We've all seen buck mounts that look like scarecrows with antlers and fox and bobcat mounts that make us wonder if the taxidermist was envisioning "two-week-old road kill" when he started. But that's not what our trophies looked like when we pulled the trigger or released our bowstring. There is a surprising number of hunters who don't seem to mind if their wall-hanger could be mistaken for a Muppet Show extra, and there are taxidermists out there to accommodate them and take their money. I am not that hunter nor that taxidermist. 

 

 

 

 

I am presenting the following information because I have met a lot of hunters who are disappointed with the taxidermy that is on their walls. I can identify with that emotion. Many years ago, I filled a pronghorn tag that was rare to draw and I took that pronghorn to a well respected "award winning" taxidermist. I was not happy with the result. I instantly began doing all of my own big game taxidermy and in turn, it has played a large part in why I have started The Autumn Addiction Taxidermy. 

There are a lot of taxidermists around. Skill levels range from very, very good to very, very poor. There is no test to pass, education required, or minimum skill level requirement to receive a license to do taxidermy; you simply purchase it. It's hard to know the quality of craftsmanship that you are paying for with all these grandiose claims of "award winning" this and "Master" that, especially since I've seen taxidermists buy mounts from other taxidermists and display them in their shops as if they had done the mount themselves. I've also seen taxidermists enter terrible, God-awful, so-bad-you-can-smell-it ten feet away (literally) mounts in competitions and come away with awards simply because nobody else entered a mount in that particular category. Technically, that's "award winning" but that label wouldn't make me feel any better about having spent the money on it. And lately there is a trend toward giving every mount that enters a competition a ribbon. That's right, there are no losers, just like in T-ball. Taxidermy Associations are run by volunteers and the associations need money to stay afloat. They don't want to offend their sugar daddies. Over the past few years, I've seen an extremely bad taxidermist come away with red ribbons while some very good taxidermy pieces received those same red ribbons. That makes it all effectively worth zero to me. Taxidermy judges often have no integrity nor credibility anymore. So beware the sham of "award winning" and "Master" braggadocio. Some are. Some are in name only. Some aren't at all.

In this economy, if people even consider having taxidermy done, I understand that the first considerations are price and location. Everybody wants the "best deal" and with gasoline prices being what they are, nobody wants the added expense of driving a great distance. However, there are other considerations, such as what the mount will look like and how long it will last. You put a lot of money into your hunting license, tag, scouting, gasoline, ammunition, gear, and probably meat processing. And aside from some of your gear, how much of that will you still be looking at five, ten or fifteen years from now? If it's worth keeping on the wall, isn't it worth doing it right?

Keep in mind that a taxidermist who is using quality parts and services, including tanning and shipping, will have spent $150 to $250 out of pocket on your deer shoulder mount, not including his or her own labor, and much more on a larger animal or a life-size mount. Think on that for a moment. If your taxidermist only charges you $150 for a deer shoulder mount, he hasn't even paid his own out-of-pocket expenses, unless of course, he has cut some corners, like not having the hide tanned. In a humid room these mounts smell like carion. I know this because people have asked me if I can repair these mounts. They can't be fixed, only re-mounted with a new cape, which you will have to pay $100 or much higher for, in addition to the full price of a shoulder mount. You will have doubled your price in an attempt to save $50 to $150. If you spend $465 at one of these "best price in town" taxidermists for a deer or pronghorn shoulder mount, that taxidermist has either not used quality materials or is not putting the time and care into your mount that it deserves, and this WILL be evident in a side-by-side comparison with a good mount.

Personally, I spend a minimum of two and a half complete days on every deer shoulder mount. If a taxidermist is charging you $465 and trying to make a living, I promise you, your mount is not getting that attention to detail, and it WILL be evident in the end result. That's not to say that perfection can be bought at any price, because any taxidermist who takes his or her work seriously can always find an aspect of any mount that they believe they could have done better in retrospect.

When evaluating a taxidermist's work, the bottom line is you want it to look pleasing, not stink, and make you happy when you see it. In short, it shouldn't look like a wild-eyed cartoon character or like it was beat about the head with a fish whacker. The ears shouldn't look like big greasy potato chips. The eyes should look symmetrical and realistic, the cape should be firmly attached around the antler pedicles, the nose should look realistic and not be filled in with black spackle, and you shouldn't be able to read the word "Kellogs" on your "ear liner" through the ear skin. And believe me, a taxidermist's age or how long he's been in business has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of his mount. Like I said earlier, a surprising number of people don't mind the look of highway bumper-thumper on their wall. If you aren't one of them, keep reading.

There are a number of very, very good taxidermists in Oregon. It's worth it to take the time and search them out. You plan on having that buck on your wall for the rest of your life, right? What exactly is it that you want to see when you look at it? You can start to figure that out by looking around on the internet. Google-search taxidermists in your area. Follow this link to Taxidermy.net and review the websites of other taxidermists in Oregon and around the country. Don't stop with the first two or three websites. It will quickly become clear who's worth your money and who's not. Don't bother with online forum recommendations or reviews. Everybodys' opinion of what is "good taxidermy" or even "acceptable taxidermy" varies. This is about you and your trophy, not what somebody you don't even know believes to be true about something he may know nothing about.

You can start by clicking my "photo gallery" button at the top of this page and spend 3 minutes looking at my work. Every mount that I do includes all of the same steps I would take on any competition piece. My goal is to sharpen my skills through practice and repetition so that when I do enter a mount in a competition, I am as good at it as I can be. The only way to do that is to take advantage of every opportunity to improve, which I do with the completion of every mount, every year.

If you like the quality of my work, it would be an honor for me to mount your trophy for you. If not, find a taxidermist whose work excites you. Don't get stuck on insignificant price differences or variation in turnaround time. You probably don't want what a taxidermist is giving you back in a three-month turnaround.

 

 

Blacktail buck brought to me by a friend who regrets his decision to pay $150

 

Blacktail buck that I mounted at 

The Autumn Addiction Taxidermy

Nose pad and lip from mount above

 

Nose pad and lip detail at TAAT