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Michelle Nelsons


How to Cape and Care for your Trophy

(Moose, Elk, Deer, Goat, Sheep, Antelope, etc.)

Shoulder Mounts

Most hunters like to field dress their animal before they move them out of the woods.  When you field dress your animal, DO NOT split the rib cage.


There are a couple methods of capping that can be used on most Big Game animals.  The First Method is a little bit easier to use when it comes to capping out Elk and Moose sized animals.  The Second Method works well on Deer sized animals.  

First Method

Begin by severing both front legs at the knee joint.  Make an incision around the circumference of the animal, at least 6 inches behind the front shoulder on Deer sized animals(12" on Moose and Elk).  This method works really well on Moose and Elk sized animals, but will also work on deer sized animals.  


Due to the size of Elk and Moose you may need to split the cape down the back to open up the cape more.  In order to do this start your knife between the ears at the base of the skull, keeping it centered down the back, make your cut to the circumference incision.


Starting at the severed knee, on the back of both front legs make an incision all the way up the back of the legs and up the lower part of the rib cage.  Bring it all the way up until you reach the incision around the circumference of the deer.  This will help open up the cape.


Once all the incisions have been made start skinning the cape off the animal.  While you skin the animal be very careful.  Don't make any unnecessary holes in the cape.  Keep as much meat off the cape as possible, leave it on the carcass.  Skin it up to the head and neck junction just behind the ears.  Now cut the head off the body at the head and neck junction, leaving it inside the skin.


Second Method

This method is very similar to the First Method.  This method works best on Deer sized animals.  This method can also be used on Elk and Moose sized animals, but may be a little more difficult on such a large animal.  Begin by making an incision around the circumference of the animal at least 8 inches behind the front shoulder on deer size animals.  On Elk and Moose sized animals at least 12 inches behind the front shoulder.  Sever both front legs at the knee.  


Now you will tube skin the cape off of the animal.  When you get it skinned down to the front legs you will be able to pull the legs free.  Continue working the cape down the animal till you get it all the way to the head.  Then cut the head and cape off the carcass by severing it at the head and neck junction.


Field Care. . . . . .

It is important, once an Elk or Moose is down, get it skinned out.  Elk and Moose are BIG animals they hold their body heat for a long time.   It's also important that you do not leave the animal lay on one side to long.  They will hold their body heat longer on the side that is against the ground.  Deer sized animals are easier to manage and take far less time to skin out and break down.  

Once  your animal is skinned out, get it to a freezer or to a taxidermist as soon as possible.  You will want to keep the Cape as cool and dry as possible.  Don't put the hide in a plastic bag.  Place it in a burlap bag, it will allow air to circulate and keep flies and other insects off your trophy.  It will also allow heat and fluids to escape.

  Heat and moisture are a hides worst enemy.  They promote bacteria growth that will cause the hair to slip (hair falling out), sometimes in large patches.  Once this has started it doesn't stop until all the hair has fallen out of the infected area.  If it is hot outside you will need to work as quickly as you can.  If it is below 40 degrees you will have a little more time to work.

DO NOT. . .

*  Leave the cape / Skin in a walk in cooler for longer than 48 hours.

*  Get the cape / skin wet.  

*  Lay the cape/skin in the sun, keep it in the shade.

*  Drag the animal behind a 4-wheeler when bringing it out of the woods.  This can damage the hair and cause bald spots.

*  Ride the animal / hide around in the back of your truck all day showing it off to friends and family.  Take pictures and get the animal in the freezer or to the taxidermist

*  Don't cut the throat to bleed out your animal.  If the animal is dead it really does no good.  Once the heart has stopped pumping, the blood stops flowing.  By cutting the throat you can cause a great deal of damage to the cape.  Once the animal is shot, more than likely the animal has bled out internally.

Freezing. . . . . . .

If you are going to freeze an Elk or Moose I would suggest you cape it off the skull and freeze the cape only.  My suggestion would be to call your taxidermist and set up a time to watch them cape an animal before attempting this on your own.

If you decide to freeze the Head or Cape don't roll it......FOLD IT!  It will help the Cape thaw out more evenly and quicker.  Also don't put the skull in the middle of the hide when folding.  It can take up to 3 days for a skull to freeze all the way buried in the hide.  When you put the hide in the freezer place it on a plastic bag NOT in it, to prevent it from sticking to the freezer.  After the animal is frozen than place it inside a couple plastic bags.  Don't forget to place your animal in a plastic bag after it is frozen.

Salting the Hide. . . . . . .

For extended trips in the field and out of state, especially during warm weather it may be necessary to salt a Cape in order to preserve it for mounting or tanning. I do not normally suggest this unless you are proficient in properly skinning the cape from the skull, splitting the lips, eyes, nose, and ears, and removing the flesh and fat.

I buy my salt at the local feed store in 50# bags.  It is called Feed, Feeder, or Stock Salt.  This is a fine grain salt like table salt.  Make sure it is Non-Iodized.  DO NOT use rock salt.

Lay the skin out flat and apply the salt liberally. On an average bear hide I will use a whole 50 pound bag of salt. There is no such thing as too much salt. Let the salt stand on the skin for 24 hours, then shake it off and salt it again. You shouldn't have to use as much salt the second time, but be sure that the entire skin is covered. Let it stand for another day and then shake the skin off and let it air dry. Large hides should be rolled before they are completely dry otherwise they are difficult to transport.

Consult with your taxidermist on how to complete these tasks and then you can properly salt a skin.







This site was last updated 03/07/15