Caping a deer involves removing the deer’s head, neck and attached skin from the carcass. To do so, you will need to make a few simple cuts, but you can and should leave the hard parts – removing the skin around the face, antlers and mouth -- to the professionals. A taxidermist can easily remove unnecessary bits of hide, but cannot add more hide to the carcass; so always cut conservatively.
Handle the carcass with care to avoid damaging the hide or antlers. Begin by field dressing the deer to reduce its weight for easier transport. If possible, use an ATV to haul the deer to your truck, rather than dragging him out. If you do not have access to such a vehicle, place the deer on a sled or large plastic container and drag him carefully. Never place a noose around the deer’s neck. If you must attach a rope to the deer, tie it to his antlers.
Tools and Workspace
You can cape the deer in the back of your truck or you can take him home first. In both cases, you will need a spacious working area, gloves and a sharp knife. Additionally, you will need a few large storage bags – one for the removed head and one or more for the rest of the carcass. Ideally, you should cape a deer near a water source to facilitate hygiene and clean up.
Caping a deer requires only five cuts through the hide. Make the first cut around the deer’s body at the midpoint of the ribcage. This cut should be at least 6 inches behind the deer's shoulders. The second and third cuts are made around each of the front legs, just above the knees. Then, starting at the cut around each knee, make a cut up the back of each leg, extending to the cut around the rib cage. Do not make any cuts to the deer’s throat. These are unnecessary and may ruin one of the most visible parts of the completed mount. If any blood spills on the hide, wash it off as quickly as possible.
Removing the Head
With the five hide cuts completed, begin rolling the hide up the body. You may need to use your knife to loosen bits of connective tissue, but be extremely careful not to cut or penetrate the hide. Stop peeling the cape when you reach the deer’s jaws. Make a cut about 3 inches below the bottom of the rolled cape, completely encircling the deer’s neck. Cut through all the muscle layers, penetrating all the way to the neck vertebrae. Grab the deer by the antlers and twist his head to break the neck and separate the hide, skull and antlers from the body. Roll up the head and attached hide, place it in a plastic bag and deliver it to your taxidermist as soon as possible.
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