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How to Protect Your Taxidermy

Brow Tines and Backstrap

How to Protect Your Taxidermy

 by  Mike Hanback

Get a lifetime of memories out of your buck mount by caring for it properly

Image: Image_by_John_Hafner_deer_taxidermy_mount_1

Protecting your mounts is a critical part of ensuring their longevity. Image by John Hafner

When was the last time you dusted the hide of a buck on your wall, or shined the glass eyes, or dabbed the nose with petroleum jelly, or polished the antlers?

Uh, never?

We gladly spend $600 or more for a shoulder mount of a memorable buck and hang it on the wall. We gaze up at the great animal from time to time, smiling and remembering the hunt. But it never crosses our mind to do a little routine care and maintenance on our trophies. We ought to. A few minutes of dusting and shining every month or so goes a long way to keeping mounts looking clean, fresh, and realistic.

Where to Hang Bucks

Caring for taxidermy starts with hanging your deer heads on the right walls. Avoid spots with direct heat or sunlight. A whopper buck looks killer over a fireplace or woodstove, but that’s one of the worst places for it; the rising heat will degrade the mount over time. Likewise, don’t hang a head directly over a heat vent in the floor. Avoid south-facing walls where direct sunlight will bore through windows and burn on a mount day after day. Sunlight fades hides. Cool, sheltered interior walls are the best places to hang your deer.

Routine Mount Care

Keeping a deer head looking clean and fresh is cheap and easy. Once a month or so, use a feather duster, or lightly dampen paper towels or a soft rag and wipe dust gently off the neck, head, and face of a buck, working gently with the grain of the hairs.

Spray a Q-Tip with Windex, and rub clean the glass eyes. If a buck’s nose looks old and faded, use your finger to smear on and work in a tiny dab of petroleum jelly to bring back that black, moist look.

Most of the time, you can simply wipe the antlers with a damp cloth to clean and brighten them up. But if beams and tines have started to appear dry and chalky, go a step further and rub them thoroughly with a 50-50 mix of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water to regenerate the natural brown and shine.

Deeper Cleaning

Taxidermists recommend a bit of extended maintenance three or four times a year. A pro who has stuffed a dozen bucks for me taught me this trick. Dust off a hide as described above. Then spray a soft towel or rag with Cowboy Magic Super Bodyshine, a product popular with the horse crowd to keep their live mounts looking fresh and shiny. Wipe down the entire shoulder and head of a deer mount, again working your rag gently with the grain of the hairs. A light coat of Cowboy Magic softens and protects the hide, repels dust, and rekindles a wall buck’s natural sheen.


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