Deer Taxidermy

Whitetail Form Alteration 101

In this article I am going to demonstrate a whitetail form alteration and  how I altered a McKenzie 6900 series wall pedestal from a right turn look to a full straight off the wall look. The first thing I totally regret is that I did not take a before and after picture of our McKenzie 69WP 7019R wall pedestal form. It was a goof on my part. You cannot go by the catalog pictures posted by McKenzie showing the 6900 as it’s not even close. I will say anyone who has mounted a deer on the 69WP 7019R deer form will know exactly what I am referring to throughout this article.

But first I would like to give the back story on how we got here and why I had to perform this whitetail form alteration. I would also like to add until 2017 I have had no experience with any of the McKenzie’s wall pedestal shoulder forms.

During the fall 2016 deer season I had one of my repeat customers drop off a deer for a full shoulder mount and said they would let me know what position they wanted at a later date. I have done many deer for this particular client and they were looking for a different kind of pose. In early spring of 2017 the client just so happened to stop by the lab while I was unpacking a McKenzie 8900 series right turn wall pedestal and I showed the form to my client.  This particular form I ordered was for a mount I was putting together with a spare cape and a set of shed antlers. I basically just held the form up against the wall and it didn’t take long for the client to fall in love with the look and agreed that would be the form for their 2016 buck kill, but with one exception. The deer had to be looking straight out from the wall. No right turn and no left turn. It must be a straight looking deer mount the client emphasized. To close the deal (because I wanted more experience with these wall peds) I said no problem. No big deal I assured the client. I was pretty sure McKenzie sold a straight look wall pedestal. Why wouldn’t they? I grabbed the 2016-2017 McKenzie catalog and opened up to page 12 to take a look at the 6900 series wall pedestals they offered. Immediately I saw the 69WP 7019R pictured. It was a very good fit for the cape that came off my client’s deer. Obviously the R on the end of the stock number meant it was a right turn. But by looking at the form the damn thing looked to be almost a straight look and if there was a right turn there, it would be an easy whitetail form alteration. God only knows how many forms I have altered and hacked up over the years. This was just another one of those times.

After reviewing all and every wall pedestal that McKenzie offered in their taxidermy catalog I committed with the 6900 series and went ahead and ordered the 69WP 7019R form. I didn’t see a hard sweep on this form and it looked to me it would be an easy fix if in deed we had right looking deer head. Also note with McKenzie’s wall pedestals your either going to get a right or left turn in any wall pedestal McKenzie offers. There is no such animal as straight turn in a whitetail wall pedestal offered through McKenzie.

In 34 hours the deer form arrived (as always) and I was excited to take a look at it. Once unpacked and pulled from the box, I thought McKenzie had made a mistake and sent the wrong form. I then realized and said to myself, uh oh, it’s the right form ordered. Dang it! Once I put the back of the form against the wall flat like it is supposed to sit, it was clearly evident we had one good sweeping, right turn looking deer head. The form didn’t even come close to the catalog pictures. Maybe not as hard as the sweep in the 8900 series but damn close in my opinion. Now I feel like the idiot. A simple whitetail form alteration is one I think not, and for a number of reasons. For starters we have an offset shoulder, and the turn in the neck literally starts just above the brisket. You would pretty much have to cut the entire neck of the deer off and then into sections (wedges) to get your head to spin straight. This was a whitetail form alteration I was not comfortable in doing. When altering a turn on a normal full shoulder mount form, you are only removing the head and then sectioning up about 1/3 of the neck down to get your turn. Maybe if I had experience in altering a giraffe neck I’d be confident in pulling off this whitetail form alteration. Even BDO wasn’t going to get me out of this mess.

Since it’s a wall pedestal one VERY easy solution would be to install a type of swivel hanger on the mount. That way the client could swivel the mount to the desired position. It would also give the mount a 3D effect coming from the wall.  And since we are going to have habitat on the back side of the mount it be pretty cool if you ask me, but what I and my client really wanted was the form to look just like the way it did in the catalog. I also want to keep the angle on the back of the deer form pretty much the same while having no space between the form and wall. The back of the deer form will be finished off with rock habitat. If you see my finished pictures of the deer mounted on the 8900 wall pedestal I completed last month you will notice the rock habitat on the back of that deer mount.

So the question now is how in the world we are going to perform this whitetail form alteration without actually hacking the neck? My very first thought was to slice a chunk out the back at the angle I needed to get this whitetail deer wall pedestal looking straight. All that it would require, is me just going outside with the deer form, firing up the chain saw and slicing right on down through. That would work but it would also remove the entire front left leg and half of the brisket. Not an option and would detract from the mount greatly.

So we go back to the drawing board and begin to come up with a solution for our whitetail form alteration. After some thought and consideration, I came up with what I will call the “Hinge Effect”. The Hinge Effect is nothing more than removing the back board from the deer form and allowing it to hinge from the front shoulder to the wall until we have a front straight look deer. Once we have our back board to be where it’s got to go, we will then fill the void from opening up our board with foam. Easier said than done right? I believe the pictures posted below will explain in detail the whole process on how we performed this whitetail form alteration.

If you study the first picture you will actually see just how much I had to tilt the deer form to get the head to look straight out. By using levels and by eye balling it I was able to get the deer to look straight. The table top simulated my wall as you see in the picture.

I didn’t want to remove the entire back board and also didn’t want to add any more leg to the form so I cut through the board on the line.

Before attempting to remove the factory installed back board we had to uncase the board from the foam. As you can clearly see here we had successfully trimmed all the foam away from the board. I used an X-Acto Z series #11 blade for this procedure.

Once our back board was free we put it all back together to begin our Hinge Effect.

I slowly and carefully titled the deer form up and away from the back board keeping the front of the boar in full contact with the front shoulder and the cut line. I pictured in my head an imaginary hinge attached to the form and back board. It is very imperative that board does move out of position during this step.

With the deer form in position giving us our straight look we now must begin the process of reattaching the back board to the form. We must do this without either the form or back board from moving out of position. This is where the magic little red can of foam called Great Stuff comes in to play. We are just looking to tack the board and form together. It’s defiantly not a permanent fix but the foam is strong enough to hold it all together in place until we are ready to pour our two part urethane foam. Once cured, most of the can foam will be trimmed away. We just at this point in our whitetail form alteration need the back board to be affixed back together with the deer form while keeping its hinged position in place.

Once our Great Stuff is cured in place it’s time to start the prep work for our two part urethane foam pour. Notice how our back board is held into place by just using Great Stuff. It is at this point we will test fit the form to the wall to be sure we are a true straight look deer.

As you can clearly see, I’ve added a brace for support. It’s nothing more than a piece of wood stock. There is a screw through our back board into the stock as well as the three screws visible that are screwed through the stock into the original foam deer form. The wood stock will also keep our back board locked in placed while we pour our foam. The foam will expand creating pressure, and we do not want our back board being moved out of position during the expansion of our poured foam.

Now it’s time to wrap our work area using stretch wrap. I use a particular kind of stretch wrap that comes with a spooled handle which makes it much easier to apply the wrap. This is also the same wrap I use in all my game animals noses when mounting game.

Measure out equal amounts of part A and part B of a good quality two part taxidermy grade urethane foam.

If the air temp in my shop is below 80 degrees which it usually is I will always heat up the lighter, thicker part of the two part foam kit. I want the foam to kick off fast and expand to its full expanding potential. You must have heat in the room or area you are working in to get a full expand on your urethane foam. Cool temps, temps below 80 will rob your foam potential when expanding.

After mixing part A and Part B of out two part urethane foam, we pour and let the magic happen. Don’t forget to staple off areas you do want the foam to expand too.

All of our stretch wrap is removed once our foam is cured and then sanded to shape. All exposed foam will be covered with habitat in our case rock habitat.

Here you see the finished product. Like I stated in the very beginning of this article, I regret not taking a pic of the original form before we altered it. You would have seen just how much of a turn we had to take out of it to get our straight look. However if you noticed the completed 8900 wall pedestal next to our 6900 I would honestly have to say it was almost just as close to that turn.

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By CJ Herring

CJ Herring has been practicing taxidermy for 22 years and resides in the hills outside of Cooperstown, New York. A crippling and disabling brain tumor took control of his life in early 2018. In 2019 CJ took a major turn for the worse and was diagnosed with Acromegaly and underwent brain tumor removal in 2020. CJ also suffers from end stage Osteoarthritis within his entire body. In 2021 CJ began his journey with total hip replacement. CJ continues to write about taxidermy and still manages the day to day operations of the Taxidermy Lab Facebook group.

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Michael Grady
Michael Grady
1 year ago

God bless you CJ!