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How To Cape a Deer

How to Cape a Deer
Let’s assume you have harvested a trophy deer, and are trying to decide what type of pose and mount to use on the animal. While some whitetail hunters simply drop their trophy bucks off at the taxidermist without considering what specific pose or form company to use, other hunters stop and think about many aspects of what will enhance the whitetail buck and look best for their trophy room. It will be the purpose of this article to educate hunters that are taking their deer to the taxidermist which pose and form to request in an effort to maximize the animal’s attributes as well as look best in your trophy room. We will also provide information on proper caping and preparation of your whitetail deer in an effort to get it to your taxidermist in the best possible shape. We’ll explore both choosing how to mount your whitetail deer and how to prepare it for the taxidermist. We will also look into what to look for when reviewing good whitetail deer taxidermy work.
How to Cape a Deer
Many taxidermists you choose will cape your deer for you, but often times charge an additional fee. Even if you don’t mind paying that fee, its always a good idea to know how to cape a deer.
Caping a deer is the process of removing the hide from a whitetail deer from behind the shoulders to the base of the jaw or lower neckline.
First using a sharp knife make initial cut 4” behind front legs and cut around the entire deer’s body.
Second then cut a circle around the knee of the leg separating the fur from the body.
Third run your knife up from the cut made around the knee up underneath the deer’s underside to the first cut you made around the body behind the shoulders of the deer. Once you have done this on both legs you will see you have created a “v shaped” cut from one leg to the underside shoulder cut as well from the second leg. Thus far you have cut once time around the entire body of the whitetail deer 4 inches behind the shoulder, a cut around each knee, and ran your knife up each leg to the cut you made behind the shoulders. I bit redundant I know but I want you to be informed. While many instructors will tell you to cut on the top of the back of the deer, do not do this. It’s a terrible mistake to cut atop the neck running along the back as most taxidermists cannot repair this as if it were untouched with a blade. Once again cut hide around each front leg at the knee. Start next cut at the back of the knee and cut hide up the back of front leg to the top of the front leg. Then angle cut back to meet the initial cut. Repeat this cut for the other front leg.
Fourth you will simply begin to carefully cut and peel separating the fur from the meat. Be careful not to cut too thin thereby cutting holes into the fur of the deer. On antlered game, a heavy screwdriver with a 1/4” blade is useful in prying hide loose from around the antler bases. On horned game carefully use a knife to cut between the hair and horn junction. Take the time to pull the hair down and away from the horn base to avoid cutting hair with the knife.
While it may sound complicated thus far caping a whitetail deer it is not at all. If you don’t trust yourself then practice the art of caping a whitetail deer on a few does. Many instructional videos exist to purchase on caping as well.
Fifth you will want to cape your deer’s skin down to the neck base.
Sixth you will separate the skin from the legs up to the armpits.
Seventh, this will create a flap of fur between the legs and neck you will skin down to the base of the neck as well.
Eighth you will now have all the fur skinned down to the base of the neck and it will be hanging free.
Ninth, you will take your knife and cut the meat around the neck to the bone. At this point you can twist the head in circles and remove it or use a saw to remove it.
Tenth you will then take a garbage bag and completely surround all fur but not the antlers so that you may transport it or freeze it until you take it to the taxidermist. Never freeze the animal without enclosing the hide with a trash bag or something to prevent freezer burn.
If your not taking your deer to the taxidermist after you cape you deer immediately don’t let it just sit out in the normal temperatures. A cape can be ruined quickly. Typically you can tell as a standard rule that if you can easily pull “wads” of hair from the cape then the cape has ruined. It normally take over 20 hours of temperatures above 50 degrees for this to occur.
Caping a Deer Over the Skull
As aforementioned I would recommend to those that aren’t thoroughly knowledgeable about caping a whitetail deer to simply stop the skinning at the bottom of the neck base, however if you want to cape your whitetail deer completely off the skull here are some extra measures to take.
Begin to separate the hide along the neck incision taking extra care at the ears, eyes and lips. Cut the ear canal close to the skull. It is always attached farther back and lower than you think. If you place your finger in the ear canal it will help determine this point. Take care not to cut the tip of you finger. Again using your finger as a guide skin around the eyes cutting close to the skull. Be aware of the tear duct at the front of the eyes. You'll have to carefully cut or pry tear duct out of the depression in the skull. The lips should be cut close to the skull taking extra time leaving all lip and gum material attached to the hide.
Make sure the cape is long enough for a shoulder mount. The cape should include the area behind the front legs. Being sure to include the full brisket and complete armpits. The antlers can be removed by a saw cut from the rear of the skull towards the center of the eye socket. And a second cut starting above the eye socket connecting with the first cut.
Treat your deer cape as well or better than your meat. Keep it dry, cool and bug free. Take care not to have the hide dry out. Two main factors, heat and moisture cause bacterial growth, the cause of hair slip. Eliminate or reduce these factors and you increase the quality of your trophy.
Spotting Good Taxidermy Work
The eyes of a whitetail deer are important. For a few extra dollars have your taxidermist use “competition eyes”. These eyes are much more realistic and show eye whites in the corners. Most taxidermists won’t use competition eyes without special request. It will make your mount look alive. IMB Outfitters, Official Taxidermist Brent Thomure located at will only use competition eyes and cuts no shortcuts on his whitetail mounts.
Look at the taxidermist mounts in the studio. Drumming is when a taxidermist hasn’t properly glued the skin to the form thus creating air pockets. This normally occurs in the ears and brisket area. You can feel them and push them in and out if they are severe.
Cracking of the nose. Nose should not show cracks. Cracks occur from improper tanning procedures.
Grooming of hair patterns should occur prior to the drying period. This cannot always be done by the best taxidermist in the world because some deer have rubbed hair off by fighting, breeding, passing under barbed wired fences. However in patches where the hides is good the taxidermist should have the hair pattern laying flat and in the same direction. Just like you combed your hair.
Fullness of eyes means that some taxidermist actually make one eye socket bigger than the other. Both eyes should be the same exact size.
Now go grab the right whitetail deer taxidermist. Try and find a taxidermist that specializes in whitetail deer.
What Mount to Use on Your Whitetail Deer
McKenzie simply has the best forms in the hunt industry. They have a vast array of choices:
Full Sneak is a pose where the head is pointed in extreme downward angle level or lower than the top of the shoulder. In this pose you can make a smaller trophy look larger especially if you have the taxidermist put the ears back. By placing the ears back it makes the deer look wider. It’s a great mount to showcase a 8 point that you shot that is a borderline trophy. Full sneak poses can come in both head down and head up but the neck will still be at a severely decreased angle.
The opposite of full sneak is the full upright. The full upright pose is when the head is fully upright and at its heighest point. I love full upright as the full upright pose adds a air of majesty to the whitetail deer. Almost making the deer look like a “snob.” Semi upright also comes in head down or head up.
Semi Sneak is half way between the full upright and full sneak. It’s a more relaxed decreased height than the full upright but not near as extreme as the full sneak. It’s probably the most common mount seen and used by taxidermist. Semi sneak comes in head down or head up.
The key to selecting your pose is to showcase whatever side of the rack that is the most impressive. For example I have a 12 point that has 7 of its tines on the right side. I wanted to showcase the right side as it’s the most impressive so I choose a left turn to expose the right side more vividly to the viewer. Most every pose will force you to choose a left or right turn. Ask the taxidermist what will showcase the deer the best. Just make sure you are dealing with an honest taxidermist or he will recommend a form that he has in stock or one he bought cheap. The element of trust with a taxidermist is very very important. If you feel one hint of dishonesty walk away. Remember your showcasing a literally personal trophy that you will cherish forever.
On ears you can select both ears back to make the buck look bigger. You can get one ear back and one ear forward which is called off set ears. You can get both ears forward. When selecting both ears forward make sure you have a wide spread or the deer will appear to look smaller.
McKenzie also offers wall pedestal mounts and regular pedestal mounts, however wall pedestal mounts are a tad difficult to hang and are heavy. Pedestal mounts for tables and or hip level locations should not be selected by hunters that have pets that may mangle them when unattended or hunters that have children that may play with them by being within reach of them.
Wall habitats like leaves, limbs, logs, etc. are also offered now to dress your mount up. I think this looks awesome on pedestal mounts for tables, but on the wall it looks a bit overdressed to me.

Darrin Bradley

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