Great game mounts require work

Skinning out the head most important chore for perfect mounts

Skinning out the head of any animal is similar for all species.

After the head is removed from the carcass where the neck and the head meet, continue the centre cut between the ears to a point about two inches back of the antler bases. Make a V cut to the centre of each antler base more to the centre of the burr than the side.

Carefully skin down to the ear butts, cutting the ear at the point to where it meets the head – about halfway down the head. Pick up the V and skin towards the antlers or horn base.

Pry the hide away from the antler burr – do not use a knife for this procedure if possible. A knife frequently slips and slashes this very important area.

By pulling and prying, the hide will remove easily from around the antlers.

On horned animals, such as sheep and goats, push the hair down away from the horn and then cut around the horn at a right angle, being very careful not to cut the hair and proceed skinning as above.

Continue to skin to the eye, setting a finger in the corner of the eye, pull the eyelid from the eye, and keep your finger in the eye as you carefully separate the eyelid from the head. Skin both sides of the head evenly.

The tear ducts (orbital glands) is the next concern. This is one of the most difficult parts of skinning out the head. Skin right tight to the bone; elk, mule deer and caribou really have deep tear ducts. Cutting close to the bone and pulling with the other hand, do more pulling than cutting.

Keep in mind the hair on the face area is a lot shorter than anywhere else on the animal. Be careful not to cut through the skin.

When cutting the lips from the head, I prefer to do this from the outside where I can see the jaw line and teeth. Make the cut tight to the bone top and bottom – leaving lots of lip. Separate the lip from the head, this way. You cannot leave too much lip or nose cartilage.

Back to skinning the head, place a finger in the corner of the mouth and then cut the lip free leaving lots of lip. Skin down to the nose cartilage and cut this down to the bone below. The skin should now be free of the head.

Antlers or horns can be removed at any time. Always remember inspection requirements.

To turn the ears, I use a rounded stick forcing the cartilage up. I begin skinning with the knife then just use my fingers to separate the cartilage and turn the ears. Once ears are turned, split the lips, holding them in your hand, cut through the meaty part of the lips and they will split like a filet.

Nose cartilage can be dealt with later, but it should be skinned down to the nose pad so it can be properly salted.

To salt a cape or hide, lay it out in a flat area hair side down and proceed to widen the hide or cape stretching for width only, as length can be accomplished at any time. Use only fine salt – table salt. Use generously and cover the hide and face well.

I always put extra salt on the nose pad and eyes on the outside as well as the inside. Salt is cheap. Do not use coarse-pickling salt or rock salt.

Hides should not be re-frozen after it is frozen, but rather it should be dried out.

Submitted by Gordon Brown of The Taxidermy Company.