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How to preserve velvet antler in the field

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How to preserve velvet antler in the field

Velvet mule deer from Nevada
Velvet Mule Deer by Jeff Lobitz. All image credits: Brady Miller

The velvet season is officially here. And if you hunt mule deer and do a backcountry hunt next month, it's a good idea to find a way to get your precious velvet on the field. Removing the blood from the antlers will prevent the velvet from decaying. There are many different ways to get Velvet Antlers. What I'm going to talk about here is especially for a do-it-yourself approach, if you do not feel upset for a few days, or if you can hunt with a friend and hang up the meat and rack while you continue to hunt. Some of the velvet preservation methods you can use are: formaldehyde, Velvet Tan antler, 4-in-1 solution, and many other options. This may seem like a complicated process. So if you are unfamiliar with it, it may be a better idea to overthrow the stag from the mountain and bring it to your taxidermist so he can keep the antler with preservative or frozen food. Dry the rack. You could also put small holes in the tops of the rack and hang upside down in a tree in the hope that some blood will drain. I know several people who just hang out, and I even saw their deer after they left the mountain, and there was nothing wrong with their velvet before they got it to a taxidermist.

I think it looks much better to keep the real velvet on a deer's mountain than fake velvet (and cheaper), so I always keep velvet in the field.

Article needed for velvet preserve

Deer antler velvet preserve and syringe

Below is the method I learned from my taxidermist. As I said earlier, you could just pierce the tops of the antlers and let them sit upside down in the shade … but to me, that seems like you might have trouble, because those little cuts could split the tissue and attract insects tend to crack during drying.

Word of caution: Regardless of what type of backcountry velvet preservation you use (formaldehyde or others), ALWAYS Wear eye protection and gloves. The liquid preserves whatever touches it, so do not let it affect you. I have been working in the biology field for so many years and have seen what formaldehyde can do and that is quite uncomfortable.


Step 1

Velvet antler preserving materials

I prefer to use formaldehyde, which I get in small doses from my taxidermist. As mentioned earlier, however, you can use other "safer" methods. Put on a pair of rubber gloves (I usually double myself) and put on sunglasses, take your knife and open the package with canned food, syringe and needle. I usually store my preserve in an old plastic water bottle to keep the weight down, and then wrap it in tons of tape so it will not open, and then I double the Ziplock bag. You can never be too careful!

step 2

Next, take your syringe needle (or knife) and drill a small hole in the tip of each antler teeth, and even along some of the major veins visible along the main girder. This is a step that helps your velvet preserve / blood to penetrate through the veins and out the tops of the frame.

step 3

Pull velvet antler into syringe

Take your syringe and pull out some solution. I always start injecting at the bases near the skull and work toward the tips, but you can start anywhere in the rack. Begin injecting a portion of the material into each vein canal. Then work down the main jet and inject it into the middle of the veins. You'll know you're doing it right when you see the blood and velvety preservative solution leaking out of the small holes in the veins or leaking out of the antlers.

Inject deer antler with formaldehyde

You can visually see the veins and know where to inject them, or you can use your fingernail and move the antlers down until you find a vein that passes horizontally through the beam. I like to go from top to bottom on the back tines as the veins in this area have a lot of blood. Then I repeat the process and try to get the solution out of the tips rather than towards the base.

Injection of antler main ray vein with formaldehyde

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Step 4

Inject deer antler with formaldehyde for preservation

Spray the preserve into all veins and even into the antlers tips. At this point you should start to see some blood and discolored solution on the tips and bases. I do not feel that you can add too much solution to the antler veins. I'll go over each antler a few times to make sure I've gotten into every vein.

Clear velvet preserve from antler tips

You still want to inject the solution into the venous lines until the canned material that emerges from the tips of the tines matches the color of the solution. You may notice some blood at the beginning, but in the end the clear solution should flow out of the velvet.

Conserve velvet stag in the field

Step 5

Hanging deer antlers made of velvet after the application of preserves

When you are done with every antler, you want to find a nice shady area to hang the antlers so that animals can not reach it. Note: In this phase, I continue to hang my antlers on the head, so that the preserve can flow from the velvet.

Step 6

Application of formaldehyde on the outside of velvet antlers

Once the solution has dried and you do not see anything from the antler tines, you can easily apply some of the solution to the velvet. You could use a brush at this stage if you want to pack one in the mountains. My preferred method is to simply use the syringe, spray the solution lightly and then brush the velvet by hand. My taxidermist told me about this step, and he said that this is often overlooked, but very important, because this step will prevent small mistakes from getting into the velvet and getting into areas where there is no blood.

After all these steps, you have a beautiful velvet shelf that you can be proud of, and your velvet does not rot. When you leave the mountain, try to bring the rack to a taxidermist immediately, or place the entire rack in a freezer until you can send it off.

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