No. 1: Dismount
Carefully remove your mount from the wall, shelf, mantle or whatever perch you have it sitting on. Handle your animal mounts with care, being cautious not to drop or damage them. You should take them down at least once a year for cleaning, depending on how much dust they are exposed to. Country folks, your mounts likely will have more dust build up than those who live within the city limits.
No. 2: Dust
Keeping your mounts dust free not only improves their overall look but helps extend their life. Antlers are notorious places for spider webs to form and the top of the head often hides dust bunnies you don’t know exist unless you can see them from above. Animal hair easily collects dust as tiny particles get caught as they float by and continue to settle, building layers.
Dusting your mounts can be done several ways. You can use an old-school feather duster, a damp cloth, a clean paintbrush, a vacuum fitted with an upholstery attachment or some compressed air. Whatever your method, dust gently, but thoroughly working to remove all visible dust. Regardless of method, it’s important to always work in the direction of the hair. Working against the grain can cause damage and create an uneven laying of the hair that can be tough to fix.
No. 3: Clean & Condition
Hair - If your mount is in tip top shape after dusting, then you can apply a simple conditioning liquid made of alcohol and Skin So Soft bath oil. Put the mixture in a handheld spray bottle and lightly mist it over your mount, brushing it in gently with a large, soft paintbrush. It can also be applied to the antlers. However, if your mount is lacking sheen and luster from years of age, heat and/or light exposure, there are ways to bring that look back. After dusting, but before applying the conditioning liquid, an equine hair polishing product can be applied to help bring life and luster back to dull hair. Once you’ve applied the equine polish to the hair, then the conditioning liquid can be misted on top to help maintain that restored sheen and luster for the long term.
Eyes & Nose - Glass cleaner works well to clean the eyes on your mount. Use a Q-tip or cotton ball to remove the dust and any smudges. In addition, glass cleaner applied to the nose of animals not only cleans, but also adds some sheen that works to restore the shiny/wet appearance to the nose.
Antlers - If your antlers appear to be in good shape and still have a slick conditioned appearance, then a simple mist of conditioning liquid and quick wipe down is all that is really necessary. It’s cleans them up and gives them a little sheen. However, over time and in different conditions antlers can become very dry and/or brittle. If your antlers are looking dry or have a chalky appearance, something a little more potent may be in order. For this situation, the automotive cleaner “ArmorAll” works great. Spray some on a cloth and then wipe the antlers down well, paying close attention to get into all the crevices, even the rough spots and grooves that may exist around the bases. This will condition the antlers thoroughly and help keep them in good shape.
No. 4: Insect Protection
Bugs are an issue. Because certain kinds of insects, especially demisted beetles and moths, like to feed on hair and skin material, your taxidermy won’t be safe unless you treat it. It’s not the beetles and moths themselves that cause the bulk of the damage, but rather the larvae from the eggs that they lay in and on your taxidermy. Some of these insects burrow into your mount causing holes and damage to the hide, other larvae eat the hair off at the roots creating bald patches.
While you have your mount down for cleaning, look it over thoroughly for signs of insects. Inspect the hair, but also look in the mouth, nose, around the eyes, in the ears and any other open cavity. If you find what looks like small empty tic-tac or rice size shells, hair loss, or a sawdust like dirt on or around your taxidermy you most likely have an active issue with bugs. To treat or prevent pesky taxidermy munching bugs, pick up a bottle of Bifen, an insecticide concentrate that you dilute with water. Mix up some Bifen in a spray bottle and spray a fine mist all over your mount after cleaning. Brush this mixture into the hair with a paintbrush, as well. Keep an eye on your mounts and check them regularly for signs of insects. If caught too late, bugs can destroy a mount.
No. 5: Heat, Moisture & Light Display Considerations
Heat, moisture, and light can all adversely impact your taxidermy work resulting if fading, discoloration, hair loss, aging and more. In order to keep your mounts in the best condition possible, some serious thought should be put into where you choose to hang/display them. Temperature and humidity control go hand-in-hand with taxidermy. Your taxidermy should always be displayed or stored in temperature controlled spaces, ideally in your home. However, if you are storing your mounts elsewhere, make sure it is somewhere that they won’t be exposed to extreme temperature fluctuation - very hot conditions in the summer to very cold temperatures in the winter. Unheated or cooled sheds, garages or storage units aren’t ideal. Neither are attics, unfinished basements, cargo trailers, storage pods, etc. Hanging taxidermy front and center above a fireplace or heat source is a popular location, however it could come at the detriment of the mount based on the amount of dry heat it will be exposed to. Although the skin is tanned, heat will continue to suck any moisture out of the mounted animal hide and that can cause shrinking. That heat shrinkage can result in dry, brittle skin and even cracking. Hair can also be impacted becoming dry and brittle, even falling out. In addition, antlers that are exposed to the heat can also become brittle and begin to splinter and crack. Just as areas with excessive heat can pose problems for taxidermy, so can locations with high humidity/moisture. This kind environment can cause mold and mildew growth.
Aside from hanging/displaying your taxidermy near heat sources, you should also take care to avoid areas where they will be exposed to direct sunlight/UV light sources. Hanging or displaying them opposite of windows where they will be exposed to direct and intense sunlight for extended amounts of time will have a negative impact. Animals with lighter colored hair can take on a yellow color and darker haired animals can fade. Antlers can also fade over time with UV exposure, and that once dark chocolate brown rack could potentially dull down to a beige over time. If that kind of location is unavoidable, splurge for some blinds that you can draw to divert those rays away from your taxidermy or look into a UV film or treatment that can be applied to existing windows to help manage the light that hits your mount.
Looking after your taxidermy isn’t tough or expensive, it only has to be done a couple times a year, and in doing so you keep it in the best possible shape. The hunt may be long over, but the work isn’t done.
Don’t neglect your taxidermy,