First DIY Shoulder Mount

Carl 9.3x62

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Jul 4, 2016
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Laramie, Wyoming
How many of you do your own taxidermy?

I have always loved taxidermy work. Been boiling and picking skulls for a long time now, but just recently finished (well, almost) my first shoulder mount of a mule deer. I went with the "just survived a scuffle with a mnt lion" look, and it turned out alright. I told myself that the only way I could fail at this project was if I didn't try. Looked at it as more of a learning experience than anything, and just a fun project to do. I used a kit from Van Dykes, that included a rub-on liquid tan. Fleshing and thinning was probably the hardest part, and maybe turning the lips and nose (kind of butchered those areas). I did have a taxidermist friend of mine help shave the hide a bit, and give a few pointers here and there, but I wanted to do it myself as much as possible. I really enjoyed the process and am happy with how it turned out, even though though it looks like a "western" mount, as another friend put it. Looking forward to doing another.

P.S. One good thing about getting divorced is I can now mount a deer in my dining room, haha.
 

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SG25

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Oct 26, 2018
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I mean I’ve seen worse lol. Everybody has to start somewhere. That’s pretty good for your first time! Good job!
 

RV13

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May 16, 2017
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West Michigan
Looks pretty good for the first one, I've seen far worse from guys who have been doing it many years. If you're interested in doing more check and see if your state has a taxidermy association. They usually have a yearly competition and conference. It's a great place to get a close up or hands on experience through seminars and classes.
 

thusby

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Apr 2, 2019
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I applaud you for undertaking that. It is a hell of steep slope. I was always daunted by doing my own Europeans but this is some next level stuff.
 

NYSKIER

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Jul 23, 2017
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I applaud you for undertaking that. It is a hell of steep slope. I was always daunted by doing my own Europeans but this is some next level stuff.
I second this never feel bad about giving something a shot
 

ElkFever2

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Mar 4, 2019
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Iowa
I'm an avid DIYer, but I'm too chicken to try what you did. Way to give it a go

I'd get a comb, spray bottle, and some extra firm hair putty and tame some of that hair though, especially ears and where it meets the mounting board
 

nick87

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Dec 12, 2014
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Northern Illinois
Looks pretty good for the first one! Like anything if you keep going with it imagine how good it will look next time around now that you've done it already.
 

idelkslayer

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Aug 28, 2013
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I started with bear rugs. I've done 3 and you can tell which one was the first and which one was the last. I did a mtn lion rug that turned out well. I then shoulder mounted a deer for my father which looks good but not great but he's happy with it. A pronghorn buck was next and looks really good. The last shoulder mount I did was my moose which I think looks great. I've seen several professionally done moose that don't look as good. This is an old picture taken while some of the pins were still in the mount and the lighting sucks but hopefully you get the idea.

I think it's worth it to do my own work. Professional work is too expensive and I enjoy the project. I understand someone not wanting to do a truly once in a lifetime animal like a bighorn sheep or a moose. However, for deer and elk which are pretty common the worst that can happen is you mess up the cape. If that happens you can buy another cape and reuse the rest of the materials. If you mess up a moose cape it's gonna be a lot more difficult to find a replacement.
 

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Mtnhuntr

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Sep 26, 2017
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That's some awesome initiative! I do my own mounts too, but I only cover the skull plate with paper mache onto a foam piece, and then cover that with leather before attaching to a plaque. What you are doing is next level!
 

Carl 9.3x62

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Jul 4, 2016
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Laramie, Wyoming
I started with bear rugs. I've done 3 and you can tell which one was the first and which one was the last. I did a mtn lion rug that turned out well. I then shoulder mounted a deer for my father which looks good but not great but he's happy with it. A pronghorn buck was next and looks really good. The last shoulder mount I did was my moose which I think looks great. I've seen several professionally done moose that don't look as good. This is an old picture taken while some of the pins were still in the mount and the lighting sucks but hopefully you get the idea.

I think it's worth it to do my own work. Professional work is too expensive and I enjoy the project. I understand someone not wanting to do a truly once in a lifetime animal like a bighorn sheep or a moose. However, for deer and elk which are pretty common the worst that can happen is you mess up the cape. If that happens you can buy another cape and reuse the rest of the materials. If you mess up a moose cape it's gonna be a lot more difficult to find a replacement.
I'm going to have to try a few more antelope and deer before I give and elk or moose a shot! Did you do all the fleshing and shaving the hide yourself? If so, what kind of tools did you use?
 

idelkslayer

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Aug 28, 2013
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I'm going to have to try a few more antelope and deer before I give and elk or moose a shot! Did you do all the fleshing and shaving the hide yourself? If so, what kind of tools did you use?
I do all my own fleshing and tanning. I did not shave any of the hides; although if I ever find a cheap option I will begin to do this step. For rugs it doesn't matter because they are going to hang flat on the wall. For the shoulder mounts I used a skife knife to shave areas around the face and especially the nose of the moose. It was a long process but it was the cheapest option. The nose on a moose is a thick spongy tissue up to a couple inches thick. I found the deer/antelope/bear noses to be thin enough once the cartilage is removed.

Not shaving the hide on shoulder mounts has its risks. A thick hide will dry more slowly and over time the seam can open up. I try to compensate for this by pinning the hide more than would otherwise be necessary and leaving the pins in for several months. Along the main seam up the spine I use 8 penny nails and reinforce the stitching with staples. The hair is long enough to cover this up if you place the nails/staples carefully. Again I know my work wouldn't stand up to a professional but I can do a bear rug for under $100 and a deer/antelope shoulder mount for $150. The moose cost $350 in materials. I have a hard enough time justifying that amount of money on something that will just hang on the wall when I can do a euro for the cost of a pot of water and some propane. I think that the quality of my work is good and gets better with each project. I'm glad that I had done the 2 bear rugs before I did the lion rug. The last bear and lion look great. The first rug looks great from a distance. The first deer and antelope shoulder mounts turned out well and look good but my moose benefited from the experience and looks really good. A friend of mine had his moose done by a pro and paid over $1,000. Mine looks better.

For anyone who is afraid to DIY taxidermy, I encourage anyone to give it try. There is no mystery to it and thanks to youtube and the internet you can find all the instructional help you need for free. Flesh and tan a hide. Once you've done that, try a shoulder mount. The worst that can happen is you ruin the cape. You can buy a new cape for $50-$100 and try again or wait until you shoot another deer and use that cape. You'll be surprised by how simple it really is. And if you screw it up so bad that you're embarrassed to put it on the wall, you can always have a taxidermist mount it later and you're only down $150. I'm sure you wasted more money than that on other things.
 

rachele39

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Nov 12, 2012
Messages
26
I do all my own fleshing and tanning. I did not shave any of the hides; although if I ever find a cheap option I will begin to do this step. For rugs it doesn't matter because they are going to hang flat on the wall. For the shoulder mounts I used a skife knife to shave areas around the face and especially the nose of the moose. It was a long process but it was the cheapest option. The nose on a moose is a thick spongy tissue up to a couple inches thick. I found the deer/antelope/bear noses to be thin enough once the cartilage is removed.

Not shaving the hide on shoulder mounts has its risks. A thick hide will dry more slowly and over time the seam can open up. I try to compensate for this by pinning the hide more than would otherwise be necessary and leaving the pins in for several months. Along the main seam up the spine I use 8 penny nails and reinforce the stitching with staples. The hair is long enough to cover this up if you place the nails/staples carefully. Again I know my work wouldn't stand up to a professional but I can do a bear rug for under $100 and a deer/antelope shoulder mount for $150. The moose cost $350 in materials. I have a hard enough time justifying that amount of money on something that will just hang on the wall when I can do a euro for the cost of a pot of water and some propane. I think that the quality of my work is good and gets better with each project. I'm glad that I had done the 2 bear rugs before I did the lion rug. The last bear and lion look great. The first rug looks great from a distance. The first deer and antelope shoulder mounts turned out well and look good but my moose benefited from the experience and looks really good. A friend of mine had his moose done by a pro and paid over $1,000. Mine looks better.

For anyone who is afraid to DIY taxidermy, I encourage anyone to give it try. There is no mystery to it and thanks to youtube and the internet you can find all the instructional help you need for free. Flesh and tan a hide. Once you've done that, try a shoulder mount. The worst that can happen is you ruin the cape. You can buy a new cape for $50-$100 and try again or wait until you shoot another deer and use that cape. You'll be surprised by how simple it really is. And if you screw it up so bad that you're embarrassed to put it on the wall, you can always have a taxidermist mount it later and you're only down $150. I'm sure you wasted more money than that on other things.
 

rachele39

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Nov 12, 2012
Messages
26
Went the same basic route a few years back. Picked up a video from van dykes and some of the basic tools. Still don't have the fleshing knife or machine but made due with the skiff knife and a disc sander for the shoulder mounts. It's time consuming and you really have to be careful with the sander so you don't burn through the hide but it's worked pretty well. Broke out the welder and made a copy of the adjustable stand and got after it. First one is still on the wall and the only real issue was the form was a little too big, I was mixing and matching deer. By the 2nd or 3rd they were better than the one I had a taxidermist do. No one will spend the time or care about it as much as you will. It is time consuming, there's no way around it. Have a freezer full and stack of salted capes I haven't done that may not even be any good anymore cause the wife says I have enough. She stopped me mid stream on this last one and said i could only have one room.
One of these days I'll put on my big girl panties and mount some more anyway.
 

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wllm1313

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Dec 9, 2015
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Aurora, CO
I started with bear rugs. I've done 3 and you can tell which one was the first and which one was the last.
I’m more of a euro guy, than should mounts... but I already have 2 bear rugs + 2 more tanned hides, and I have no intention of stopping bear hunting, so wondering how you got started? Similar to the OP just got a kit and watched videos?
 

idelkslayer

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Aug 28, 2013
Messages
121
I’m more of a euro guy, than should mounts... but I already have 2 bear rugs + 2 more tanned hides, and I have no intention of stopping bear hunting, so wondering how you got started? Similar to the OP just got a kit and watched videos?
I watched videos on youtube. and searched for tutorials online. I also read a lot of posts on taxidermy specific forums. The process is actually very simple, just time consuming.
 

Antarctica

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Dec 4, 2018
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Great initiative on all of you. There are some good looking mounts here. None look bad. Honestly, if none of you hadn't said you did them yourselves, I wouldn't have been picking them apart looking for issues, and would have looked at them with the usualy, cursory "nice deer!" review that I give most mounts.
 
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