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How to: Enlarge a Deer Muzzle

Whitetail deer vary dramatically from area to area, sub-specie to sub-specie, and even from deer to deer within any given region or sub-specie. Just as people come in all sizes and shapes, so do deer! This is a sculptor’s nightmare. Fifteen or twenty sizes in a series of forms can’t possibly cover all the range of variance.  So what is to be done?  Well thankfully the skin is soft and pliable and and in most cases can be adapted to the mannikin quite nicely. But upon occasion, certain parts fit and others just simply don’t. A deer with a narrow muzzle, for instance, might fit a given form perfectly, but because the muzzle was narrow, it may be extremely tough going to get the lip and nostril skin tucked and you may find the skin pulling in these critical areas as it dries. Or you might find that a cape with a particularly wide muzzle will swallow the nose pad on the form and produce extra skin that is hard to tuck. The obvious solution to the large-nose deer would be to re-model the muzzle with clay to make the nose and lips fuller… a time consuming process at best, but certainly doable.  And to narrow a form muzzle can even be more difficult. In this case you would have to carve the lip line to move it up and then sand or rasp material away to get the fit you desire. The good news is that there are a couple of tricks that will make either situation much more practical. In this post I will start with widening the muzzle and in a near future post I will cover how to narrow as needed.

I grabbed a 63-7020L for this project.

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It’s a good idea to measure the muzzle width just so you know where you started from:

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The following process is the slickest, fastest, and easiest way of enlarging a muzzle that I have found. So first, grab a hand-saw and saw the head in half, starting from the center of the nose pad and continue cutting all the way to between the eyes:

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Now simply cut a wedge of foam and insert the wedge into the nose pad. Push the wedge in until you get the width you desire.

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The great thing about this system is that as you can see, the muzzle expands evenly all the way from the eyes forward. This would be quite a process to accomplish by adding clay! Now, to hold your new dimension in place simply fill the groove with Bondo:

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I timed myself once again and found it only took about 2 1/2 minutes to get this far. Remember to trim the Bondo just after it sets. If you forget, trimming the hard Bondo becomes impossible (short of a rasp or a power grinder)! I actually put more Bondo on the groove than I usually do so it would show up in the photo. If you fill the groove more carefully with less spill-over it will be much easier to trim should you forget (oh yes, I have forgotten more than once). Anyway, trim off the excess and you are nearly finished! One final step may be necessary. Check the nose pad fit by trying on the skin. You will probably find the form to be a bit wide now at A/B and C/D. If so, mark distance A/B and C/D to custom fit the job at hand and remove the excess material (I actually custom fit every mount in areas A/B and C/D as required, by either adding or subtracting material where needed for each specific deer; remember all deer are different, so don’t be afraid to do what you need to do for the best fit!):

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Bingo. With that accomplished you are now ready to go. You can customize further, as you find necessary, with water clay. This additional work only took a couple more minutes so expect the whole job to be completed in less than 5 minutes.

Remember that the idea here is not to completely “fill the skin” as you always need extra skin to be taken up as the skin dries. This process is for extreme situations and you won’t have to do it often, but if you ever need to…

2 comments

  1. Glenn

    All of Dennis Behn’s head form alteration techniques are truly invaluable to taxidermists just starting out!!! I purchased the second of two whitetail shoulder mount DVD by Dennis Behn just to learn to paint and finish a whitetail mount. It was an invaluable investment and I thank Dennis over and over again for his awesome teaching techniques. Using Dennis’s airbrush and paint combinations, I now consistently put real life into my whitetail mounts. Dennis explains precisely how to paint a deer and takes ALL the frustration out of it. Starting out, I would mount a shoulder mount and just hang it without painting because I was really afraid that I would mess it up with my lack of finishing knowledge. Dennis took all that fear out of me and now I know I can paint a shoulder mount with complete confidence. I am really glad I found the Head Alteration series because not only is it “must have” information but I actually have a head that needs altered slightly in the nose to eye length. Lastly, I’m glad these alterations were explained by a very competent Sculptor which will allow the reader to know moving forward that his mounts can be anatomically correct. Thanks again Dennis Behn!!!

    1. Dennis Behn

      Thanks Glenn for your nice comments. Glad to hear the videos were helpful. Let me know how you alteration project goes!

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