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How to cape the head of a big game animal for the taxidermist


How to cape an elk skull
Photo credit: Jay Scott

I learned the intricate process on how to cape animals when I worked at a taxidermy shop. I was always taught to take my time and to be precise and meticulous. Caping the head on most big game animals is pretty much the same. If you want a quality mount, then it is essential that you take your time and learn to cape the skull.

Tips for caping a head out

1. A small sharp knife is very important.
2. Go slow and be meticulous.
3. Be patient so you do not make cuts in the hide.
4. Always know where your fingers are and be careful not to cut yourself.
5. Always follow the bone of the head and basically pull all meat and skin off.

You want to cut up the back of the neck on the top and form a “Y” to each horn or antler. Then you skin the hide off of the head. When cutting around the antlers or horns, it is important to use the tip of your knife and cut upwards toward the horn; never cut downwards away from the horn. Pull on the hide pretty hard and cut upwards with the tip of the knife and the hide will come off like in the video.

Continued below.

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The next important place to mention is around the eyes. Be sure to put your finger in the eye socket as to know exactly where you are cutting at all times. You want to remove all of the inner tear ducts away from the skull as well. Next, focus on the mouth area. The first thing I like to do is start my caping process with the gum line and separate the skin from the bone on the gums. Then, when you get past the eyes and are peeling down, the gum lines are already cut and the hide comes right off. Check out the videos below for the exact details.

Check out the two part video series below:

Part 1 - Initial Y cut and cutting around the ears and antlers


Part 2 - Cutting around the eyes, gum lines and nose



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David V. - posted 3 years ago on 08-25-2016 09:54:58 am
Olrando, FL

Thank you Hunter for your input, I have only capped deer within camp settings. I will be backpacking way in for elk this year and weight will always be an issue.

Hunter H. - posted 3 years ago on 08-23-2016 06:41:14 pm

Seems to me David, there's no urgency for dialogue.
He didn't show you the starting point of where to make your initial cuts back behind the shoulders, up over the shoulders and up the neck. To your question; Cape up the neck to the base of the head 'in the field', then cut off the head at that upper point. Bring the cape and head back to camp where you have more time and comfort to finish caping the head and face. BUT if you are way back in the boonies with a long hike out, then be prepared to cape all the way off the head and face in the field (to reduce some weight). If you hang the elk's head by the rack (nose down)then be very careful not to pull real hard when you get near the eyes and lips. The eyelids are to delicate to be pulling down hard on. Slow down and make sure u don't slice the eyelids.

David V. - posted 3 years ago on 08-17-2016 01:19:56 pm
Olrando, FL

Thank you for posting the video’s they are very helpful and I hope to put them to use in September. I do have a few follow up questions:

Would you recommend capping at this time of harvest or back at a camp location?

It looks like a few extra hands were there to help, could you get the same effect by hanging the head from a tree?