by Eric Hall
We have all seen those whitetail deer mounts. You know, the ones in the old hunting lodges, gun clubs, and stores. The faded yellow hair, dingy eyes, and dust covered antlers. Once the pride and joy of the hunter who harvested them, now a mere shadow of their former selves. Modern taxidermy has come a long way from grandpa’s deer mount but proper care and maintenance are still needed. In a nutshell, I am saying that once that trophy is on the wall, the work is far from over.
Here are six tips to keep your mounts looking fresh and new for many years.
Avoid placing your mounts in direct sunlight for hours a day. Over time, the suns ultraviolet rays actually will fade the hair and antlers on your mount. Ultraviolet rays will also cause the hair to dry out and the hide to shrink giving a dingy old appearance. Instead, opt for places inside the home where the mounts get natural indirect light.
Avoid Excessive Heat:
Everyone loves the look of a whitetail hanging above the fireplace but you could be doing more harm than good. It is best to avoid exposing your mounts to direct heat from a fireplace, wood stove or furnace duct work. Exposure to heat sources can cause the same drying and shrinking damage as the ultraviolet rays, causing the look of excessive aging.
Avoid Damp Areas:
Displaying your trophy in a humid/damp environment is asking for trouble. Like everything else, damp areas will produce mold and mildew on your mounts. Garages, damp basements, etc. should all be avoided to preserve that buck of a lifetime.
Avoid Excess Dust:
Taxidermy is not a maintenance-free product. Dust will form on the hair, antlers, eyes, and nose of your deer. To clean the eyes use a cotton swab with glass cleaner or clean water. Be careful not to saturate the area around the eyes. The antlers and nose can be cleaned with a damp clean washcloth. Some taxidermists suggest putting a thin coat of petroleum jelly on the nose of deer to protect the nose. Hair can be gently dusted by using a vacuum with a soft brush attachment. I personally have used this method with excellent results. Be sure to only brush in the direction that the fur lies. Going against the grain will damage the hollow hair on a whitetail deer.
Avoid Excess Handling:
As stated above, whitetail deer have hollow hair follicles. Touching these will cause the hair to break off and damage the look of your mount. The long hairs are most susceptible to breakage, so try and avoid these. If you must handle the mount, do so by the antlers and if needed the muzzle of the deer. Hang the mounts where children are not innocently petting and touching the piece.
The same moths that damage wool carpets and clothing can damage your trophy as well. The larvae laid on the hide will ingest the inner hair follicles causing hair loss on your deer. Check the animal for small rice like castings (cocoons) or missing hair. Look in ears, etc for evidence of infestation. If you find evidence of insects, take action immediately. They will quickly destroy the hair on your trophy mount. My suggestion is to take your mount to a taxidermist for treatment or purchase a treatment made for taxidermy. I have read articles suggesting using hardware store insecticides to treat deer mounts. Before taking this step on your own, check with your taxidermist. It is not worth the risk of ruining your investment by making a mistake.
It takes a lot of work to harvest an animal and taxidermy work is expensive. Yes, many times the trophy can be repaired, but by following these tips you can ensure your display is at it’s best for many years to come.