There are a number of important factors to consider in planning a trophy room. First is the overall size of the room and by this I don’t only mean the square footage but also the height of the walls. Plan your room for additional mounts beyond what you have at the time of your initial planning. I have found that over the years I always seemed to run short of wall space and wished that I had more; so don’t short-change yourself.
Next is wall height and here I would highly recommend a minimum of 10 feet or, even better, 12 feet with a vaulted ceiling. Not only will this allow you to stack your mounts but it will also allow you to hang large antlered game such as caribou or elk above eye level.
Another essential element in construction is to ensure that if you intend to use drywall for your interior walls, use 3/8-inch plywood as your first wall over which you add drywall. This additional layer of plywood will allow you to hang most mounts anywhere on the wall without having to find a wall stud. Wall studs would then only be required for heavy mounts such as a large moose or a bison. It will also allow you the freedom to be more creative in, for example, how you may want to group similar mounts such as a number of deer. Last is the lighting. I found that properly spaced flood type track lighting works best for most effectively highlighting your mounts.
Windows? Well — to be blunt, the fewer the better, as sunlight can not only damage mounts, and also windows take up space that could otherwise be used for hanging additional trophies. When it comes to wall colour you may want to go with a light colour such as light green in order to properly accentuate your trophies.
Types of Mounts
Trophy rooms with a balance of not only mount types but also with a variety of big game, birds and fish mounts really add to the overall effect and appearance of a trophy room.
The majority of big game mounts in most trophy rooms will be shoulder or head mounts. They are the simplest, least expensive and often the most effective way of preserving your big game trophy and your memories of it. The only consideration you will have to give some thought to is the type of pose you want for a particular head mount. I always try to envision how I want the animal to look in the room and then decide on what type of turn I need such as a right or left turn or whether a turn is even required in order to fit that vision. You may also want to consider whether a sneak or heads- up pose will work best. And yet for others, because of the lack of wall space, you may wish to consider a pedestal style head mount.
Some species such as bears lend themselves very nicely to being preserved as a rug. However, I have seen everything from mountain goats to muskox made into rugs; it is very much a matter of personal choice. Your options here are a flat rug versus a rug with a head mount and the colour of the trim. The head mount option, of course, will be considerably more money than a flat rug.
Ultimately, there will come a time when you harvest a very special animal that you want to preserve in a special way such as a life size or possibly a half-life size mount. A large cougar, for example, lends itself very well to a life size mount whereas a mountain goat can become a super half-life size mount. They are most often considerably more expensive but, if done right, are truly a wonderful addition to a trophy room. Here you should spend considerable time discussing with your taxidermist exactly what form and pose you want and what kind of base it is to be mounted on.
Fish can be a very positive and attractive addition to any trophy room. You may even want to consider using the same approach as I did by setting aside an entire wall space just for fish. With the right mounts it can become a colourful feature wall. Here I would highly recommend that you consider replica mounts. They allow not only catch and release of big fish but they also do not discolour or shrink over time. Simply take accurate measurements of your fish, including length and girth, and submit these to your taxidermist and they will find a fish blank to match. Once they are properly painted, they look realistic and will last a lifetime.
Finally — nothing looks any more attractive and adds more colour to a trophy room than a flying ring-neck pheasant. While birds usually don’t typically dominate a trophy room, they surely do add to the overall ambience and character. Look to adding a variety of species and poses including both flying and standing birds. A wild turkey, for example, in a strut pose is a most impressive mount, one, in fact, that I was most delighted to add to my room.
Selecting a Taxidermist
Thankfully, taxidermy is not quite the hit or miss that it used to be. With all the fine forms and supplies that are available today more and more taxidermy is better and better. But as with most purchases, you get what you pay for. My advice here is to not only look at a variety of your hunting buddies’ mounts but also to visit a number of taxidermy shops and look carefully at their work. Then, if you like what you see (and as most good taxidermists use the services of a professional tannery) spend some time with the taxidermist discussing where he or she has their tanning done and what tanning process they will use for your mount. If the answer is “I do it myself,” you may want to look elsewhere as a professionally tanned hide or cape is critical to the quality and longevity of your mount. You should also determine how long it will take to get your mount back, precisely the type of mount and pose you want, and then lastly, what the cost will be.
Over time and depending on where you live, mounts tend to collect dust and need to be cleaned. I have gone through the full gamete of approaches as to how best to approach this task and have discovered the ultimate answer — the Swiffer Duster. With it and a number of extra refills, by running the duster in the direction of the hair or feather I can quickly and effectively dust all my trophies twice yearly. It cleans and picks up the dust rather than simply moving it around and can be used on everything from fish and birds to all my game mounts. The only exception is rugs, which I carefully vacuum or gently shake out. A clean cotton cloth works wonders on re-brightening eyes and a small hairbrush can be very effective in smoothing out any rumpled fur.