Field Care Guide
Now that whitetail archery season is open in the Midwest and gun season approaching soon it is a good time to be sure that you have a good guide for proper field care for your harvest. Whether you have gotten an exceptional animal or perhaps a special memory you would like to preserve the steps you take in the field and just after are important.
Every year we get capes in that have either been cut too short, cut too far up, hung head down for too long and engorged the head/neck of the deer, have been left above freezing for too long and the hair is slipping (falling out) or the hide is in rough shape from the way the deer was taken out of the woods/field. Here are a few tips for you on how to best handle your hide and your meat. We’ll try to make a video this fall as well and upload it to our website or Facebook.
Once the deer is down, it needs to be field dressed as soon as possible. It is recommended that you wear rubber or plastic gloves while field dressing. When finishing the belly incision, be sure to stop at the rib cage and do not cut into the chest/brisket area. You will have to reach up into the chest cavity to remove the heart. Try to keep the fur free from excess blood, dirt, and debris. Be careful when removing your whitetail from the woods. Since whitetail deer fur is hollow, which is great for insulating the deer, it also means the hair can break off easily. Wrapping the deer in a tarp will protect the fur from damage from sticks, rocks, dirt, and while transporting it from the field on an UTV or truck.
It is very important to cool the deer as soon as possible to prevent meat spoilage and hair slippage, especially if temperatures are above freezing. Take the deer to your meat processor as soon as you can. Let them know you want to have it caped to take to your taxidermist. If you plan on butchering the deer yourself, remove the hide and cape in a timely manner. The hide traps heat, so removing it allows the hide and the deer meat to cool rapidly.
Once the cape is removed, place it in a freezer or cooler. If cooling down with ice, do not let the cape get wet. Moisture promotes bacterial growth which causes hair slippage. You can double bag it in trash bags to keep it dry.
There are many online videos and diagrams on deer hide and cape removal. If you are not comfortable with the process, contact your taxidermist. Your taxidermist can walk you through how to cape it and many taxidermists will cape it for you for a small fee or at no charge prevent a cape that is cut incorrectly or one that doesn’t have enough length. It is always better to error on providing a little too much hide as opposed to not enough. While enough hide is needed for a shoulder mount or more for a pedestal mount your taxidermist will only need about 8 inches of the neck meat left to get a proper neck measurement. We’ll often get deer in with all of the neck meat left in which can amount to a couple of roasts the hunter is wasting each year.
The highest quality mounts begin with a quality specimen. Treat the hide and cape as you would the meat. Get it cool quickly, keep it clean and dry, and prevent fur damage. Your taxidermist may be able to offer you an alternative cape if you do encounter extensive hide issues. Proper trophy field care can help your taxidermist preserve your memories in the field into a work of art that you can treasure for a lifetime.
Ben, Susan and Luke Slemmer, Log Home Taxidermy