Trophy care, transportation and taxidermy combine to make a big broad question, and one that’s important on which to reach an understanding with your outfitter or professional hunter prior to your trip. What you agree on should be incorporated into the written hunting agreement signed by both parties.
In North America, it’s common on fully-guided hunts for the guide to be responsible for trophy care in the field such as caping the animal and prepping the hide, horns, skull, etc. This may include salting, freezing, or whatever is appropriate to the camp you’re in. A qualified guide needs to be versed in all of these skills and understand what’s required in skinning and caping to create the type of mount that you want for your wall. You should know, too, so it’s important to have discussed this with your selected taxidermist ahead of time. The taxidermist will be able to provided advice and tips that will help ensure you receive the highest quality trophy when it’s all said and done. Mistakes in the field or in camp, when it comes to trophy handling, can’t be “undone.” So know what’s required ahead of time.
Generally, in North America, it’s your responsibility to get the trophy from camp to the taxidermist, so come prepared with the equipment and knowledge to do so. A roll of duct tape goes a long way!
If you’re travel includes airlines, be sure you know their regulations and restrictions regarding transportation of hides and horns. Also check out the state regulations for transport of trophies, and especially the Customs and Federal Fish & Wildlife Agency laws if you’ll be crossing international borders. Discussion with your highly-rated outfitter is a good place to start as he knows the experiences of his previous customers and can offer good advice. However, don’t rely solely on the outfitter’s information — rules and regulations can change while he or she is up on the mountain, so up-to-date regs, in writing, acquired directly from the governmental agency are always the best.
Some outfitters who handle a large number of hunters through a central clearing point (like caribou camps in the north) will have a taxidermist/expiditor on hand for the season who can handle care, transport and even mounting if you like. Ask if your outfitter offers this handy service.
As for the selection of a taxidermist, you should do your research well ahead of time, and know exactly where you’ll be taking/sending your trophy well before you begin your hunt. While it works once in a while, asking for a taxidermist recommendation from your guide while you’re standing over your trophy leads to frustration, disappointment, anger and regret more often than not.
Hunting overseas is a different story. There are so many regulations and requirements for handling and shipping trophies internationally, that outfitters/professional hunters frequently employ agents to handle this for them. There are nearly always additional expenses related to handling and shipping trophies internationally, even if the bulk of the taxidermy work will be handled back home. So there are no unpleasant surprises at the end of your hunt, you should discuss these costs and get them in writing from your professional hunter when you book the hunt. And don’t expect your foriegn trophies to show up at home when you do. A year is pretty much the standard time frame for trophies to make it home from Africa, Asia and elsewhere. There will be additional expenses related to expiditors moving the shipment through ports of entry and inspection. Your outfitter has no control over these costs, and they are just part of the game when it comes to international hunting.
Field and camp care of your trophies in Africa and elsewhere is part of the hunt. Quality PHs and their guides are trained and highly skilled in handling and prepping hides, horns and skulls. It’s part of their extensive training to become a licensed operator.