taxidermy as a career

Submitted by Eric on 3/11/02. ( )

I was just going through the archives reaing everything that sounded interesting because I can't get enough TAXIDERMY! I just finished my first coyote and I'm pretty excited. I've been reading and re-reading my Breakthrough and Taxidermy Today. I love it!
Anyhow, the constant question was addressed in the archives quite frequently: Can a person make a good living at this?
There were some interesting points. Bill Yox had some good ideas and someone else said that they thought that if a person had a dozen or so wealthy clients that they would make a good living just off of them. That sounds good, but isn't that basing too much on a small market? I mean, those people aren't going to live for ever, heck, they might not even hunt forever. Seems like a lot to base your livelihood on.
Several people mentioned how even poor folkd like myself will pay good money to have their buck or whatever mounted, even if that means waiting to pay their other bills. That I can relate too. I've been known to get too excited and spend my money.
Enough rambling. My question is, Well, it was gonna be:Can a person make a good living doing taxidermy? I'll rephrase it and maybe I;ll get different answers to this often-asked question. HOW CAN A PERSON MAKE A GOOD LIVING DOING TAXIDERMY?
A150 deerheads at $300 buck a piece would be a decent living,but is that realistic? And this trade is so seasonal. I think I just gonna go part-time ,but I am confused, ther eare so many conflicting answers.
Thanks for your time!
P.S. There was a cool psoting in the archives. It was quite humorous. Maybe I can hear some newer stories. It was basically stories about specimens that customers had brought in. You know, like deer heads that were bagged and sat in the car trunk for days. Or deer heads cut off below the ears and the customer wanted a shoulder mount. It was really interesting. Got any new stories? Thanks, Eric J.

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This response submitted by Old Fart on 3/11/02. ( )

Realistic is 100 deer heads at $500 a head. Run your numbers, taking all your expenses into account. That means insurances, vehicle expense, heat or air conditioning, electric, advertizing and capital investment. Expenses for a deer head are far greater that the cost of the form, tanning , eyes, glue, earliners and thread to sew it up. Then you have to ad in a profit on the money you invest to produce the finished head. Then figure your wage for the time you spend on a head, don't forget to figure the time you use for bookwork, ordering, cleanup in the shop and repairs on everything from knife sharpening to airbrush cleaning, not to mention the time you will have to spend with the customer. After all that what do you have left out of the $300 price to pay yourself per hour?

Eric, you have done one coyote

This response submitted by John C on 3/12/02. ( )

Yes, I understand your burning desire to mount animals. But dont jump the gun.

Old Fart knows listen to him!
Yes five good clients will develope into ten good client.

Fisrt learn to win Blue ribbon on every mount.

Some will disagree, but the reasoning is this. "When you can turn out that type of mount you can set a high standard for your cliant and demand high prices."

Get tons of reference materials, videos, and then go and do many one on one workshops, go the best teachers. You will then be two up on 95% of your local competiton.

Next promote your work, thru showing those mounts and ribbons. Show what you can do! Develope the best show room in your state then hang on.


This response submitted by Mick on 3/12/02. ( )

My experience indicates that the general public largely views our profession as a seasonal one. Albeit, the big game hunting season may indeed be seasonal, but the work involved in producing mounts that came in during this short seasonal "spurt", runs considerably longer. Eric consider this,you're going to average ten hours per head labor, you'll probably knock off a couple of hours after you've developed your skills, multiplied by your 150 heads equates to 1500 hours, or 37 1/2 weeks of 40 hr. weeks, leaving you 14 1/2 weeks to handle whatever fish, birds, mammals (large and small) and misc. dead critters that pass the threshold into your shop. This isen't taking into consideration the various other time consuming tasks involved with running your own business. Are you begining to see my point? For the full-timer, the only thing seasonal about the business, is the duration of the seasons themselves. You won't be able to make a "decent" living in this industry until you 1) Fill All of your available work hours on a year round basis and 2) Charge enough so that when all is said and done, you are still making a "decent" hourly rate.


This response submitted by jim marsico on 3/12/02. ( )

WARNING!,taxidermitous is a desease. BE VERY CAREFUL what you wish for.

John C.

This response submitted by Eric on 3/12/02. ( )

John C.
I have also done a couple fox, some deerheads and an antelope. I'm not jumping the gun. I'm just excited about this as a hobby.
Your wisdom on here has been very helpful to me and many others. I thank you.
As far as seasonal, I mean if I only do mammal, part-time, there is only so many months out f the year that I am going to get anything in. I realize there is cleanup and such, but if I'm not mounting anything in the summer I won't be cleaning up.
I think a lot of people think that this is the best career for an outdoorsman. They think it's so profitable. I believe that is a bunch of crap.
So basically I shouldn't even try to make a living at this?
Isn't making 25k working for yourself better than 30k working at a mill every day?
I just thought I would get more diverse answers, not just the negative ones I hear all the time.
If making a living in this field is so horrible, why are so many of you doing it and loving it? Hey, if that is the truth I better start looking for another way to make a living that I'll enjoy.
Thanks you for taking the time to respond, and yes John C., Old Fart knows his stuff. Thanks, Eric

Too late for you Eric

This response submitted by George on 3/12/02. ( )

We just gave you all the down side of the industry and you STILL INSIST that you're excited about it. Damn, it's already too late for you. You sound just like we did years ago. Give 'em hell, son.

Eric, what summer?

This response submitted by Mick on 3/12/02. ( )

If you're deer season ends in December, and you start your deer mounts immediatly, 37 1/2 weeks later, you'll have completed your 150 deerheads, you'll also have used up 9 1/4 months, So your summer is gone. Now you'll have just enough time to complete the birds and small game that you've had on hold, because you were busy tanning all of your own capes, then get started on the fish that have been coming in all spring and summer, and with any luck, be done before deer season opens again. Now if you sometimes witness cantankerous behavior from some of the guys who do this for a living, like Old Fart, George and John C., when they haven't had their Metimucel, you'll have a better understanding as to why. Seriously, if you're set on making a business for yourself, heed the advice that has been given to you here, and become the Best that you can be, only then will you get away with charging a premium price. Believe me when I tell you, 150 deerheads is an awful lot of work for a one man shop, and it's going to seem like even more if you're working for peanuts.

Mick, I see what you mean

This response submitted by Eric on 3/12/02. ( )

I see where you are coming from and I thank you for your input. I could see how it could keep a man extremely busy most of the year.
I want to become the best I can even if I only do my own mounts or mounts for friends.
I am just trying to understand this more. You would not believe the people, friends and relatives, that say "When are you gonna get licensed and open your shop?" This is coming from people who have no idea what is involved. They just think, "Wow, $300 for a deer head, that's not bad money."
I do want to get licensed and work at this part-time, but I don't feel I'm ready for the test and I don't have enough specimens yet. From what I've learned here it is VERY hard to make a good living at this. One excellent taxidermist I spoke to said your lucky to make 20 grand a year at this. And he does excellent work, including African game. Taxidermists are underappreciated and underpaid. I don't know how many times I was told that on here.
So basically, from what I've gathered: yes, you CAN make money at this, BUT only if you are the very best in your area and if you want to devote your life to it. And NO, you can't make ends meet doing just 100 deer heads at $275, for example, and only an example.
Am I correct in saying this?
Thanks again, Eric


This response submitted by Frank on 3/12/02. ( )

I have said this before...some agree some do not- deerheads are not the cream off the crop when it comes to making top dollar at taxidermy.Wether you are quick at them or not.Wether you tan your own or send them out, deerheads bring with them alot of overhead.

Think about how much space doing 200 deer a year will take up. Think about all the supplies you will have to send for... and pay shipping on. And also think of the price increases on supplies and shipping that happen "after" you took in the mount.

Fish in my opinion, bring the most profit...and have a faster return.
With some phone work all items needed except eyes, can be found locally for doing fish. That is a huge savings in itself. Fish also require very little work space to do.And the last time I checked no one was doing commercial fish tanning!

Don't get me wrong there is money to be made in both. My studio does over 200 of each a year. But when its tax time every year the truth is easy to see.

Some one above mentioned charging as much as you can get. My advise is this in 20 years I have never run out of taxidermy work to do and at times you can't beat even beat away customers with a stick. Charge as much as the market will bare. Good luck

some thoughts...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 3/12/02. ( )

I dont agree with the fish vs deerhead statement. Well not all of it. Deer ARE the bigger money maker in MY opinion. Guys are going to get every big deer they can get, mounted...period. They wont mount every successive big fish, though. Fish divided by overhead+labor+space, etc, IS a better money maker, no arguement there. In a business plan, but not as work comes in. Thats my take on it. Eric, you mentioned wanting more diverse opinions, not just the usual negative answers. BINGO, my man, you got the answer thats out there! IF you can work very hard and not goof off, you CAN make a decent living. Want some ground rules? These oughtta hit home with some of the boys here...NO collecting antlers, they are too expensive. NO hunting trips under the assumption youll get all the work from that trip, it dont always work that way. DONT build a studio enroute to a good fishing spot, all your friends will drop by to take you along. DONT get that competition bug to bite too hard. Keep the phone far away from the mounting stand, once you make friends in this industry, youll see that they all live in different cities...can you say long distance? Im having fun with this, of course, but those are real. The best advice you got today was to charge enough. Twenty grand doing what you like ISNT better then thirty grand through someone else. One boss vs 60 bosses, and you need to wait for each one of them to decide what day is payday! The mortgage is still the same rate, regardless of how happy you are working, dont forget THAT side of the fence as well! One good thing though. While you enjoy doing the work, youll soon be able to write your OWN funny stories about customers with blue deer heads turning purple, etc. I know I have some goofy analogies, and heres another. The grass MAY be greener on the other side, but hey, you STILL need to mow it no matter which side of the fence you work...

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