Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seven Mistakes Your Taxidermist Can’t Fix

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, November 19, 2011.)

Your part is to provide
lifelike raw materials for
your taxidermist to work with.
Have you heard the one about the boy who shot a nice gobbler? His dad was proud and decided to get the big bird mounted. So, he plucked it, collected the feathers in a big pillowcase, and took the pillowcase to the local taxidermist. You can guess the rest of the story.

That’s a mistake none of us would make. Right?

Right. But we might make other mistakes the taxidermist can’t fix. A first-rate mount begins with you. Here’s what to avoid:

1. Going cheap. Some guys shop around for the cheapest taxidermist, unaware that inferior materials might be the reason for the lower price. Other hunters have a buddy who’s a budding taxidermist and will do it for just the cost of materials. Nothing against your buddy, but if he someday turns pro he’ll probably hope you don’t tell people he did it. A veteran taxidermist will get the right size form and put eyes, ears, and antlers into proper relationship.

2. Slitting the throat. That’s just one way your knife can ruin a trophy. Many years ago I saw a newspaper photo of a proud hunter with a high, wide 8-point. You could see, just below the buck’s white throat patch, where the hunter slit the throat to “bleed it out.” Never do that. You’ll cut through hair and the taxidermist can’t fix it without replacing that section of hide. Besides, putting a knife to the throat of a live deer is a good way to get badly injured. Antlers and hooves hurt. If he isn’t dead, shoot him again. Field dressing will let the blood out.

3. Handling carelessly in the field. Treat the animal with respect. If you must drag a deer, drag it on both sides. Otherwise, the animal may look worn on one side. Better yet, drag it on a plastic sled or a tarp. And for goodness sake, drag it with the grain of the hair, not against it. Yes, I’ve seen a hunter drag deer by the back legs, and it ain’t pretty. Remember, deer hair is hollow – it kinks when it bends and it’s easy to break.

4. Being a show-off. Be proud, but don’t get carried away. Get good photos and make a few phone calls, but don’t drive all over town with your buck. If you must haul a deer very far in the back of a pickup, stop somewhere and roll it over to make sure heat isn’t trapped on the bottom. Protect it from the wind – you don’t want to drive airborne road grime into the hair.

5. Leaving the skin on. A deer hide traps heat, and heat stimulates the growth of bacteria. Once bacteria get into the hair follicles the hair will begin to slip and your trophy will be ruined. Warm weather accelerates the process. So, skin him as soon as possible. The meat and the hide will cool more quickly – better for eating and better for mounting.

6. Getting knife crazy. Improper skinning can damage your trophy. At best, it gives the taxidermist extra work. So, don’t make any cuts in the head and neck. Don’t cut up the front of the deer’s neck. Never cut from the outside in; always cut from the inside out. When you separate the head from the carcass leave plenty of skin. Let your taxidermist skin the head. He knows how to do the eyelids, nose and lips.

7. Being ignorant about taxidermy. Actually, this is something your taxidermist can fix – if you stop by his shop before going hunting and ask him how to handle your buck from the field to his shop. He can do a better job if you take his advice.

Taxidermy is an art form that recreates a lifelike appearance. Your part is to provide the taxidermist with lifelike raw material.

Ideally, the relationship between the hunter and the taxidermist is a two-way mutual admiration society. If he admires the raw materials you bring him, you’re more likely to admire the mount he returns to you. And so will others when they see it on your wall.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Complete OutdoorsWOMAN

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, November 5, 2011.)

Everywhere we shined a light,
we saw a shadow. The bear could be
hiding in any one of them.
“Honey, I just saw a bear!” Dick was calling his wife on the cellphone. “I saw one too,” Audrey replied, “and I shot it!”

That’s how the evening of Friday, October 28 started for Dick and Audrey Zimmerman, Wally Ciukaj, and me. The tracking job in New York’s Chautauqua County began at about 8:00 with Wally taking the lead. Sometimes we saw lots of blood, other times we struggled to find drops the size of a pinhead.

The night was pitch black. As if on cue, coyotes added an eerie ambiance with their yipping and howling on the hillside. After about 400 yards we found Audrey’s arrow, but the trail continued for another 200 yards until it entered a tangle of felled treetops.

Everywhere we shined a light, we saw a shadow. The bear could be hiding in any one of them. Trying to keep his eye on the blood, Wally struggled to climb over the web of twisted limbs. He stood up, shined his flashlight under a log, and whispered. “There he is.” The bear had hidden himself, but had turned to watch his backtrail.

Dick shined his light at the spot, and the bear blinked. It was alive. Suddenly Wally realized he was seven feet from a wounded bear.

Slowly Wally backed away. We had no choice but to mark the spot and return in the morning. A few minutes later we heard a loud moan. Bear hunters recognize it as the “death moan.” We felt confident it was over, but we could barely see anything in the jumble. In the darkness it was impossible to retrieve him, so we made plans to return in the morning.

After a few hours of fitful sleep we awakened to fresh snow. It’s a good thing we had completed the tracking job because the fresh snow obliterated the trail. We met at 7:30 AM, hiked to the spot we left the previous night, and found Audrey’s bear, as we expected, dead.

Now we faced the challenge of getting him out of that mess and up the hill. With four of us there, we completed the task in about an hour.

Audrey Zimmerman is the complete outdoorswoman. Dick says, “If you sent her and any of the female ‘celebrity’ hunters into the woods with bows in their hands and treestands on her backs, my money would be on Audrey to return first with a deer.” I’d say that’s a safe bet. Most male hunters would take a back seat to her.

Audrey is an expert archer who has won many 3D archery tournaments. Currently she is the Archery Shooters Association Shooter of the Year, and the International Bowhunting Organization National Champion, Amateur Women’s Division. She has also won a state championship and several other titles.

Besides all the championships, Audrey is an outstanding hunter with lots of bucks, some turkeys, a couple of coyotes, and now a bear under all those championship belts.

This New York black bear is the third animal she has taken already this season. Next up, a really big buck? I wouldn’t bet against it.