Deer hooves are a wonderful addition to a mount. Used as a gun or bow rack, they are a remembrance of the hunt. This is also a good introduction to taxidermy. Learning to mount a deer hoof can start you on a new career. Once you master this project, you may want to move on to other taxidermy projects. Investing a little time will give you something to enjoy for years to come.
How to Mount a Deer Hoof
Remove the leg from the deer. Use the knife and cut the hide around the knee. On the underside of the leg, cut the hide lengthwise to the hoof. Now take your time and cut the hide away from the bone, working your way to the hoof. Find the last knuckle--that is where you want to sever the hoof. You can cut it there with a knife, but it's hard to maneuver, so a hacksaw will be easier.
Salt the hide. Roll it out flat on some old newspaper and apply the salt. Take a little time to rub it into the hide and hoof. Now roll up the hide and fold up the newspaper and let the hide sit for two or three days. This process will tighten the skin to keep the hair from slipping and it will draw the blood and moisture out of the skin.
Take the hoof and wash the salt off using the dishwashing soap. The hide won't absorb very much of the moisture during this process. Wash the hair at this time, but don't scrub too hard. Be careful so the hair doesn't come out.
Put on the plastic gloves. Mix up a pound of alum in a gallon of lukewarm water. The heat will help the chemicals dissolve. Then add a cup of non-iodized salt and stir it till everything dissolves. Place the hoof (or hooves) into the solution and stir it every 10 to 15 minutes for about an hour. If the hide hasn't absorbed enough moisture by then, it will float, so weigh it down with a rock or brick. Let it soak for seven to 10 days.
Take the now-tanned hoof out of the solution and rinse it off. Thread your needle with the nylon thread. Wrap the hide around the stick (or a purchased form from a taxidermy supplier like Van Dyke's). Closest to the hoof, begin to sew up the incision. After each stitch, pull the thread tight and use the needle to pull the hair out of the stitch. The hair will hide your stitches. Work your way toward the end. Once you have sewn it up as far as you want, tie off the stitch and let it dry. Drying time varies with temperature and humidity but usually is about a week. Now you can cut away the excess hide and stick and you have a mounted deer hoof. You can now secure it to any board or plaque that you desire.
- Don't breathe in the alum and always wear gloves when handling it. Alum is short for potassium aluminum sulfate. Always handle chemicals with care.
- When the hide dries, it will shrink. Allow it to dry completely before cutting it to length.
- Try to find Glover's needles. They are triangular cutting needles made for cutting leather. These needles go through the hide easier.
- To add some flair, you can coat the hoof with a polyurethane to make it shine.