Careful handling of deer results in better trophy mounts

In the showroom at Jake Rouse Taxidermy on Ten-Ten Road in Wake County, Jake Rouse displays his awards and award-wining work.
In the showroom at Jake Rouse Taxidermy on Ten-Ten Road in Wake County, Jake Rouse displays his awards and award-wining work. Photo by Teri Boggess

Water is the enemy. So is overzealous cutting.

Either can ruin a trophy mount sooner or later, so hunters should use care when bringing prize deer out of the field, said Jake Rouse, a Wake County taxidermist who expects a rush of hunters with the arrival of cooler weather this week.

He offers a few tips for anyone fortunate enough to need a taxidermist.

▪ Don’t cut the hide so short that it can’t cover the form.

Rouse carefully pulled up a large cape of hide that stretched behind a fresh deer head he was skinning. He praised the caping started by two 14-year-old hunters.

“They cut it off below the knees on the front legs, and they stayed way back behind the halfway point in the deer’s belly,” he said. “They cut the complete semicircle. They did not cut anywhere near the deer’s brisket.”

As a result, he said, the hide’s only cut will be a burr-to-burr incision where Rouse removed the antlers on a piece of skull. With no extra seams, the hair will lay better.

“It makes the mount a lot better,” said Rouse, who this year doubled the size of his Jake Rouse Taxidermy workshop on Ten-Ten Road in Raleigh as he transitioned to full time in taxidermy after 10 years part time.

Winner of a WASCO Award for most creative work at the N.C. Taxidermist Association Convention in Clemmons in July, Rouse will spend 12 to 15 hours on the deer – caping, freezing, working with a Triangle tannery, preparing a form, applying the hide and adjusting as it dries, attaching antlers, “debugging” with insecticide and finishing details like eyes and nose.

▪ Keep the hide dry. Place the hide in a double layer of plastic trash bags before putting it on ice. That will reduce bacteria that can cause the hair to fall out .

▪ Freeze any trophy that can’t be delivered within 12 hours.

▪ For antlers in velvet, head for the taxidermist immediately so the antlers can be freeze dried. Waiting can result in a mount with an unpleasant odor.

▪ Because moisture is the enemy, do not wash the hide, Rouse said. Blood or dirt will dry and fall off, or it will come off during tanning.

▪ For out-of-state trophies, Rouse reminds hunters to follow each state’s laws for transportation of carcass parts. Virginia, West Virginia, 21 other states and two Canadian provinces have confirmed chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease that affects cervids including whitetails and elk. N.C. wildlife officials have not reported any CWD cases. Find rules at http://www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/Cervid-Carcass-Regulations and learn more at www.cwd-info.org.

▪ For questions about preparing a mount, don’t be afraid to call your taxidermist, Rouse said. Visit shops and learn about their processes. Learn about the N.C. Taxidermist Association at www.northcarolinataxidermistassoc.org.

Turkey shoot: Gorman Street Ruritan Club in Durham hosts its annual turkey shoot 7-9:30 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 8 at 2409 E. Geer St. Go to www.gormanruritan.com.

Email turkey shoots to outdoors@newsobserver.com.

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