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A taxidermy idea for your child's first deer

My daughter killed her first deer this season. Naturally, it was a big deal in our house — I'm telling you, there's no smile in the world like your child's first-deer smile. It's a big deal in any hunting family; something to be commemorated and remembered.

The deer was a button buck with just one tiny antler less than an inch high, and she dropped it in its tracks with one shot from an AR-15 in .223. She wanted to save the antler, so we carefully cut it off the skull and drilled a hole in it for her to wear as a necklace. But she is dying to have a place on our taxidermy wall, so I hit the Web for ideas while the tenderloins marinated.

That's when I stumbled upon Lowcountry Game Panels. They make custom panels and plaques to display all sorts of taxidermy, and the "First Deer" plaque caught my eye. Perfect! I emailed the owner, George, and told him what I was looking for. We decided on the type of wood, the shape of the panel (I asked for one in the shape of our home state of Alabama, where she shot the deer), and whether or not I wanted it painted pink. I didn't — she's not a pink kind of girl — but I did settle on a touch of pink on the border of the plaque. $25 and a few days later, the panel arrived in the mail with a little "1st Deer" sign to put on it.

With the help of some YouTube videos, a really sharp knife and this hide tanning formula tanned the tail myself. It was my first experience with fleshing and tanning, and I was nervous about screwing up something as irreplaceable as my kid's first deer tail, but it tanned perfectly. We saved the case from the cartridge she killed the deer with and glued it to the panel along with a couple of pictures.

She couldn't be prouder of her "trophy," though she is still deciding where she wants to hang it. She's leaning toward moving my buck over to the corner so she can have my spot in the center of the taxidermy wall. And you know what? I'll probably let her have it. She's earned it.

Maggie's first deer-plaque

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