Taxidermy Tips

November 5, 2009 by  

By Nick Simonson

At a near run, you step over the crest of the small hill to the other side that leads down to the oak bottom and wonder where the deer bounded after it left your sight. With the scent of gunpowder fading, you follow the sign in the brown leaves and dry grass and look ahead, scanning from side to side of the clearing leading down toward the creek bottom. Riding high on the adrenaline rush, you almost miss it, but your senses snap your head back to the twinkling of white bone amidst the twigs and leaf litter.

Some small taxidermy tips can really help preserve your mount

Some small taxidermy tips can really help preserve your mount - see free taxidermy catalogs for more mounting ideas

A second wave of excitement obliterates the crumbling wall of composure you had left. The biggest buck you’ve ever hunted lays before you, the reward for chilly March days of shed hunting on these hillsides, mosquito-filled scouting missions in July, and October evenings occupied by checking the trail cam. But now what?

For many hunters, harvesting a trophy buck is a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, and preserving the memory for years to come most often takes the form of a full chest mount to hang in the den, office or rec room. But most hunters don’t think about caping and caring for their trophy until after the shot has been fired. According to Jamie Risovi, one of the region’s most renowned big game taxidermists, preserving the memory and the animal should be one of the top considerations hunters have when they set out on opening day.

Growing Recognition
Risovi, of New Rockford, ND owns Risovi Taxidermy Studio ( and has produced acclaimed fish, bird and big game mounts for the better part of the past decade. In 2008, Risovi’s impressive mount of a massive-racked whitetail deer, preserved as it was taken – in full velvet with just two points poking through – won the Whitetail Deer category in the National Taxidermy Championship in Lubbock, Texas. With multiple first place awards and top three finishes over the past five years in a variety of taxidermy categories in both North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as national and worldwide competitions, Risovi has used his love of hunting, fishing and the outdoors to perfect his art.

His passion for taxidermy began at a young age in the trophy room of his great uncle, Alfred Klumph. Dall sheep, brown bears and a multitude of other game adorned the walls and captivated Risovi’s imagination. He began by doing taxidermy on his own, then with his father for a few years. Eventually, friends took notice of his craft and began asking him to do their mounts.

From that point, and for the past twelve years or so, Risovi has been providing professional taxidermy services for clients from across the country. This has given him insight into the preparation of animals for preservation, and his skill in his trades of both taxidermy and as a sixth-grade teacher allows him to provide outdoorsmen with tips on caring for their big game from the field to his front door.

A Trio of Tips
For the best mounts, Risovi has a number of recommendations that hunters should consider, starting first with the proper skinning and cleaning techniques that can be found on his website. Before the hunt, especially if traveling out-of-state or country, hunters should have the logistics figured out for the transport of their game in accordance with new laws and regulations. For in-state transport to his studio, or to any other taxidermist, he has three primary rules for animals that are to be preserved.

“Keep it clean, keep it dry and keep it cool,” Risovi remarks on caring for a trophy deer cape.
Risovi recommends that hunters do their best to keep the animal’s fur free from excess blood and keep the skin from getting coated with dirt and debris.

“Blood can be washed off, but the cape shouldn’t be hosed down,” Risovi qualifies his advice, stressing his second tip – keep the cape dry – as exposure to water and excess moisture can compromise the quality of a mount.
He suggests that when transporting the animal or the cape, it should be covered while on the road, especially in snow or rain, and that it should be brought to the taxidermist as soon as possible.

Finally, Risovi suggests keeping the cape and head of a deer cool, and while it is best to get the cape to a taxidermist without freezing it, storage for a brief time in a freezer is acceptable. Risovi recommends wrapping the cape and head in a plastic bag, squeezing out all of the air, and tying the bag off. Repeat the process with two more bags, making sure that as much air as possible is removed, preventing circulation and its side-effect, freezer burn.

R&R – Racks and Relaxation
“Most nights in the winter, I’ll work as late as midnight,” says Risovi, “in the summer, when not teaching, I put in 10- to 12-hour days,” he continues, remarking that taxidermy is one of those jobs where if you love what you’re doing, you don’t mind going to work.

“It’s relaxing for me, otherwise I wouldn’t be out there til two in the morning,” he states with a slight chuckle.
If that’s the case, he’s got a lot of relaxation in front of him as the demand for his services rises during and after the deer firearms season. While not everyone can go to Risovi for their taxidermy projects, he has advice for those people looking to preserve their memorable hunt through a quality taxidermist. The first and foremost is: you get what you pay for.

“Quality isn’t expensive,” states Risovi, “it’s priceless.”
If you want a mount that will match the majesty of the animal you’ve hunted, don’t skimp on the expense. Keep your ear to the rail, talk to those people who have used taxidermists in your area with good results and more importantly, visit the studio where your work will be done.

“I invite people to view my website, but they will get a better idea if they can come see the work in person – so go to the showroom,” he stresses.

In relation to quality, Risovi says hunters should expect turn-around times of about a year on their mounts. Anything that takes well over a year, or comes back too quickly raises some serious questions about the quality of work.
“If I think it is going to take more than a year, I generally don’t take the work,” Risovi says, “good taxidermists stay busy,” he continues, stressing that mounts are continuously processed and he has a solid seasonal system of getting hides to the tannery in winter, and set on the mounts in the summer.

When the mounts are returned to his clients after his award-winning touch has been applied, people see that his dedication to provide quality work in a responsive manner all comes together in the final product. Risovi advises his clients that a little bit of maintenance will go a long way. Wipe the mount with a damp cloth from time to time to keep it dust free and mount it in an area of the house where it won’t be exposed to moisture or grease and it will remain in good shape for many years.

With these tips from a veteran taxidermist, from what to do before the hunt on through years of stories told under the antlers, hunters will be ready when the moment arrives to preserve their trophy and the memories made…in our outdoors.

For more information on Jamie Risovi and his tips to prepare your trophy for taxidermy, visit or stop by his studio at 1116 3rd Avenue North, New Rockford, ND or call (701)947-2048.


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