A few weeks ago I wrote a Blog about how much I was starting to like European Skull Mounts. Although that still holds true, there's still something that's undeniably cool about a really good whitetail shoulder mount. However, for as much as a good mount can enhance your trophy forever - a bad mount can all but ruin your trophy just as quickly.
When it comes to whitetail mounts I will admit, I'm a bit of a "mount snob". I am pretty quick to judge nearly all whitetail mounts that I see, either good or bad. In my opinion if you're going to pay good money to get a buck mounted, you fully intend on keeping that mount for the rest of your life so you should want it to look good and hold up over time. In order to get that high quality you need to find a good taxidermist, and often times be willing to pay a little more money. Just like anything in life when it comes to taxidermy, you get what you pay for.
The main areas I look for in a quality whitetail mount are the eyes (and more specifically the pre-orbital glands in front of the eyes), the nose, the placement of the ears and the mouth. In my option these are the four hardest details to get right. These are the things that separate a good mount from a bad mount. Let me show you some examples.
The eyes of a whitetail deer mount are probably the one thing I see that are most commonly done badly. Everyone knows what I'm talking about - the deer mount that looks like it got ran over my a steam roller and the eyes are bugging out of the deer's head. Every time I see one of these I think to myself "Did the person who mounted this deer really think that looks good?" On a good whiteail mount the eyes will be properly set into the face, and the pre-orbital gland will be a noticable "divit" directly in front of it. Additionally, the taxidermist will commonly apply some sort of epoxy and paint this area as well.
A good whitetail deer mount starts is the eyes. Having them set into the face at the right angle and paying attention to the pre-orbital gland is extremely important and can make or break your trophy's appearance.
The next item I notice on a lot of bad mounts is the mouth. I don't know about you but the last time I checked deer didn't walk around the woods with a smile on their face. So the case of the "Smiling Deer" is another disaster when it comes to getting a good mount. I have a few photos of some smiling deer mounts, but none of them belong to me so I won't post them here. I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about and if you don't, rest assured when you see one you will!
The nose is another important piece of the good mount puzzle. Most commonly the nose of the mount is formed using an epoxy and then the "Wrinkles" are pressed into it using a roller. In some cases the taxidermist will actually form the wrinkles individually, but that is usually only done for taxidermy competitionis where every detail counts. In the case of a bad mount, the nose is usually mis-shaped, appears flat, or in some cases looks like it's ready to peel off the mount entirely. The nose is also one of the first areas to start showing the age of the mount, so making sure your taxidermist is using the highest quality supplies is very important.
The amount of detail put into the nose also plays a vital role in how well your whitetail mount will end up looking.
I shot this buck in 1999 and now over a decade later the nose is holding up great - proof that using high quality materials truly does matter.
Here's a great example of what I would consider a bad mount. Notice how the eyes are bugging out of the deer's head, the pre-orbital glands are not in the proper place, and the nose is not only flat looking, but is also starting to crack and show serious signs of aging.
Finally, the ear placement and quality can also make or break your mount. I've seen several mounts where the ears appear to be located 1/4 of the way down the deer's neck, and in some cases seen them so thin that the insides are nothing but the plastic form and some paint.
Aside from the quality of the workmanship your taxidermist offers, there are several other factors that go into getting a good quality whitetail mount. The most important in my option are picking the right pose and the right ear alignment for your buck. Of course both of these are personal preferences, but selecting ones that accent the qualities of your deer will produce a better product in the end.
The newest addition to my family of whitetail mounts and another fine example of quality taxidermy work done by my long-time taxidermist, friend, and great storyteller Mr. Dale Schwab.
For big mature bucks with swollen necks, I like a mount that really shows off the deer's size. Something with an offset shoulder can really help accentuate the size of the deer (provided your taxidermist ordered the right size form that is). Additionally, making sure the deer is facing the proper direction for when he'll be on your wall is important as well. Having a buck in the corner staring straight into the adjacent wall is never a good way to display your trophy.
As for the ear alignment, if your buck has a narrow rack it's often good to position the ears in a somewhat laid back position. This will help make the rack stand off the buck's head and appear wider. If your buck does have a nice wide rack, putting the ears out wide will help draw attention to his width.
Selecting the right form and ear alignment for your whitetail deer mount can greatly increase it's visual appeal, and provide you with a mount that you will be happy with for the rest of your life.
All in all when it comes to getting a good whitetail mount you need to shop around, compare the work of your local taxidermists and get recommendations from friends or customers whose work you've been able to inspect. Going through a little bit of trouble to find a good taxidermist and paying a little extra is well worth it in the end.