My big buck’s shoulder mount – ruined or saved?

It’s been an excellent year. Patience has paid off. I’ve put a lot of meat in the freezer this year. My spring turkey hunt produced a large tom with a 9.5 inch beard early on opening day. I shot my first bear on September 4 and have an awesome story to go with it. Finally, finally, FINALLY, I shot my first deer on November 22, an eight point, 188 pound buck.

Dear friend Erin Merrill had a horrible experience with the butcher when she shot her first bear this year. I talked with Jared Delaite of Delaite’s Taxidermy before I called a butcher. Jared came highly recommended, and I wanted to talk to him before I took my buck to a butcher. I didn’t want to leave room for anything to go wrong. Jared made a recommendation for a butcher and even offered to pick up the head and cape on his way by. That butcher was booked so I called Jared back. He told me exactly what to tell the butcher. I needed to be sure I told the butcher I was having a shoulder mount, be sure he knew where to cut the cape (behind the front legs), and on my own decided to ask for more than enough cape. Better to have extra than not enough. I felt like I was being a little obnoxious but repeated “shoulder mount” and cutting far enough back to have more than enough cape. I said it at least three times. I felt confident when I left.

Steve and I drove to Woodville to bring the deer’s head and cape and my bear’s head and hide to Delaite’s Taxidermy. I asked Jared a million questions. He’s a patient man. The only choice I had to make for my 2014 turkey was what plaque I wanted. I chose the pose, a combination of the pose I like most and the way the deer was turned to look at me when I pulled the trigger. I was so excited! I avoided looking at the head. Unmounted, I thought it would be creepy.

Whitetail shoulder mount, Jared Delaite, Delaite's Taxidermy

NOT my buck. Mine will have a similar pose. Photo courtesy of Jared Delaite, taxidermist.

We were ready to leave but then Steve had a request. He asked Jared to look at the deer head to be sure everything was all set. Jared slipped the black trash bag off the head. The look on his face said it all. I gasped, covered my face with my head, and couldn’t speak. If I’d spoken I’d have cried. Steve turned away.

The hide was cut before the end of the neck. There wasn’t enough to do a shoulder mount. Jared felt terrible. I squeaked out “It’s too short. Even I know that.” I fought tears. It was ruined.

“That’s where you shot it,” Jared asked, touching a hole in the neck.

“No. No, that’s not where I shot it. I didn’t touch the neck. I hit it behind the shoulder. That’s not where I shot it.” We looked closely at the hole in the neck, below an ear. It’s not just a hole, it’s a three-corner slice. I have no idea what in hell happened. I was specific. “Shoulder mount.” And there was a big three-corner cut made by two slices of a knife.

I take this very seriously. Hunting is not a hobby or sport to me. This is food on the table and reverence and gratitude for the animal. Through taxidermy this deer is supposed to be on my wall as a reminder of the seriousness of what I do, of the beautiful animal, and to never stop being grateful. It’s a reminder of the story of my first deer.

European mount, moose, Jared Delaite, Delaite's Taxidermy

If I ever get a moose permit I’m going to have a European mount.

It took a couple of minutes for the feeling of being punched in the gut to fade.

Make the best of a bad situation. I like European mounts. If I ever get a moose permit I’ll have a European mount. That would work for my deer.

Okay. It will be okay. I couldn’t have my shoulder mount but a European mount would be good. I could be happy. We talked a few minutes. My buck field dressed at 188 pounds. Jared has a cape from a 182 pound buck. Oh. Oh! OH! The six pound difference is workable. He’ll use that cape. Everything will be fine thanks to Jared.

When Jared works his magic the hole in the neck and missing cape will be another memory of my first deer. I’ll have my shoulder mount. It won’t be entirely my deer but I’ll have my shoulder mount. I am extremely grateful to Jared for saving my mount. I’ll bring the deer and the bear home some time next summer and I will bombard you with lots of photos.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.