Just looking for opinions -- NOT A WAR

Submitted by Tony on 01/25/2003. ( )

Hey guys,

Okay, I've been decidedly bit by this taxidermy bug. I think I have found what I want to do with the rest of my life. It will be slow going, I realize. But I want to give it a shot.

I have done exactly one deerhead and am working on a turkey. I have three other deer in the planning stages. I just need to find suitable capes and get on them.

I realize this may be premature but I want to toss it out there and get some experienced advice. But before doing so I want to make clear that I'm not trying to cut corners or looking for "cheap" ways to do taxidermy. My goal -- right now -- is not to make my sole living as a taxidermist. I'm a writer and I believe God gave me the ability to write for a reason. I won't waste it. I simply want to expand my abilities and follow through with a dream that I've had for some time. And if I make a little money at it in the process that's great.

I was thinking about going into "business" on a small scale next fall. My plan would be to put an ad in the local rag and announce my interest in mounting deer heads. I want to take in around 10-15 next fall. Maybe a couple more. I'll know a little better after I've got more than one deer under my belt which I will have by summer's end. I was thinking about charging a pretty low fee, say $200. That's well below the average in this area of $300-$450. I'm not trying to undersell the veterans. I simply don't feel it's right to charge a premium price given my limited experience. I will be very upfront with folks. I'll show them my work, offer a satisfaction guarantee and explain that I'm learning and I'm not always going to charge $200. If they have an exceptional animal, I'll give them the names and numbers of guys who have done heads for me and whom I trust. My point is, I have to practice to learn and the only way to practice is to get more heads under my belt.

Okay, after that long-winded explanation my question is this: Is this the wrong approach to take at getting started in the business? If so, what other routes could I take. I really don't have the option of going away for a week or so to attend a formal training school though I'd love to do so. Even then, I'd still need to start mounting more deer at some point. Again, I'm not trying to low-ball anyone. I'm simply trying to attract customers who are willing to give a young guy a chance to learn.

Thanks for the help and the insight.


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Rome...not built in a day

This response submitted by migda's taxidermy on 01/26/2003. ( ljmigda@nmo.net )

Hi tony! Congrats on your interest in taxidermy. Your approach to starting out reminds me of my own beginnings. I would strongly suggest getting a few more mounts under your belt before offering a paying customer a satisfaction guarantee. In fact i never would word it like that! For 200 hundred bucks and that guarantee, your asking for the dreaded el-cheapo, never satisfied moocher type. I know, i've had them! Also seriously under-cutting the local professionals will possibly alienate you and close doors that would be better left open. Possibably a professional taxidermist in your area might consider giving you classes. I always say that if i could start over i would definatly get professional training. You get better faster and dont have to look at all those awful "practise" mounts that you took money for lol. I learned the old school way "trial and error" mostly error. Anyway! those are some things to consider.....hope i've been of help! Good luck in all your endeavors......Jeff

Here's a thought...

This response submitted by PatrickR on 01/26/2003. ( patrickr@usa.com )

Pay a visit to the local taxidermists and explain your position. Ask them to send you their unwanted customers- the ones they don't want to fool with. Perhaps they've had bad dealings with a customer in the past, maybe a personality conflict or such, and would rather not deal with a particular person. OR, they may want to send you their problem customer, which would give you quick experience in dealing with these types early on. Just a thought...PatrickR

An other thought to ponder

This response submitted by Tony B on 01/26/2003. ( )

At this point in your taxidermy career I would be thinking about getting experience / education and the quickest way would be threw schooling now I believe you mentioned that was not an option so I would think the next best was would be to work for a professional even if no money is involved you gain experience and knowledge and the shop gains labor kind of a win win deal for both of you
Just an idea
Good luck


This response submitted by Frank E. Kotula on 01/26/2003. ( basswtrout@aol.com )

Sorry but I have to laugh at it. Charge $200.00 for a head and if you screw up you'll have a law suit on your hands, go for it. No matter what you say to them your working on their throphy and if make a mistake well like Patrick said take care of our unwanted clients.

You may not find an area taxidermist to teach you, reason now is your taking clients from them and their scared of that. So you may have to go out of your area and get some hands on training there. Expect to pay from $200.00 a day or more but it's worth it.

If your going to pratice do it on your own work not on clientel. I get paid to do my work not to pratice it. I'm not a doctor who gets paid to pratice and if he makes a mistake it's still called a pratice.

Please Don't

This response submitted by Rick B on 01/26/2003. ( rbusse@woh.rr.com )

My advice is to get good at what you want to do, then get proficient.
Put yourself in the customers position. You just shot a trophy deer,
would you take it to a beginner? If you wanted a mechanic to work on your automobile, would you take it to amateur who wants to experiment? The same is true with any service industry.
With 21 years of experience under my belt, My best advice is to produce a quality product, CHARGE what it is worth, look like a professional, act like a professional, be a professional! Good Luck

Hunting Trip

This response submitted by Bill on 01/26/2003. ( )

I come here often to read all the posts. I'm the son of a taxidermist.
My question is, has anyone been to the Bow Safari outfitter in OK? I'm wanting to book a hunt and want your advice on this place


This response submitted by Tony on 01/26/2003. ( )

I hear what you're saying. That you shouldn't charge unless you're good enough. And I do agree to a point. I don't think anyone who goes to MAACo for a $189 paint job expects the same kind of perfection you get elsewhere. But, of course, I'm not going to start taking money if I'm not certain I can produce an acceptable head. Will it be of the same detailed sophistication as yours or anyone else who has done hundreds of heads? Probably not. But that would be in my upfront explanation. I'll tell people that I'm just starting. I'll show them what I've done and let them decide for themselves if it's fair. Like I said earlier, if it's an animal that's simply incredible or really has super-special meaning, I might refer them elsewhere. But we have a lot of 110-120 class whitetails that guys would like mounted but don't necessarily think they're large enough to pay $400. Those would be perfect for me to gain more experience on. See what I'm saying? I'm not trying to lowball or discredit the vets. Not in any way. I'm just looking for the way to get the experience I need without charging the price that the veterans have earned. And the school/learning from another idea is great. But how many heads do you get to do in a week seminar? See what I'm saying. I think repition builds experience builds proficiency.

Like I said, I don't want a war and everyone really has been terrific thus far. I'm just trying to figure out what the next step is. Because I know one thing . . . I like this way too much to do just 1 or 2 deer of my own each year.

Thanks again all.

One other clarification . ..

This response submitted by Tony on 01/26/2003. ( )

About that satisfaction guarantee . . .

I wouldn't have any hard and fast rule in writing. I know enough about law to know THAT's asking for trouble. I would have a 50% deposit with the understanding that they won't get that back. But at the time of completion if there's obviously something wrong with the head and I scewed it up, I won't charge the rest of the fee. Of course, I realize there will be some "el-cheapos" but I do have the benefit of living in a fairly small town and I should be able to screen clients fairly well. I only need a dozen heads or so at this point. But, I agree, a satisfaction guarantee is a dangerous thing and I'll have to think carefully as to how it will work. I'm just concerned, as Rick pointed out, that guys won't want to take their deer to a beginner. But I really don't think I should lie to them and tell them I'm something I'm not yet.

We started...

This response submitted by Becky P on 01/26/2003. ( )

out by mounting some of our own deer. Then my husband took them to work with him. Some of the guys up there wanted him to do theirs. At first we only charged for materials. As experience increased so did the price. They knew we were just learning. They didn't care. They basically let us practice on deer that they would not have had mounted anyway, only cost to them was materials. But let me say this again, these were deer that would not have been mounted if they would have had to pay $400 for, so we were not taking business from other taxis to learn. So they got a mount, we got to learn, and now we do alot of business we them for real money. They became good customers and it grew from there. That's how we started. Actually sorta by accident as we were not really planning on doing things for other people. He only took them to work to show them off, not to get business.
Have fun and good luck. BP


This response submitted by Rick on 01/26/2003. ( )

Make an investment in yourself! Buy 10 or more capes, mount them up, learn from them. Go to some state shows, private instruction, attend seminars, get critiqued by the pros. Give yourself a year or so to develope some skill. With the education available today, and if you really want to devote your time and effort you could produce some good commercial work in that amount of time.
Before you go into business, ask yourself, do I want customers to come to me because I'm cheap or good at what I do?
I took in 185 whitetails this year. Many of them in the 110-120" class. They are trophies to the hunters that took them, and they have money for what's important to them and believe me thier deer is important to the majority.
If you insist on building your reputatation on being cheap, I can't be of assistance to you. Good Luck with your decision.

Again . . .

This response submitted by Tony on 01/27/2003. ( )

Great comments all and I appreciate them. But I do want to reiterate I have no intentions of being "Cheap." My hope is that I can become good enough to charge the type of fees I would expect to pay (and have paid) for top-notch work. But I simply can't charge $500 for the experience I have. I have thought of the route Becky suggested, doing heads for buddies at cost. That's how one of my friends started their traditional archery shop and now they're among the world's best. And that's likely the route I'll go. But we practice strict QDM in my circle of friends and there's no guarantee I'll get even one head next year let alone five or six or more. But you never know. I am, as I mentioned earlier, going to buy three capes at least for working on in the coming months.

Again thanks for the comments. An dI just want to make clear that I'm not trying to get into a cheap taxi business. Not in the least. My price suggestion was simply a one-time deal to get A) plenty of heads to work on and B)A start at what I hope becomes something special.

Thanks for all the help.

how do you give advice to a question like this?

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/27/2003. ( )

We pounded this same question into the ground for years now, since this forum opened. By now, if guy still asks, he isnt getting it. If we price our work based on hours, and we take MORE time, why would we charge LESS money? Look, all of us here cant tell you what to charge, you already have an idea of how youll do it in spite of our comments for questions like this, so why bother? "Im not trying to be the cheapest..." Well, you achieved it without trying, then! Ask all the folks here who foolishly thought be less money brought work. Took them the longest to be taken seriously. How else can we say it? Hope it all works out for you.

Start . . .

This response submitted by Scott on 01/27/2003. ( )

. . . by calling Texas game farms, etc. A majority of them are friendly and very approachable. Explain to them that you are just starting out and that you would like their extra skins and etc. to practice taxidermy on. They will send you ALL kinds of problems - hair slip, bad cuts, etc. - and if you honestly tackle every one and attempt to create a work of art from each on YOU WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT TAXIDERMY than you can in a school. If you successfully train your self in this type of atmosphere you will already have a great clientele for your business when you decide to do it for money. DO NOT get me wrong, school would be a great start, but with a helpful forum such as this, you should be able to train yourself if YOU HAVE AN EYE FOR DETAIL, and you are a PERFECTIONIST. Good Luck.

it aint easy

This response submitted by samantha on 01/27/2003. ( cervin@hotkey.net.au )

I am a beginner too, so i know where your comming from, but,
I have offered "free" taxidermy to people with thier understanding b4 i do anything, that im a beginner.I wont take anything that people consider "trophies", just stuff they wouldnt pay big dollars for anyhow and would waste.
If i had $100 for every time someone complained about something... even getting it free dont stop them.(had to say $100 as i dont get many specimens.lol.)
The only difference between you and i though is......
You HAVE access to taxi schooling, pro taxidermists willing to teach, some in thier homes i see, a wide array of fauna at your back door, you can even BUY capes of just about anything......
Where as I have to scrape stuff off the highway for practice.I basicly have to beg for dead animals to learn on and then i still dont get anything, and i have to learn to do it on my own without help.
Take advantage of the resources you have, which are many.Take the advice of the guys above me.

Starting out

This response submitted by Rick on 01/27/2003. ( )

Tony, It is never easy starting a new business. It souds to me like you are like a lot of us who started their taxi careers out of a basement or garage. I started mine about 20 years ago because I thought I would save myself some money and I wanted to learn how to do taxidermy. You can get the experience by starting out like you are now, but invest say 100-200 dollars in some good tapes and reference material, also subscribe to"Breakthrough" taxidermy magazine.

Buy a few capes or skins to practice on. When you think your work is good enough charge what you want. I only charge 300 dollars for a deer, but thats all I need for my time and materials. Do not always equate cheap prices with bad work this is not always the case. Charge what you want but always get a deposit.

Good luck on your new adventure.


Thanks again and good advice

This response submitted by Tony on 01/27/2003. ( )

Thanks once more for the help. I think Rick's advice is the most sound. And I was relieved to see that most responders were willing to think a bit and offer advice. The only exception was the response from Bill Yox which seemed a little strange. I'm not asking how much to charge. The only talk of price was about how much I would charge for one year to get started. After that, I'd charge what I feel is fair. Maybe I don't think $400 is fair. Maybe I will. I'm not sure at this point but the point wasn't about charging customers but getting started . . . Maybe Mr. Yox should reread the questions and the comments. It's amazing really that someone with the reputation that Mr. Yox for attention to details could miss the mark so widely with his comments.

Anyway, I'm going to continue to research and study. I've already bought about $300 in tapes, manuals, etc. This isn't something I just started thinking about. I've been interested for about 10 years, seriously interested for the last 2-3. I just never stepped up and dove in until now. And I feel I want to start looking towards that next step. Every business needs a business plan. It should be laid out well before any capital is invested, before any commitments are made. This is simply my way of thinking ahead. Someday I will have a studio. I know that much. I'm just trying to work out the best route for getting there.

pay attention to details

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/27/2003. ( )

And you say you write? You said, and I quote..."Is this the wrong approach to take at getting started in the business?" and "Im simply trying to attract...". And I answered you. Sorry the honesty bothers you. Ill leave you be, as I probably cant help you anyway. Like I said the first time, for what its worth...

Come on Bill . . .

This response submitted by Tony on 01/27/2003. ( )

What's with the personal attacks? I'm not trying to pick an argument. And I don't understand your disdain. I'm not talking about what to charge. As I wrote earlier, I only offered the $200 as a hypothetical situation to get some deer heads to become more proficient. Not to base an entire business on that price. My query was simply whether it was a good way to get started. I'm sure you didn't start off charging the price you've earned now. But, whatever, I don't dislike the honesty. In fact I welcome it. I only took mild offense at the insinuation that I was trying to be "cheap." When I wrote repeatedly that I was not.

And now you've gone from telling me I'm cheap to questioning my validity as a writer? That's easier to prove than my genuine interest in starting off on the right foot. Check out the National Shooting Sports Foundation's outdoors writing contest. I'm the only five-time first-place winner. That's five years running. You can also find me in Bowhunter, Traditional Bowhunter, Turkey Call and several newspaper across the country.

Look, Bill. I've admired your work from afar on the Internet, in Breakthrough Magazine and such. Don't taint yourself with pettiness. This was a legitimate question. Of course, I don't know what's right and wrong in starting a taxi. business. I've never done it. I was hoping some of those who have found success could help steer me in the right direction, just as I do with my writing.

Again, sorry if I offended you and I'll look elsewhere from now on, I suppose, for guidance. Good luck to all on the site. You'll not be bothered by me again.

I'M being personal?

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/28/2003. ( )

Petty? Come on! YOU are the one who fingered me out after I answered you like I do anyone else in here. Take it like a man, or go back to your writing contest. You blow it way out of proportion, and then read between lines stuff that Im NOT saying. Yep, youll really kick ass in this biz, with that attitude. Im on your side, whether you read it that way or not. Some of the guys youll encounter wont be, though. Just drop it, though, as I dont feel like another silly argument. I gave you good advice. I dont know you, I personally dont mind whether you do or dont make it, I was just answering mostly generically. People every day take this same advice from me and dont wear it as a personal attack.

heres the feel good cuddly version

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/28/2003. ( warm,nicesmellingbubblebath.net )

Heres a last reply for this inquiry. I dont talk this way, I dont think this way. In fact, you know that voice inside your head, the one thats like a continuous narrative? That voice doesnt even talk like this. But Ill do it just this once, so as not to offend those who still dont know how to take my written word.

I personally wouldnt suggest pricing work, even beginning work, too far less than the going rate. Most times the going rate is cut already. The single biggest stumbling block to learning taxidermy usually isnt anatomy and shrinkage, its cash flow and getting work.

I wouldnt reccommend taking work at lower prices to learn, and definitely, for the time being, wouldnt offer any gaurantees. I would do some stuff for friends and others who hear through the grapevine that you are experimenting. Mounts for the camp, garage or childrens playrooms, for instance. Theyll still pay for it, no need to half price it. Use K-Mart as an example...remember them?

Other routes would include digging up old racks and mounting them, and remounting them as well. Keeps the cost down. Basically, if you practice and review your manuals and videos, youll improve quickly enough to advance into charging for your time.

Now, having said this, my first answer addressed what happens under you current plan. It did not answer your inquiry categorically, but moved ahead instead, as we have, as I pointed out to no one in particular, that we address this question quite frequently. Go too far below the average price, and Im afraid youll someday be back asking the second most asked question in here...

nice going Bill

This response submitted by terry v on 01/28/2003. ( search@orange.button )

you scared him away. can you try that with ET or ed or whatever he calls it. :) i guess knowing you made me not see the attact on this poor guy. i reread what you wrote and i still don't see it that way. work on the sugar stuff. that was too bland. he he

Cuddly feel good version?!........Kack....hair ball..kecccch

This response submitted by Leanna on 01/28/2003. ( scardeer@cornernet.com )

Bill, please stick to the real you. Of which WASN'T attacking anyone or anything. Geeze this get's old. You answer an asked question and get your hand slapped by the splintered ruler no matter WHAT.

Terry....I'm SO glad you mentioned it before I did. There were no personal attacks.

And I thought that crow I threw out this morning had a bad stink to it.

And dang it

This response submitted by Leanna on 01/28/2003. ( scardeer@cornernet.com )

Don't charge $200 for a deer mount. If you are charging only $200 dollars because you feel you are offering limited experience, then don't offer your experience until you have some worth offering. This is where hacksidermy falls into place and sticks it's rearing ugly arse into Taxidermys misjudgedness. Practice on everybodies stuff only if it's been given to you to keep.

If I sound rabid, it's because I feel rabid about this. Don't jump out there till you are ready too. Taxidermy already carries a bad karma in certain circles.

before we get too far...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/28/2003. ( )

Look at "Advice for guys getting started" in this heading. I started that thread. Tony posted there too, and I replied. Hopefully more positive?

Do we need a referree?

This response submitted by Derek on 01/29/2003. ( )

Wow! Is it possible that any other readers see both sides of this coin? On one side there seems to be valid questions and concerns from an individual that is simply eager to learn a new trade...be it a hobby or maybe, a new career. The other, a seasoned artist who apparently has addressed an ancient topic more than once and is simply giving the same sound advice/response.

No need to split hairs.

I too am considering taxidermy, but only as a hobby. I have some eye pleasing work hanging on my wall from several different taxidermists, depending on where I lived at the time of the hunt. If I can create specimens that are close to what I have paid to other excellent artists, then I may offer my work to the public. But it will be on par with the surrounding taxidermists' fees. I won't charge less than $350. But, I won't do public work until I can create a mount worthy of my own wall. (And I'm picky).

heck, check the new post

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/29/2003. ( )

We dont need zebras, we practically all kissed and made up already. Thats the nature of this forum, we are all on the same side.

What state are you in

This response submitted by Snake on 01/30/2003. ( )

What state are you from, because most states won't let you do any work on anything but your own stuff. Just checking.

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