Condition of trophies

Gareth

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Hi,

I apologize in advance for a bit of a long-winded post. I am looking for advice, about the condition of my trophies that I received from my outfitter. The background was back in 2016. I went to the eastern cape South Africa for a plains game hunt. The hunting conservancy was spectacular, the lodge and facilities top class. During my first trip over, we discussed the trophy preparation and shipment. I wanted European mounts. The outfitter told me he would prepare the trophies, and a taxidermist would ship them. Following my trip in 2016, I return for a further two PG safaris in 2017 and 2018. When the third and final trip ended, we spoke, and the outfitter arranged the shipment of the trophies through a taxidermist. When the consignment finally arrived, I was upset with the condition of several trophies. I called the outfitter and sent him photos, and he asked me to use black spray paint and varnish them. I feel that some trophies cant be displayed, and I don't think that spray paint and varnish will resolve the condition of trophies. The outfitter now wants to be paid for preparing the trophies, I have attached a few photos. I just wanted to see how you would proceed.

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BRICKBURN

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Before pictures to compare will help.
 
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Tucketed

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Not a taxidermist but have seen this a number of times. Someone in the real know can step in but: I found that filling instead with a combination of beeswax/dirt/claypowder,and pigmented smooth grout will bring back much of the natural luster you see in living horn. Subtle polishing of the horn tips with a buffer is also useful to bringing back the horn's natural look and luster. When the wax is heated (sun or blow dryer) it also soaks into the horn. which if done repeatedly will eventually fill up all those voids and prevents the horn from absorbing moisture. With the wax the horn can be brought back to its correct, "subtle" luster from time to time by simply rubbing it lightly with a soft cloth or even your hand. I usually finish it off with a coat of Old English to help darken spots where I need to and add a fine oiled finish which can be nicely rubbed in.
 

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I have some that have that dried out look. I painted them with linseed oil and find it acceptable.
 

Adrian

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To be fair, they just looked dried out and have lost their shine.
It's likely they just need some nourishment and a bit of time to restore the natural lustre.
Try a Google search for taxidermy horn care/restoration or words along those lines or see what the taxidermists here can off in terms of opinion and advice.
I personally wouldn't spray paint them black and then varnish. In my opinion it will look bloody awful.
Beeswax type products would be my go to.
 

Gareth

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Thank you for your reply and advice.

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Philip Glass

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So you left all three Safari’s trophies there and then shipped them all together? Time is not your friend with animal parts. Next time dip and ship or have the taxidermy done there but don’t let hem sit that long.
Philip
 

Gareth

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Hi Philip, yes, I left them there. The strange thing is the trophies from my first and last trip are perfect, the trophies from the second trip that appear to have been exposed to the sun for some time. Lesson learned! I am going to try a beeswax and linseed oil, but the black wildebeest is flacking to the point that pieces are fallen off when I handle it.
 

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Not an expert by any means but my experience has been that when they boil the skulls, it really does clean all that nature beauty (otherwise known as dirt and debris) off and the horns do not look the same. My frustration comes from the painting black all the African Taxidermists seem to do, even when you send 5 emails asking them not to. I want them to look as natural as possible. A favorite trick over there (and I've heard some US taxidermists talk about it also) is to spray them with WD-40. It turns them blackish but at least it is not paint.

No way would I paint them black, that will make them look fake, IMO.

Yes the black wildebeest looks like it was boiled and stored either outside or if under a roof, exposed to some direct sunlight. You need to get it sealed with something.

Most complaints I have seen on here regarding skulls has been the condition of the bone, having been over boiled to the point it is brittle. And to be missing pieces, or just simply broken, some beyond repair. If the actual skulls are in decent shape, you should consider yourself lucky! It does look like you at least have something to work with. You may want to attempt to come to some compromise with the outfitter, pay for the good ones, or pay 50% or some other percentage of the bill... But get an agreement in writing, at least an email. Honestly my opinion is that for leaving them that long, they are not as bad as they could have been.
 

ActionBob

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Hopefully a couple taxidermists chime in. But going back through the pictures and zooming in on them. I don't see a lot wrong. They are just very clean and dried out. The Impala looks good to me. The flaking on the Wildebeest is probably somewhat normal for not having been sealed. I think that is what happens to animals with bosses. I had a buffalo that was one heck of a lot worse but the taxidermist fixed it up. Did the kudu have that crack in it when you shot it? I had a sheep that had a big crack, and after it was cleaned, it looked a lot bigger! The crud these critters have caked into their horns is incredible and the suggestions from @Tucketed sounds like darn good advice ;)
 

buck wild

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I posted a quick article on how to recondition horns here within the past 6 months. I’ll search for it. It covered the beeswax method.
 

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To be fair, they just looked dried out and have lost their shine.
It's likely they just need some nourishment and a bit of time to restore the natural lustre.
Try a Google search for taxidermy horn care/restoration or words along those lines or see what the taxidermists here can off in terms of opinion and advice.
I personally wouldn't spray paint them black and then varnish. In my opinion it will look bloody awful.
Beeswax type products would be my go to.
Can't agree more with not painting them black. I had euro mounts done on two different trips. The first taxidermist painted my horns and I was not happy. On my second trip, I was explicit about not painting the horns and they look a lot more natural. Any suggestions on how to get the paint off my horns without damaging them would be greatly appreciated.
 

charleslabounty

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Geez ......
I think the cracking and drying happens during boiling the flesh off the skulls.
I have 6 out of 7 horn/mounts that look cracked and dried out. The one set that isn’t, is a Blesbok euro mount and the horns are loose mounted.
Two trips, two different taxidermists. Very disappointing.
Someone must know the real cause of this horn degradation that is all too common. I really don’t think the outfitters or African taxidermists care about this often heard complaint.
I have 40 year old whitetail antlers/skulls that were washed in a little Clorox that look as fresh as a live buck.
 

buck wild

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Geez ......
I think the cracking and drying happens during boiling the flesh off the skulls.
I have 6 out of 7 horn/mounts that look cracked and dried out. The one set that isn’t, is a Blesbok euro mount and the horns are loose mounted.
Two trips, two different taxidermists. Very disappointing.
Someone must know the real cause of this horn degradation that is all too common. I really don’t think the outfitters or African taxidermists care about this often heard complaint.
I have 40 year old whitetail antlers/skulls that were washed in a little Clorox that look as fresh as a live buck.

Literally apples and oranges between horns and antlers. Antlers are bone and much harder them horn which is nothing more than same cells as our finger nails. You can keep horns in good shape by basically rotting them off then cleaning. It takes longer and is t as quick as maceration. I suspect the African guys can’t do the amount they’d need to by that method plus most countries have strict import rules that require boiling and chemicals. That said they could do better than what often arrives .
 

charleslabounty

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Literally apples and oranges between horns and antlers. Antlers are bone and much harder them horn which is nothing more than same cells as our finger nails. You can keep horns in good shape by basically rotting them off then cleaning. It takes longer and is t as quick as maceration. I suspect the African guys can’t do the amount they’d need to by that method plus most countries have strict import rules that require boiling and chemicals. That said they could do better than what often arrives .
Buck, Do you think the taxidermist/ preparer understand the damage their process is doing?
Just having the dip&pack process done and then shipped here for finishing the taxidermy will not solve the problem. Thanks
 

harden

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Charles, horn have to be taken off the skulls for cleaning the inside material that would rot. Then ones that cannot come off have to be boiled to get what ever meat can be taken off horn core inside horn. There is a way to do it without ANY DAMAGE or discoloration IN AFRICA, But are you going to PAY for it? Maceration, rotting off the horn naturally, Hours and hours and weeks and weeks of changing water and watching them closely. If I had a fresh kudu and wanted it perfect macerate it, Will take weeks and change water everyday and then when horn releases you STILL have to boil the skull. Expense would be 5-6+ times what you pay for dip pack now, Euro's would be 5x the price. The thousands and thousands of horns they deal with its not possible to have hundreds of maceration vats and dozens of employees everyday changing the water. Few hours boiling vs month maceration and STILL have to boil the skull. People complain now about the cost now, get into this and people DO NOT UNDERSTAND the labor and process that would go into it.
 

charleslabounty

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Charles, horn have to be taken off the skulls for cleaning the inside material that would rot. Then ones that cannot come off have to be boiled to get what ever meat can be taken off horn core inside horn. There is a way to do it without ANY DAMAGE or discoloration IN AFRICA, But are you going to PAY for it? Maceration, rotting off the horn naturally, Hours and hours and weeks and weeks of changing water and watching them closely. If I had a fresh kudu and wanted it perfect macerate it, Will take weeks and change water everyday and then when horn releases you STILL have to boil the skull. Expense would be 5-6+ times what you pay for dip pack now, Euro's would be 5x the price. The thousands and thousands of horns they deal with its not possible to have hundreds of maceration vats and dozens of employees everyday changing the water. Few hours boiling vs month maceration and STILL have to boil the skull. People complain now about the cost now, get into this and people DO NOT UNDERSTAND the labor and process that would go into it.
Dennis,
Poor horn condition has come up several times on AH.
So to be perfectly clear, it is the boiling process to remove the flesh that dries and cracks the horns which is required of the dip/pack process, CORRECT?
Therefore, there is no way around that the degradation of horn appearance can be avoided unless you get lucky with the horns popping off early and the attendant pulls them away from the fire/boiling.
I guess I don’t know if I would be willing to pay to have the horns look like they did when I walked up to my trophy on the ground. I did not see that option on the taxidermists price list.
 

harden

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And for any mounting purposes also not just dip pack and I agree with you YES if they get the horns off quick and don't boil the crap out of them better condition.
They dont have the time to macerate the volume of horns they do and KNOW without a doubt charging 300-400+ dollars to get perfectly nice macerated horns per trophy won't fly with clients.
 

fourfive8

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Geez ......
I think the cracking and drying happens during boiling the flesh off the skulls.
I have 6 out of 7 horn/mounts that look cracked and dried out. The one set that isn’t, is a Blesbok euro mount and the horns are loose mounted.
Two trips, two different taxidermists. Very disappointing.
Someone must know the real cause of this horn degradation that is all too common. I really don’t think the outfitters or African taxidermists care about this often heard complaint.
I have 40 year old whitetail antlers/skulls that were washed in a little Clorox that look as fresh as a live buck.

Agree! The damage as shown (and that is damage- not just drying or aging) in the pics looks like simply boiling for too long in a big, deep pot with either regular water or possibly a solution or mixture of some form of caustic chem. The whiteness of the skull bone along with the splotches on the kudu horn may indicate a caustic mix of some sort... dunno. No matter, it is the quickest and easiest method they use for "treatment" for storing and for shipping. I've done many skull mounts of both antlered and horned game and that looks like damage caused by over boiling to me. And unfortunately the most likely response to a complaint or suggestion will all too often be "that's the way we've always done it and no one complains".... uhhh ok

And yes, the loss and damage can be repaired by a good taxidermist using a polymer based filler that can be textured to reasonably match the natural horn texture.
 
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