Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports columns

March 18, 2012

Taxidermist offers tips for care of a trophy

Indiana DNR releases 2011 deer figures

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It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 10-point buck or a 10-pound largemouth, a trophy mounted on your wall brings back the most wonderful of memories. But let that trophy get shabby, either through inattention or ignorance, and you are doing a huge disservice to both the game and yourself.

There are few people who know as much about keeping a trophy in perfect shape as Don Swope, owner of U.S 31 Bait and Tackle. Swope has been a professional taxidermist for nearly three decades and has artistically preserved nearly every type of fish and game species, from animals as big as a buffalo to as small as a crayfish. He has won nearly every type of state award in the Master’s Division of certified taxidermists.

When it comes to taking care of your own trophies, he says heat and sunlight can be a mount’s worst enemies.

“They are both prime causes in drying out a trophy’s hair making it so brittle it breaks off at the slightest disturbance,” he explained. “It has a similar effect on skin or fish mounts, combining to dry out the skin and causing it to crack.”

This is bad news for anyone who plans to hang their trophy in the traditional spot — over the fireplace.

Swope says it’s better to find an inner wall where there is good air circulation and out of the sun’s direct rays.

When that mount of a lifetime gets dusty, Swope advises using a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean it. You can also lightly wipe it down with a soft, clean cloth. Whatever you choose, it’s critical you stroke only in the direction of the fur, hair or scales.

Once you have found the perfect place in your house or office to display the animal, the less you disturb it the better, but if you have to then only grab it by the antlers or muzzle. Always try to avoid contact with the longer hairs, which can break easily. This is especially true with hollow-haired animals such as deer.

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