There are several important decisions to be made before departing on your African hunting adventure. What are you going to do with your trophies after you have shot them? You are not allowed to bring the meat back with you to the US. You will likely eat some of the animals that have been harvested by yourself or other hunters while in camp. The rest of the meat is either sold commercially, kept for camp meat, donated to the local population or used as bait for predators and scavenger hunts.
As soon as your first trophy has been taken, you will have to make a decision on how the skinner will prepare your trophy. Most large African animals are shoulder mounted. If you plan on having a full mount done, the skinner will skin the animal in one continuous piece. If you are having a shoulder mount done, you will be asked if you want the back cape. Keep in mind if you keep the back cape, your dip and pack and tanning bill will be higher.
Another option is to just keep the skull and horns and mount them on a wall placard.
No matter how you decide to mount your trophies, you will need to decide whether you will have them mounted in Africa or whether you will ship the skulls, horns and capes to a taxidermist in the US.
The cost of having trophies mounted in Africa and shipped via ocean freight runs about 10 - 15% less than the cost of having them done in the US by a competent African Taxidermy Specialist.
If you plan on having your trophies mounted back in the US, you should have some shipping tags prepared by your taxidermist that contain your name, ultimate destination address that you will display your trophies at, E-mail address and phone number along with your taxidermists information and your customs broker information. You should get a minimum of two tags for each animal that you hope to get on your discounted African hunt. A few extra tags will likely come in handy, as Africa always sends some unexpected trophies wandering by to tempt you!
Once your trophy pictures have been taken and your trophy has been loaded onto the truck. It will be taken to the skinning shed. The skinner will skin the trophy to accommodate your desired method of mounting.
The skull and horns will be removed. The skull will typically be boiled to remove any flesh. The skins will be placed into a large bed of salt to facilitate drying. If hunting during warm weather, it is important to get the animal skinned and into the salt as soon as possible to minimize hair loss.
Many outfitters will take you to an African Taxidermist on your way back to the airport for your flight home. Keep in mind that the outfitter probably has a business arrangement with that taxidermist to mount his trophies for his lodge for free in return for providing the taxidermist with a steady stream of business.
If you are sending your trophies to the US for mounting, you will need the services of a Dip & Pack agent to prepare your trophies for shipment. Most taxidermists in Africa also provide this service. The D&P agent or your taxidermist will typically handle any export permits that are required on the Africa side of things. You will want a Customs Broker to oversee the US side of the paperwork required. The Customs Broker will usually be your representative in the process and will coordinate between all of the parties to ensure a successful importation of your African trophies.
The Dip and Pack Agent will finish drying, defleshing and treating your trophies for insects. They will acquire any veterinarian certificates and export permits required. They will then package your trophies for shipment to a Port of Entry. Unfinished taxidermy including skins, skulls and capes are shipped via airfreight to one of 16 Ports of Entry in the US.
If you had your animals mounted in Africa, it may be more economical to ship them by sea. Shipping by sea takes longer, but costs significantly less.
Once your trophies arrive in the US, they will be cleared through Customs and US Fish and Wildlife. Assuming all is in order, your crate of trophies will be sent to your taxidermist for mounting.
If you are having your animals mounted in Africa, you will be asked to wire them a deposit. A 50% deposit is typical. Once the animals are done, you will receive a final bill for taxidermy. You will also receive a bill from the shipping company for shipping to the US Port of Entry. These bills will usually have to be paid by bank wire directly to their bank accounts in Africa. Some may take credit cards, but beware of charges for using the card in Africa and your credit card company may likely charge a fee to transfer the payment into foreign currency. I have found it to be less expensive to just wire the money. Hang on to the receipt that the bank gives you as a receipt for wired funds. It will come in handy if the funds end up in the wrong account and a trace must be initiated.
African taxidermy has improved over past years, but still varies widely from region to region in Southern Africa. Look carefully at the mounts that are ready to be shipped when you visit the outfitter's recommended taxidermist.
Mounts in Progress at Highveld Taxidermy
Discount African Hunts recommends that you find out the name of the taxidermist that they refer their customers to and that you investigate this taxidermist before you leave for Africa. Ask for the names of customers from that outfitter that have recently received their trophies and contact them to see if they were satisfied with the quality of the work. Google them and look for customer feedback and comments. Remember, if you have a problem, they are half a world away!
Discount African Hunts recommends that you utilize the services of a US based taxidermist that does a large amount of African mounts. It may cost a little more, but I have found that the quality is generally better in the US and if you have a problem or need a repair, it is much easier to get it done over here.
Discount African Hunts recommends The Wildlife Gallery that is located in Blanchard, MI. Their work is amazing, they have trucks that deliver nationwide, and they offer a 180 day turnaround. The Wildlife Gallery is one of the four or five best taxidermists in America. They are sponsors of the Dallas Safari Club’s “Tracks Across Africa” TV Series that is hosted by Ivan Carter and was previously hosted by renowned African hunter and writer “Craig Boddington”. They exhibit at the Dallas Safari Club and SCI conventions annually. Stop by and check out their amazing taxidermy. Every time I look at one of the many mounts that they have done for me, I am awed by the realism. The animals look alive!