Taxidermy Tips for Deer Hunters

By Glen Wunderlich
Hunter and writer, Glen Wunderlich, gives us six tips to remember when preparing your next big buck for the taxidermist.

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Taxidermy Tips for Deer Hunters
Glen Wunderlich
Glen Wunderlich

Michigan –-( It was a snowy scene in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 30 years ago, when I pulled the trigger on a wall-hanger buck.

I had never taken anything worthy of a mount before then, and if I knew then what I know today, I would have gone about the process of field dressing quite differently.

My mistake centered on ignorance of how to prepare an animal for taxidermy – mostly because I had never even considered anything other than getting the beast cooled off and into the truck.

After slicing the animal through the ribs, as always, I later learned that the hide was ruined for a shoulder mount and I had to pay for another cape.

Here are six Taxidermy Tips for Deer Hunters from professional taxidermist, Nick Saade of Lansing, Michigan (517-485-3669):

Nick who shares his wisdom so you may have the best results with your prize.

  • Head and neck shots are to be avoided. If you have time to make a good shot and already know you have a trophy in your sights and may choose to mount it, a shot at the heart and/or lungs is best. A good taxidermist can hide many mistakes, but is not a magician.
  • If you can avoid dragging the animal, do so. A rope around the neck is a bad idea and so is dragging by the rear legs. Be prepared with a deer sled or alternate method of moving the animal. If you must drag the deer, attempt to keep the head and neck areas off the ground during the process. And, never hang an animal by the neck. Stuff toilet paper or paper towels in the nostrils and mouth to prevent blood stains.
  • Skin the animal right away and keep it cool. Do not cut into the ribs and cut about 4 inches behind the shoulders and roll the hide up toward the head. If you are not experienced, it’s best to keep the head intact and let your taxidermist do the intricate skinning around the face. Get it to the taxidermist as soon as possible.
  • If you cannot bring the animal to your taxidermist immediately, freeze the hide without using salt. Obviously, this is not always possible, but it is the preferred method.
  • If you are in a remote area, salting the hide will lock in the hair so it doesn’t “slip” and ruin the cape, but not just any salt is good; only non-iodized salt or Kosher Salt is to be used. Fleshing will be more difficult as a result later, but is doable.
  • Keep it dry. Wipe out any excess blood and do not use any plastic bags for storage.

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind, and if you are fortunate enough to bag a wall-hanger, these critical steps to good taxidermy should be considered afield.

Michigan Taxidermest Nick Saade working with a Michigan buck.
Michigan Taxidermest Nick Saade working with a Michigan buck.

About Glen Wunderlich:

Charter Member Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). Outdoor writer and columnist for The Argus-Press ( and blog site at  Member National Rifle Association (NRA), Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), member U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM).

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Roger Middleton
Roger Middleton
4 years ago

I liked that you had recommended that it can be important to keep your deer dry in order to help with the taxidermy after the animal has passed away. My brother in law wants me to go hunting with him this season and while I’m excited to go, I want to make sure that if I get anything I can hang it on my wall. I might have to start looking for a taxidermist that can help me out, but if I do get a deer, I will be sure to keep it dry.