Stock salt--same grind as table salt, but non iodized. Never use rock salt.

Always leave plenty of skin for a full shoulder head mount. Leave more than enough.
Always skin out the paws and hoofs on life size skins to the last joint in the toes and pack this area with salt.
Never put a fresh skin, hide or cape in a plastic bag. This will cause everything to spoil and hair to slip. Use a porous bag like burlap or other mesh material for storage and shipment of salted and semi-dry (75%) skins. Of course, if you are going to freeze it, place the skin in a plastic bag the moment before you put it into your deep freezer.

Never use wire on any skin. Use nylon ties, string, rope or other non-staining material.
Never drag, pull or push skins on the ground or over rocks, sticks, etc. Never pick up the animal by the ears or by a handful of hair.
Deliver your trophy as soon as possible to the taxidermist. You can freeze the head, skin, cape until delivery to the taxidermist.
Always save every head skin or cape that you are not going to use. If legal, you can sell these capes and skins to help offset the cost of your hunt.
Considering all of the diseases and cross infection possibilities to humans, ALWAYS use surgical gloves when field dressing, skinning, etc.
Use flea and tick spray or powder and other suitable chemicals on the skin, hide or cape to kill ticks, fleas and related vermin. Keep away from meat.

How to skin almost any animal for a full shoulder mount:
Make a circular cut around the entire animal five inches behind the shoulders. (See TOP diagram)
Cut the skin around the legs three inches above the knee joint. Slit the skin on the back of the legs up to and joining the body cut. (See diagram to RIGHT)
Pull and peel the skin forward using the knife as required, up to the base of the skull, exposing the juncture of the spine and head. Or, starting at the base of the skull split the skin following the center of the spine down the back to the first circular cut. The skin will now open up like a shirt and is somewhat easier to finish skinning. Just make sure your cut is straight and true. Large game such as moose will have to be split and opened up this way due to size and weight.
Pulling the skin out of the way, cut through this junction of spine and neck meat at the base of the skull with your knife & using a saw - if needed. Once the spine is severed and the surrounding meat is cut through, simply grab the antlers, horns or head and twist the head with the attached cape, off of the body.
At this point in time, spread the skin open and allow the natural body heat to dissipate for twenty minutes or so. Do NOT allow skin to air dry. Keep the head and attached cape as cold as possible or keep frozen until delivery to the taxidermist.

Field care for birds:
After downing your bird and you have decided to have it mounted, take these necessary steps.
Never: wring a bird's neck, if you are using a dog, never allow the dog to chew on it, and do not bend or remove feathers.
Sponge off any blood or dirt with water and a soft cloth. Wipe in the same direction as the lay of the feathers. Plug any holes that are causing fluids, blood etc to contaminate the feathers. You can use cotton, cloth, paper, etc.
Lay the bird on its back and fold the wings back in place.
If possible, place the bird head first into a game bag or nylon stocking or wrap the bird in newspaper being careful not to bend or damage feathers.
Place the bird into a cooler or freezer or at least keep the bird as cold as possible. Deliver the bird as soon as possible to the taxidermist.

Field care for fish:
Do not gut, gaff, scrape, clean or place on a stringer or in a basket. If possible, take a good clear photograph of the fish. Taxidermist use the photo as an additional reference in coloration for your specific fish but it is not really needed.
If desired, you can apply twenty mule team borax to the fish. Simply sprinkle the fish on both sides (this will help preserve the fish)
And then wrap the fish in a soaking wet cloth keeping the fins straight and flat against the body. Place the fish into a ice chest or cooler or freeze solid and deliver as soon as possible to the taxidermist.

Skinning for life size mounting and rugs:
Use the diagram provided below as a guide. On the underside of the body starting in the center of the neck, make a clean straight cut from point A to point B.
The next cut is from the bottom of each paw or hoof up the inside-back of the leg to the center cut. Keep the cuts as symmetrical as possible. All cuts on the left side must match the right side. This is especially true on rugs. Take your time and do not rush the skinning process.
Peel the skin off the animal using your knife as needed. Always skin the paws of bear by following the OUTLINE of the pad on the paws. Leave about a quarter inch of skin attached to the pad of bear which will be used for sewing. ONLY split the middle of the pad if you are skinning for a rug. The pads are cut away for a rug anyway so if the pads are split in the middle it does not matter. As you approach the junction of the skull and spine, cut through this junction and detach the skull from the body leaving the detailed skinning of the head to the taxidermist or other experienced and trained person. Remember: do NOT cut off the cape/scalp from the rest of the hide. All paws, claws, hoofs, must remain naturally attached to the skin for a complete life size mount or rug.
Flesh out the entire skin and pour on the salt and rub it in. Use plenty of salt. You can NOT over salt. Remember the general guidelines of skin, hide and cape care listed above!

Note: Most taxidermists prefer to skin out small game animals such as, raccoon, fox, bobcat, badger and similar size animals. Keep the small game specimen cold and/or freeze and deliver to the taxidermist as soon as possible. If this is not possible, skin as described above and freeze the skin until delivery to the taxidermist.


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