Handle with care: Cleaning your mount


Taking care of your mounts
All photo credits: Steve Barker

You spent years trying to draw the tag, weeks researching, scouting and hunting and now you finally have your trophy on the ground. You have taken the time and care to field dress and cape your animal, keeping it out of the heat and dirt and transported it to your taxidermist in a timely manner. You receive your trophy and proudly hang it on your wall to show family and friends. You plan to admire it for a lifetime. 

Well-adorned trophy rooms are a place of memories for all of us, but they come at a high price. After going through the process mentioned above, some hunters think they are done taking care of their trophy and the work is complete. This is actually far from the truth and can be a costly mistake. Taking care of your taxidermy work is a lifetime process if you want your mounts to remain in top shape and a centerpiece for conversations in the future. Here are a few ways to keep your trophy room and mounts in good shape.

Animal mount care

All trophies require care, regardless of the workmanship and quality of the taxidermist. Even if your mount’s hide has been tanned and preserved properly does not mean it will not require future care. All trophies will eventually need to be refurbished or re-mounted, but by taking into account a few damaging elements it is possible to avoid these common damages and greatly extend the life of your trophy.

Nose broken on mule deer mount

Mounts should be hung using a screw or lag bolt in a wall stud. This can help prevent the mount from falling and possibly breaking. If a mount breaks during a fall or moving from one area to another it can be one of the hardest fixes for a taxidermist. 

Before and after photos of a mount that needed taxidermy repair

Before: This mount has lost most of the color from the forehead and nose. Plus the hide is in rough shape. While eventual loss of color from sunlight will not necessarily cause damage to the mount, it can make it look dirty and can be very hard, if not impossible to clean or repair. 

Old discolored mule deer mount

After: The color has been brought back in this buck's hide after a lot of work from a taxidermist to restore it after this mount wasn't cared for.

Old mule deer mount color restored

Before: In this closeup you can see the color had faded due to sunlight or a heat source in the nose and forehead.

Old mule deer mount nose

After: Here you can see the amount of work that went into restoring this mount when you look at the nose. The hide color and details in the nose have now been brought back to life. This mount is now fully restored and looks like new again. This can be prevented with proper mount care through the years.

Old mule deer mount nose color restored

These hard repairs are what you want to avoid. Take small steps throughout the years to keep your mount looking the best.

Avoid moisture, heat and sunlight

The best place to keep a mount is in a climate-controlled area that is free from excess heat, moisture and sunlight. Excess heat with sunlight will eventually affect the color, hair and hide of your animal and sunlight will also fade the color of the hide and any coloring of the nose and lip areas of mounts over time. 

Keep mounts away from heat sources

The hot, dry heat that is found around fireplaces, wood stoves and radiators can cause the mount to have excessive drying. Mammals and fish are especially susceptible to damage from dry conditions. Dry sunlit areas can desiccate the hide and cause it to crack and split. Long term exposure to smoke will cause your trophy to yellow, but cigarette smoke and smoke from wood stoves will have the same effect to the mount.

Keeping a trophy in an area with moisture can cause mold, mildew and eventually ruin the mount completely, so humidity should be kept around 60%. By checking and cleaning your trophies frequently, you will be able to notice and prevent any moisture damage.

Avoid touching the hide

Minimal touching of the trophy is advised since dust and skin oils will discolor fur or hair. Mounts should be given a frequent gentle dusting, but should not be handled more than absolutely necessary. Mammals with flat hair such as mule deer or whitetail may also be dusted with a feather duster for weekly or more common cleanings.

Vacuum cleaner for dust on hide

Every couple of years, the simplest way to take care of unwanted dust, along with a regular dusting is to use a hose, extension wand and dust- head attachment from your household vacuum cleaner. Be sure not to press down on the hair or fur as it will push dust deeper into the hide. Always go with the direction of the coat whether using a vacuum or feather duster in an up and down motion over the entire length of the mount whether it is a full body or shoulder mount.

Brushing the hide

Use a soft bristled brush to fix hair that is out of place after the cleaning. 

Cleaning the antlers, eyes, hooves and nose

Cleaning antlers

Antlers, hooves, nose and claws can be cleaned using a moist cloth, but always avoid using any oily substance.

Cleaning the nose of a mount

The eyes can be cleaned with a Q-tip moistened with Windex.

Cleaning the eyes of an elk mount

Unfortunately, if a trophy has been damaged or has aged significantly over time, there is very little most people can do on their own. However, there are professionals who have a lot of experience in restoring trophies back to quality mounts. Many of the fixes are complicated, time consuming, and very expensive, but can be avoided with regular cleanings and a quick check for common problems.

A well taken care of bull elk mount

Regular maintenance is fairly easy and a few short minutes can keep your trophy clean and lasting for years to come. 


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