Mar 11, 2014, 1:00 AM EDT
I seem to get so sidetracked in preparing for a hunt that I forget about one of the most important matters –preparing my trophy for taxidermy! I personally use Jimmy Dieringer of Woodbury’s Taxidermy because of his superlative work and worldwide reputation; but much more, he wants his clients to be thoroughly educated and prepared for taking good care of their precious and valuable trophies.
When visiting an outfitter abroad a hunter will often find that there is a skinning shed with skinners frequently tending to their hides. The skinners will take the skin off, turn the lips and ears and salt it thoroughly. Where it appears they are caring greatly for your hides, it would be advantageous of a hunter to get involved in the skinning process; especially with fatty animals like the small carnivores (monkeys, cats, dogs, porcupines, etc…).
The following instructions are what Jimmy Dieringer suggested to me in preparing my Cameroon trophies for taxidermy. On day one flesh-out or remove all fatty and meaty material with a sharp knife (I often take a scalpel). Salt your hide completely rubbing your hands inside all of the little groves and hard-to-get-to areas. Prior to leaving your hide overnight, examine the skin completely making sure there are no folds in the skin as this will prevent the salt from penetrating. Next delicately fold the head and legs towards the center of the body, then fold sides over and roll up. On day two remove and shake out as much of the salt as possible, then look for the thin membrane that covers all of the fatty pores (which are the size of a pinhead) and scrape the membrane off with a blunt object (Jimmy uses the backside of a knife). After you’ve scraped off this membrane, the skin will appear oily. Note: the membrane will resemble a human’s outer-layer of flesh when it has been sunburned. Next rub cornmeal all over the entire body to assist in removing the remaining fat and focus your rubbing efforts at the center of the body. After you’ve meticulously rubbed down your hide with the cornmeal, shake out the cornmeal and re-salt the entire skin and rub the salt in thoroughly finishing with the folding technique of day one. I know, I know, cornmeal you might ask??? I called Jimmy and he indicated that for some reason cornmeal is exceptional at absorbing the oil residue and works brilliantly at preserving your hide! On day three open the skin and shake out as much of the wet salt as possible and hang the skin with the hair side out; do not hang it in the sun, but a dry shaded place as the skin is prone to burning and will make it impossible to tan.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dealt with hair slippage, rotten skins or red-mold… here you’ve taken a trophy of a lifetime, maybe something that is extremely rare, and you get that call from your taxidermist: “I’m afraid that your skin is ruined”. What?! The statement is like a sucker-punch to your gut and now you have to battle with the outfitter to get a replacement cape and, in many cases, it’s near impossible to replace the cape of an animal where limited quota exists.
Do you have any other ideas or suggestions in preparing your trophy for your taxidermist?