Trophy Care and Travel
How to Get Your Trophy Home
by Kate Nation
You fulfilled your dream hunt and killed a trophy. Now is not the time to figure out how to get your trophy home to be mounted. When it comes to taxidermy, you need to prepare for it just like you do your hunt considering things like: how to preserve your trophy, how to transport your trophy, whether to use a local taxidermist or one back home.
“Don’t wait until you pull the trigger to figure it out,” said USA’s Director of Conservation and Communications Forrest Parker, who has hunted all over the world.
Transporting an Animal When Flying
Having a vehicle makes transporting an animal a lot easier, but that’s not always an option.
If you’re staying at a lodge or hotel, Parker recommends asking if they have space in a cooler or freezer. “Most often for domestic travel, I freeze the cape and put it in my checked baggage or carry on, or I put the cape, meat, and skull in the overhead in first-class.”
For elk, moose, or other large animals that won’t fit in the overhead, you can check them as individual baggage. “Nine out of 10 times, it’s perfectly fine, but you are putting it at risk for damage,” Parker said.
If you’re not able to freeze the animal before travel, you must consider what will happen if your checked luggage is delayed or lost. “I typically lean toward a carry-on, when possible, for that reason,” Parker said.
Another good option is to ship your animal via UPS as long as someone is there to receive it.
“If I’m leaving from a hunt to go somewhere other than home and don’t want someone at home to be responsible for the package, I find a nearby taxidermist to do the taxidermy or at least prepare and hold the animal and then ship it once I’m ready to receive it,” Parker said.
Not all taxidermists are willing to prepare and ship an animal if they aren’t doing the taxidermy, so Parker recommends asking the outfitter if they work with any local taxidermists that would help manage your trophy and get it home to you. “Often, that relationship will go a long way,” Parker said.
When booking your flights, think about factors other than cost. Consider the number of connections. The more connections, the greater the risk of a delayed flight or lost luggage. “I lost 50 pounds of salmon returning home from Alaska, despite it being frozen, because I didn’t get my luggage for two days,” Parker said.
Also consider where those connections are. “If I’m worried about my animal being exposed to heat, I’d prefer not to have a connection in Los Angeles in July,” he added.
Think about the size of the planes too. A puddle jumper into your hometown airport may not have the overhead space you need.
“I have rented trucks and driven bull elk home numerous times because the cost and effort required to fly was harder,” Parker said. “But it all comes down to having a plan.”
Finding an International Taxidermist
According to Parker, the key to a good taxidermy experience when hunting internationally is to ensure you are working with a very reputable outfitter, who is working with a reputable taxidermist or expediter.
When calling an outfitter’s references, ask about their experience with the taxidermy/trophy care side of things. Taxidermy isn’t the outfitter’s responsibility, but you should consider how helpful they will be in the trophy care process when making your decision.
Every country has different rules, and the U.S. has different rules based on where an animal is coming from. For a good international taxidermy experience, you need to choose an outfitter with trophy care resources and a process that has been tested.
“I leave the research about the export rules to the experts,” Parker said. “There’s no reason to become an expert yourself if you are paying someone to do it on the international and domestic side. You just need to ensure you are working with a reputable taxidermist.”