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Simple Steps for Preserving Your Trophies
by Brodie Swisher

You've just taken the trophy of a lifetime, and as you anxiously climb down from your tree stand, you're mind is racing with a million different emotions. Long before you ever pulled the trigger, or dropped the string, you dreamed of this deer one day hanging on the wall. You've tagged the deer and it's legally yours. Now what?

 Amidst all the excitement of harvesting an animal, it's easy to neglect some of the simple steps towards ensuring a quality animal to take to the taxidermist. Whether it's a record book deer, or a child's first doe, or squirrel, a mounted display of the specimen is sure to draw sweet memories of the day's hunt for many years to come.

Steve Bower of Springville, TN operates Timberlake Taxidermy and Bower says that in over three decades of taxidermy work, he's still amazed at the condition of some of the critters that are brought to his taxidermy studio. "People just don't realize that a little work on the front end will help ensure a quality trophy for years to come," says Bower.

 A lot of folks confuse taxidermist with magicians. Duck hunting is great, especially when their right there in your face. But a greenhead shot at fifteen feet with a 10 gauge will likely take a miracle-maker to turn it into a life-like creation of a mallard duck. Hunters should choose their specimens wisely. "Garbage in - garbage out" is what Bower tries to remind his clients.

Bower offers a few tips for field care, as well as cooling and freezing a specimen chosen for the taxidermist.

"One of the simplest things hunters can do while in the field is to remove any blood from antlers, fur, or feathers," says Bower. "This will make for better snap-shots as well as a better mount." Bower is quick to remind folks to refrain from cutting the deer's throat in order to bleed the animal properly. Bower says that it's not necessary, and only causes more patchwork for the taxidermist working on the specimen. "A lot of folks make the mistake of cutting the hide away from the head, or simply not leaving enough hide to work with," Bower says. "I always recommend that folks leave the skin on the head and cut the neck off about 10 inches down from the skull to help with future measurements taken on the deer. Basically the skin should be one piece, from the deer's front shoulder area, all the way to the tip of it's nose."

Another key area hunters will want to keep in mind is cooling the animal down. The animal must be cooled down immediately to help prevent bacterial problems with the skin. Putting a deer in the refrigerator or hanging outside in temperatures below forty degrees will help prevent bacteria from forming. After this cooling down period, the animal is ready to freeze.

Bower says that although most people wrap their animals in a plastic bag prior to taking them to the taxidermist, the best thing to use is actually some type of rag material, or a bed sheet. "Using an old sheet to wrap your animal in allows the specimen to breathe," say Bower.

Bower also notes that freezer burn can easily occur from "frost-free" type freezers, where moisture within the freezer is drawn out. Bower recommends that folks use a thermometer inside the freezer to check the temperatures. "In most cases, a freezers thermostat is set well below what is needed to preserve your mount, or frozen foods," Bower says. Seven to ten degrees is the ideal temperature for storing animals awaiting a trip to the taxidermist according to Bower.

While a sheet or rag material is the preferred wrap for the furred creatures, Bower says that birds can be wrapped in a plastic bag. "A large Ziploc bag works great for smaller birds such as doves or quail," says Bower. "The key is to squeeze all the air out, making the bag as airtight as possible. 

Six months to a year is about the maximum time an animal should spend in the freezer before being sent to the taxidermist. So, if you've got a trophy from last year's hunting season still lingering in the freezer, then now is the time to get to your local taxidermist and let them transform death into life, leaving you with memories that will last for years to come.

Steve Bower encourages hunters to call with any questions or concerns they have about preserving their wild trophies - Contact Steve at: (731) 593-3003




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