Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island Part 2

A while back I published an article about a Rusa deer hunt on Mauritius Island (see the Hunting category: Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island,  Part 1).  In that post I mentioned that when I received the capes and skulls back from overseas I would sculpture a new Rusa deer form.  Finally, that day has come. The following is a look into the process of mannikin sculpture.  There are certainly varied and different methods in the creation of a new taxidermy form that could possibly end up with similar final results, but the following procedure is one that I use quite often and is perhaps one of the most enjoyable for me, as it presents the opportunity to start with nothing and end up with, well hopefully, a helpful new industry product.

So to start with, I needed numbers.  How big are these deer?  What is the length of the face?  How big is the neck circumference?  How long is the neck?  How tall are the shoulders?  And so on.  The only answer to these questions can come from having an actual  specimen in hand (thus, Part 1, the hunt on Mauritius Island).  And the more specimens the better  to be able to understand some of the variations that might exist from deer to deer.  In this case we had three different animals to measure and to come up with similarities and differences.

With this information in mind, I set out to build a basic armature to which I could apply oil clay and create the form.  To do this, I first laid out a sheet of butcher paper on the floor and made an exact size silhouette drawing.  The drawing is scaled to my measurements and the position is based on my personal preference and photos I have taken in the field of the live animal.  For antler clearance purposes I drew this sketch in a lower semi-sneak position with the head down slightly. This drawing is part of the “art” of envisioning what I want the mannikin shapes to be, but I need to get this drawing right or the form itself will reflect any errors I make.  The skull is then positioned and incorporated into the drawing:

This drawing will now serve as the center-line of the armature.  To accomplish this I cut out the the paper template and drew around it on a piece of cardboard.  I then cut out the cardboard template and foamed it to a backboard as below:

Now with the cardboard outline in place I added foam to make the armature silhouette 3-D, as you can see in the series of pictures that follow:

After the foam build-up, I began to cut and rasp the armature into “shape”. See below:

With the neck and shoulders roughed in I turned my attention to the head.  I attached the bottom jaw to the upper skull and foamed in all the open areas.  And then I attached the head to the armature:

The armature is now complete!  Below are a couple of full views of the armature:

Now I add clay and the sculpture is underway:

The final step was to remove the antlers and voila’ … we now have a Rusa deer form as seen below:

When the mold is completed by McKenzie and a form is available, I will mount a Rusa deer on the resulting new mannikin. Watch for Part 3 of this series.

How To: Fit a Skin to a Form

Since I am often asked how one knows they have selected the perfect sized form for a mount,  I thought this might be a good time to share some thoughts on this subject, so here goes…

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How To: Shorten a Deer Head

A few years ago I was down in Texas collecting whitetail reference and we came across a very interesting deer.  He had a decent sized body, big neck, big head and a very nice set of antlers.  They figured him to be in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 year range. For overall fit, I would have guessed a 7 1/4 x 23 inch form, or maybe even larger.  On today’s mannikin choices I might have picked a 69-7123 size form.  There was only one problem–this deer’s eye to nose only measured  6 1/2 inches!  The head on the form would have been a full 3/4 of an inch too long, even though everything else would work great.  A  6 1/2 inch form would be WAY too small, and a 6 1/2 inch changeout head would be too small as well, particularly in the width between the eyes.   This guy was a big, mature deer; all we would really need here would be a shorter face on the 7 1/4″ form. Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Lengthen a Deer Head

Of the six head alterations that I have claimed taxidermists can’t live without, perhaps lengthening a head, number five in our series, is the most valuable.  At least it’s the one you are apt to use most often.  As I have mentioned, there are many combinations of form sizes in the world of whitetail taxidermy, but even at that, lengthening a head and alteration number six, shortening a head, can come in handy when trying to match the innumerable size variations in nature.  And when you consider all the other species of game that don’t have all the commercial size options, this alteration can be gold.  And like all the other alterations that I have shown so far, they don’t take a lot of time but can make a HUGE difference in the fit of the skin.

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How To: Narrow a Deer Head

Let’s say you try on a skin and it fits fine, but you realize the skin is very snug on the head and getting the tear ducts and eyes into place will be a real challenge.  And drumming seems inevitable.  What to do…

Well, you can help the fit dramatically in this situation by simply narrowing the head; it’s amazing how well a skin can fit with just the removal of 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch of material from between the eyes.  If you’ve been keeping track, this is number four in my series of six head alterations that I said I was convinced  you couldn’t live without (if you missed the first three, check them out under the “Taxidermy” category).

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Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island Part 1

For years I have wanted to hunt Rusa deer.  They are a unique deer and I’ve always felt the need for a new form.  So when an auction hunt at the Safari Club Convention last year turned out to be a Rusa deer hunt on Mauritius Island, I was all in and we walked away with the hunt!   Read the rest of this entry »

Photography- Yellowstone in the Spring, Close up and Personal

Yellowstone is a great spot for photography in either the spring or the fall.  Since there is not much going on for antlers in the spring,  it’s a great time for bears or wolves.  Now I must admit I have not had much luck on close-up bears or wolves.  I have seen both,  just not within good photo range.   Little did I know what lay in store for us as we headed for the Park this last month, the close-up grizzly category… was about to change! Read the rest of this entry »

How to: Widen a Deer Head

This is number three in a series of six head alterations that I said I felt no taxidermist can live without.   I say this merely because in the world of everyday taxidermy you will, at some time, benefit dramatically by knowing how to accomplish these alterations.  It may not be an everyday thing, but there will come a time.  So this one is all about making a head wider than the original. Read the rest of this entry »

The Method To My Madness

Today’s skilled taxidermists have a slightly different mounting process than in days of old.  Modern foam forms with their pre-sculpted details have somewhat negated the need for the average taxidermist to know anatomy in the same way as when paper forms were prevalent.  I made some effort to show this in an earlier post called  “From Old to New” (see the Taxidermy category on this blog).

But let me say this. The process today is just different, it does not take any less skill or ability, only slightly different skill and ability. Read the rest of this entry »

You Have To Be There

I was dying to get over to a nearby lake to see if any new birds had moved in.  It was a bit early for any serious migration, but you never know.  Days passed, but I just couldn’t seem to get there. Then we got a big spring snowstorm.  Regardless, I made the decision to head that way after an early Saturday meeting at my church.  It was pretty late in the morning by the time I arrived at the lake, and a mere 22 degrees.  But what really kept me going was the nicely overcast sky.  Great light for photography even at midday.   Read the rest of this entry »

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