Taking Care of Your Trophies

deer skull

Winter has gripped Indiana and ice fishing conditions have been sketchy at best. If you are like me, you’re ready for more daylight.

So in the meantime you sit in your house and casually stare at the mounted fish and wildlife that grace your wall, reliving the special memories each one provided. These mounts show respect for our consumptive outdoor passions and respect to the animal. Then you notice the cobweb strings spanning the tines or fins and a nice layer of dust.

Your mind drifts back on what to do on the day you happen to have some free time. Maybe it’s time to perform a little preventative maintenance.

Most of us have a substantial amount of hard earned money invested in safeguarding our trophies for years to come. Just because they have been professionally preserved doesn’t necessarily mean they will last a lifetime without proper care.

Although your taxidermist may have brought your catch back to life, insects and bacteria can reverse what others have painstakingly done to protect them.

Dermestid beetles and some moths are notorious for damaging wildlife mounts. These types of insects dine on dry animal material, especially those with skin, fur or feathers. Periodic cleaning will help keep these destructive pests at bay.

When cleaning any fish or wildlife mount, it’s usually best to keep it simple. Clean the eyes with regular glass cleaner. This works best when applied with any type of cotton ball or swab.

Believe it or not, you can actually dust off the fur or feathers with a clean rag and furniture polish, like Pledge. But whatever you do, it’s never a good idea to spray the polish directly on the mount. Instead apply it on a rag and wipe gently. Start at the head and work backwards going with the grain of the fur.

There is nothing wrong with taking your mounts to the garage or outside and blowing off a season’s worth of accumulated dust with an air hose. But again, always go with the grain. After the dust has been removed, a quick groom with an old, soft bristled hair brush is a wise practice and helps keep mounts with fur looking tip top.

For horns and antlers, first begin by wiping them off with a damp cloth. Then apply a light coat of penetrating oil like WD-40. But, like the furniture polish, spray it on a cloth first and not directly on the rack. Be sure not to get any on the fur. Not only will this put some luster back into all types of antlers, it helps keep them from splitting due to age.

Here’s a tip for any upland game bird or migratory waterfowl you may have decorating your wall. Wipe down feathers, again with the grain, with a fresh piece of white bread. Dust will accumulate in the tiny crevices and the small amount of oil in the bread will make feathers look great.

Because fish are generally finished with shellac or other hard finish, care for these types of mounts are the easiest. Never use household cleaners as they can blister the clear finish. The simplest is to wipe them down with a clean, dry dusting rag.

Sure there are special cleaners you can order to keep your mounts looking lifelike, but most have to be special ordered and can come at salty prices. You spent considerable time and effort harvesting your trophy and probably more than you wanted getting it mounted. So by keeping things simple and using common items found in your home, your trophies will look great and provide the special memories they were intended to.

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John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.

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