All photo credits: Steve Barker
You spent years trying to draw the tag, weeks researching, scouting and hunting and now you finally have your trophy on the ground. You have taken the time and care to field dress and cape your animal, keeping it out of the heat and dirt and transported it to your taxidermist in a timely manner. You receive your trophy and proudly hang it on your wall to show family and friends. You plan to admire it for a lifetime.
Well-adorned trophy rooms are a place of memories for all of us, but they come at a high price. After going through the process mentioned above, some hunters think they are done taking care of their trophy and the work is complete. This is actually far from the truth and can be a costly mistake. Taking care of your taxidermy work is a lifetime process if you want your mounts to remain in top shape and a centerpiece for conversations in the future. Here are a few ways to keep your trophy room and mounts in good shape.
All trophies require care, regardless of the workmanship and quality of the taxidermist. Even if your mount’s hide has been tanned and preserved properly does not mean it will not require future care. All trophies will eventually need to be refurbished or re-mounted, but by taking into account a few damaging elements it is possible to avoid these common damages and greatly extend the life of your trophy.
Mounts should be hung using a screw or lag bolt in a wall stud. This can help prevent the mount from falling and possibly breaking. If a mount breaks during a fall or moving from one area to another it can be one of the hardest fixes for a taxidermist.
Before: This mount has lost most of the color from the forehead and nose. Plus the hide is in rough shape. While eventual loss of color from sunlight will not necessarily cause damage to the mount, it can make it look dirty and can be very hard, if not impossible to clean or repair.
Before: In this closeup you can see the color had faded due to sunlight or a heat source in the nose and forehead.
These hard repairs are what you want to avoid. Take small steps throughout the years to keep your mount looking the best.
The best place to keep a mount is in a climate-controlled area that is free from excess heat, moisture and sunlight. Excess heat with sunlight will eventually affect the color, hair and hide of your animal and sunlight will also fade the color of the hide and any coloring of the nose and lip areas of mounts over time.
The hot, dry heat that is found around fireplaces, wood stoves and radiators can cause the mount to have excessive drying. Mammals and fish are especially susceptible to damage from dry conditions. Dry sunlit areas can desiccate the hide and cause it to crack and split. Long term exposure to smoke will cause your trophy to yellow, but cigarette smoke and smoke from wood stoves will have the same effect to the mount.
Keeping a trophy in an area with moisture can cause mold, mildew and eventually ruin the mount completely, so humidity should be kept around 60%. By checking and cleaning your trophies frequently, you will be able to notice and prevent any moisture damage.
Minimal touching of the trophy is advised since dust and skin oils will discolor fur or hair. Mounts should be given a frequent gentle dusting, but should not be handled more than absolutely necessary. Mammals with flat hair such as mule deer or whitetail may also be dusted with a feather duster for weekly or more common cleanings.
Antlers, hooves, nose and claws can be cleaned using a moist cloth, but always avoid using any oily substance.
The eyes can be cleaned with a Q-tip moistened with Windex.
Unfortunately, if a trophy has been damaged or has aged significantly over time, there is very little most people can do on their own. However, there are professionals who have a lot of experience in restoring trophies back to quality mounts. Many of the fixes are complicated, time consuming, and very expensive, but can be avoided with regular cleanings and a quick check for common problems.
Regular maintenance is fairly easy and a few short minutes can keep your trophy clean and lasting for years to come.