By Mike Willis
There is nothing better than a quality mount on the wall to remind you of a successful hunt. Taxidermy is a great way to preserve these memories and display a trophy animal.
Last week we discussed the need for choosing a taxidermist before you get a trophy animal on the ground. Now let’s take a look at how you can identify a great taxidermist who will help you create that perfect mount!
When visiting a taxidermist shop, look around! You can glean a lot of information by observing an individual in their workspace.
Things to observe:
- When visiting your potential taxidermist, make sure that there aren’t rotting hides lying everywhere. Untanned hides, wadded up all over, are a sure sign that you need to move on. Good taxidermists will only have out what they are currently working on. While it is not uncommon for them to work multiple animals simultaneously, you need to make sure that they are not neglecting people’s trophies. Once a hide begins to rot, the hair will slip. There is no reversing this process.
- Look at their predator mounts. Predator mounts are very difficult to do properly. If they have great predator mounts, you will likely be happy with anything else they produce.
Questions to ask:
- Cost: Cost will vary widely depending on the type and size of animal and your choice of mount. It is always a good idea to ask around to other taxidermists to make sure your quote is reasonable. However, even though the price of taxidermy is a factor, it is not the only consideration!
- Experience: When speaking with a potential taxidermist, don’t hesitate to ask how long they have been in the business. Don’t forget that there are often multiple people working out of a shop. If you see work that you do or don’t like, ask who did it. This will help you identify who should do your work. It is also a good idea to ask which animals he or she specializes in.
- Turn-around time: Ask the taxidermists how long their turn-around time is. You should expect the mount to take about a year. This timeline is typical because of tanneries. If the taxidermist states that it will be MUCH shorter (or longer), you should be skeptical and proceed with caution.
When evaluating the work of a potential taxidermist, look closely at the following details:
- Ensure the mount has natural positioning. Evaluate each part of the mount. The eyes, ears, mouth, and overall posture should be very natural in appearance.
When looking around the mouth, make sure that the pinholes have been properly filled and are not visible. The skin should be tucked smoothly to give a life-like appearance. Wrinkles and skin tags destroy the look of a mount.
Ear positioning goes a long way in making a mount look great. Lots of times, people can’t figure out what is “off” about a mount when the ears are misplaced. They should also have smooth edges that are free of wrinkles and defects. There should be a soft fleshy color painted inside of the ear. Make sure that the hairs have not been matted together from overspray.
When glancing at the nose, make sure that unfinished areas are not visible from a regular viewing position. The color leading into the nostrils should have a clean transition to a fleshy color. The gloss of the black nose should have an appropriate sheen to mimic a moist surface.
The eyes should have a little bit of white in the corners, and the tear ducts will have a lighter color than the rest of the “moist” eyelid. If the eyes are not looking in the same direction, you have a problem!
When looking at the base of the antlers, ensure there is not an unnatural gap. All hair around the antlers should surround the antler tightly. Make sure that the base of the antler is not elevated.
- Check the seams. Make sure that you can’t tell where the hide has been stitched. A good taxidermist will make seams invisible. Check along the backside of the neck, top of the head, and around antlers. For life-size mounts, look for slits down the back of the legs to ensure that they have been joined properly.
- Look for musculoskeletal structure. Many forms for mounts come with features that highlight muscle structure through the neck on animals such as deer and elk. Good taxidermists know how to mold the hide to these to enhance the look without overemphasizing the contours. These features should give life-like appearance without making the animal look like it was on steroids.
- Evaluate the habitats that are created around the mounts. Some very talented taxidermists struggle to create a realistic habitat. (Not applicable for head/ shoulder mounts).
- Check the hide. Ensure that everything is intact, brushed, and clean. The hide should not be matted or full of burs.
- Check the form size and quality. Make sure that the forms are appropriately sized for the animal. Proper measurements will ensure that the mount does not have excess hide or stretched (weakened) hide. It is not ok to use what’s “laying around” as a form. Forms should always be ordered based on a series of measurements for that specific animal.
Once you identify a taxidermist, you are confident in and excited about working with, initiate the conversation about how they would like you to care for the animal in the field.
Preparing an animal in a way that helps your taxidermist goes so far toward getting a quality mount back. Not only will they appreciate you not creating extra work for them, but they will also have a better animal to work with, directly resulting in a better-quality mount for you!
The off-season is a great time to get to know taxidermists in your area. This will allow you to see him or her processing this year’s animals while giving you a fun way to kill some time between seasons.
Preserve the memory of a lifetime. Find a quality taxidermist today!