About Dennis Behn

As a youngster hunting around his home town of Boone, Iowa, it was evident that Dennis Behn had a fascination with small game and deer. He enrolled in a mail order taxidermy course at age 10, and at the age of 14 he mounted his first whitetail deer. “I can’t attest to the quality of that first mount,” Dennis says, “but I do remember that the form I bought didn’t seem to fit very well. So I started modifying the form by cutting it up, reshaping, and then gluing the pieces back together. And it worked! The skin definitely did fit better.”

This quest for the perfect fit has never left Dennis. Hired in 1971 by Jonas Brothers of Denver, his skills were quickly noted. Within a year and a half he was named foreman and chief sculptor of the taxidermy studio where he remained for eight years.

In 1984, Dennis joined the staff at McKenzie Supply to specialize in sculpting shoulder mounts. Since then Dennis has created extensive and innovative lines of African, mule deer, elk, sheep, caribou, pronghorn antelope, and whitetail deer mannikins. The forms he sculpts have been thoroughly researched and tested. Dennis’ research is ongoing, so he can provide taxidermists with the best fit possible.
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He has been at the forefront of innovation in gamehead mannikins. Dennis is responsible for many “firsts” in the industry, including the first 90 degree elk form (to provide antler clearance) back in the early 70’s, the first molded-in bugling elk mouth, the creation of the first “wall-pedestal” forms for which he coined the name, and the invention of the “pre-rotated” glass eye.    In 2014, Dennis celebrated his 30th year with McKenzie.

Dennis’ taxidermy and sculpting skills have been fine-tuned and developed for 55 years, making him one of the most experienced craftsman in the industry. Dennis pursues his sculpting in the fashion of a true perfectionist. He has won numerous awards at the National and World competitions, including the first Coloman Jonas award. In addition, he continues to give seminars each year throughout the country.

He is also an avid bowhunter and photographer and continues to make numerous study trips each year.

 

6 comments

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  1. philip grandshaw

    I have followed Dennis for many years and have been amazed at the talent he brings to our field. Looking forward to more

  2. David Berger

    I have mounted many animals on Mannikins sculpted by Dennis and other sculptors like him.It is because of men like him that our profession has risen to the level it is today.I also have a question, I have sculpted a few Mannikins that I use in my shop and I am interested in sculpting some for use by the supply industry .Any advice?

  3. Dennis Behn

    David, I am often asked this question and my advise always starts with the same caution: be sure that the forms you make use no parts from any existing production manikin. Over the years many taxidermists have taken an existing form, perhaps made some position change, do their own thing over the surface with clay, and call it their own creation.

    This is not really sculpture. It is in reality simply a “tweak” of someone else’s hard work, countless hours of labor, study, effort, and ability. To call it your own would mean that you started from scratch, using your own research and your own self-made armature (the base on which you apply the clay).

    Having said that (and again, my caution is not aimed at you personally, as I have no idea how you made the forms in question), what you can do is contact the supply companies, including some nice photos, and see what their interest is…

  4. paul Gendron

    what is left once the animal in question is sculpt as detailed as can possibly be amazing work i would like to go full time into taxidermy i am up to 20 deer heads per year so for now it is a side line the 6500 hundred semi sneak is still my most popular the 6300 and 6900 also gaining a lot of interest from my customers people love the mounts i am producing with your forms

  5. Ken Borucki

    Dennis remember you from Jonas days! I am a hobbiest and killed my first Canadian whitetail last year, it was a once in a lifetime hunt and i am putting him on a 6900 semi sneak! My question is he is 7 years old and how should I set the eyes to reflect his age? cant find any photos for that on line>

    1. Dennis Behn

      Hey Ken, if the deer was mine, I would set the eyes in the the pre-sculpted eye socket just as I would any other mount. The only change I might make for the age would be to model the upper brow and lid a bit heavier than usual but I would let the skin dictate how much (obviously don’t over-do it). Hope it turns out well for you!

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