Great trophies are often ruined because of incorrect or inadequate handling during or shortly after the hunt. Even if you are not going to keep the trophy, remember that there is a market for good skins, horns and capes with many taxidermists. This can help offset some of your hunt costs or get credited towards work done on your behalf at a later stage. Common sense dictates that the meat of the animal is only as good as the preparation. And a good, clean area which is screened to keep away flies and has adequate light, airflow and fresh water is necessary.
TIPS FOR HANDLING A TROPHY-
- Skin the animal as soon as possible. Decomposition sets in immediately after death, and a delay here could result in hair slip.
- Do not drag the carcass over stone or gravel. If it cannot be lifted, then roll it onto a heavy tarpaulin and pull it on the tarp.
- Try and put something soft under the carcass in the back of the truck to protect the skin, Be careful not to damage the skin or horns when loading on and off the recovery vehicle and during transportation.
- Keep the carcass cool and out of the sun. Heat can cause hair slip.
- Remove all fat and meat from the skin as these can contribute to putrefaction.
- Wash the skins thoroughly to remove all dirt and blood and soak in a tub of heavily salted water with a couple of caps of Savlon or Dettol for about 5 hours to kill any bacteria.
- Hang the skins for a short while to drain off excess water before salting.
- Always use fresh salt.
- Leave the skin heavily salted for up to 58 hours then shake off and hang in a cool shady place to dry. Never in the sun.
- Do not hang skins over any metal pipes, rust stains can spoil the skin.
- Do not pack skins in plastic bags, rather use an open bucket.
- Make longitudinal cuts about 10cm apart on skins thicker that about 7mm to enable the salt to penetrate.
- Never use formalin products to preserve skins.
- Karbadust and Napthalene can be used to keep insects from spoiling trophies.
- Use good, sharp knives. Less accidental cuts will occur.
- Use only clean, good quality salt (fine grain if possible).
- Put a layer of salt on the floor, and lay the skin hair down onto it.
- Rub salt thoroughly into the wet side of the skin, getting into all the recesses and getting a good layer onto the skin. Skins can be stacked several deep like this, making sure that each one has been salted adequately.
- Store the salted skins for about 24 to 48 hours like this and then shake the loose salt off them and hang them in the shade to dry.
- Fold the skin (hair inwards) into the shape that it will be dispatched in, before it is completely dry, to avoid cracking. Then open it to allow further drying.
- Skins must be folded with the hairy side upwards and fold the edges inwards towards the middle so the hair is protected.
- Never store or transport skins in plastic bags or sealed containers for any length of time as this will ruin them.
- Tag all skins and trophies clearly, Cable ties and plastic tags which can be bought from most taxidermists or home-made are excellent for this purpose. Mark all the necessary details onto the tag with a permanent marker.
Care of the meat starts immediately the animal is down. The same careful handling to avoid damage to the skin will also prevent meat damage.
Bleed the animal as soon as possible. Even if it is a heart shot and the animal has bled into the chest cavity, open the chest to drain the blood. Gutting should take place as quickly as possible especially on warm days. The stomach contents when it becomes bloated seep into the surrounding tissues and can taint the meat. Cleanliness is vitally important to prevent contamination. Knives and butchery equipment should be spotless.
Flies must be kept out of the slaughtering area. Once the animal’s insides are removed wash the carcass out very carefully, especially if some of the stomach contents have touched the meat.
Cut away all bloodshot and damaged meat and was the carcass with fresh water. Hang the carcass in a cooler room, or if not possible, in a cool dry area in the shade of the reach of flies and predators. It is important to drop the temperature of the meat as quickly as possible to prevent the meat from going off. This is doubly important with any pig.
Table meat needs to be properly hung in a cooler room at just around freezing for at least 10 days before it is cut into roasts, steaks and other table fare. Good biltong will also benefit from this treatment, although it can be cut from relatively fresh meat.