Keys to Getting a Great Whitetail Mount

6 things you must know before visiting the taxidermist    

So you shot a nice buck and now you are thinking about getting a good quality mount to grace your fireplace and immortalize your amazing hunt. That’s great, but before you get all excited and go hauling it off to the nearest taxidermist, there are several things you might want to consider. I’m not a taxidermist, nor do I win the contest for most mounts on my wall, but over the years have learned quite a bit about what is needed to get a mount you are very happy with. So, here are six things I suggest helping you get something you’ll be proud to look at for decades, and not something that will make you cringe.

(**As you read through, compare the posted mount pictures as you look at the discussed topics, as each one may demonstrate several different factors discussed)

1. Do Your Research.

This applies to many aspects of getting a mount. Start by looking at at least six taxidermists in your area. Most internet searches will easily get you this, and reputable taxidermists that take their craft seriously will at least have a Facebook page, and probably a webpage as well. If they don’t or don’t have much of a presence online, then that may be a clue they aren’t as professional as you want. Below we’ll get into more of the details you should research, but the main point is to DO RESEARCH and don’t just go with the closest one or the first one recommended by a friend.

2. You Get What you Pay For.

Semi-Upright with ears following antlers

Don’t kid yourself. If finding the cheapest deal is what you’re after when you do your research on taxidermists, know that going cheap will get you a cheap-looking mount, as well. I’ve seen some ok mounts, some great mounts, and some absolutely awful ones that could make the most hardened man cry. Ask yourself if saving $100 is worth the regret you’ll feel every time you walk past your crowning achievement and realize it looks more like a mangy dog with antlers.  Some things in life you can skimp on – taxidermy is not one of those things. Don’t go for the discount, the sub-par, but for the best taxidermist out there. You’ll have to pay for that. In my areas (Michigan and Ohio), a good shoulder mount cannot be had for less than $500, and close to $600 is more the going rate for the better artists. Anything less than $500 should be avoided and is probably mediocre and a big gamble.

3. Don’t Choose Uncle Ray:

Poorly detailed eye

Maybe you have an Uncle Ray that does taxidermy. That would be a total coincidence here. The point is that many people have a family member, or friend that they feel obligated to use or want to throw business to, that really isn’t the best for doing justice to their trophy. Out of guilt, pressure, or charity, they use them, and many times get let down. I’m all about helping friends and family, but I personally don’t think this is the best way to do that or the best way to treat your trophy. After all, you’ll be looking at their work for years and years to come, not them.

4. Hire an Artist.

Well detailed eye

Think back to high school for a moment with me, and about that assignment where you had to draw something. Maybe you did well, but as I remember many people hated those types of assignments. Why? Because some people naturally have an artistic nak, and many just do not. Unfortunately, some of the latter crowd went on and decided to become taxidermists. They don’t have a keen eye for shapes, forms, body parts, and how they are supposed to naturally fit together. Many things can be learned as skills, this is true. However, when you start researching, look at as many examples of their work as possible (either quality pictures on their websites, or by visiting their showrooms in person). Look for realism, and attention to detail that makes you say “wow that looks real,” not “wow, that looks like a deer hide stuck on a piece of foam.”

5. Know your Forms:

Full Upright – ears forward

Once you’ve selected a great taxidermist, an artist, now you need to pick how your deer will be preserved for decades. The form, or position, and there are so many options. I won’t go over them all here, but you should research these as much as possible as well. Maybe think about what position is stuck in your head of this memorable deer, an encounter, or the hunt where it all came together, and consider how that might be represented in the positioning of your mount. Head position (up or down), ear position (back, forward, semi-cocked), and the turn (right, left, straight ahead) are all major ones to look at. Shoulder mount? Wall pedestal? Floor pedestal? There are four main poses, as well: Upright, Semi-Upright, Semi-Sneak, and Full Sneak (pictured on my mounts here). Two major manufacturers of deer forms I’ve used that are very popular are McKenzie (View forms HERE) and Ohio Taxidermy Supply (View forms HERE). McKenzie has been around for decades and boasts the most versatile forms to choose from (hundreds) and top artists designing their forms. OTS hasn’t been around as long but is gaining popularity by increasing their form options and also having very realistic and easy to work with forms. When I talk to taxidermists, they overwhelmingly suggest OTS due to this, and I suggest them as well. But, again do your research.

6. Accentuate the Right Thing:

Semi – sneak, ears following antlers

A good, artistic taxidermist should talk through how certain nuances and details of a mount will accentuate certain things. But, you being informed from the get-go is even better just in case. When you look at your mount, your eye will be drawn to certain things depending on how it is mounted. The question to ask yourself is, “what do I want to be the center of attention?” Is it a certain tine or side of the rack? Then a right or left turn will better accentuate this. Ear positioning is also a small thing that makes a big difference. Ears forward will take your attention to the ears and away from the rack, while ears slightly backward will draw the eye back to the tines. Does it have a big neck you want to show off? Staying away from full sneak poses will be best for this. Again research and look at examples about what will look best for your particular deer, so when you’ve dropped the cash and waited up to a year to get your baby back, you won’t be disappointed.

About the Author:

Adam Lewis has been hunting whitetail deer for 29 years and is a freelance writer who has written for North American Whitetail, Bowhunter Magazine, MidWest Outdoors, and many others. He also operates Sound Barrier which specializes in helping hunters increase their stealth advantage on whitetails. Website: