Is Taxidermy going where Duck Carving did?

Submitted by George on 3/13/02. ( )

I see more and more of it every day. In the last year I've seen two deer mounts in two separate shows get dinged because of "nostril symetry". Both mounts had used Cary Cochrane's competition nose replacements from Buckeye. Today, I see someone grousing that the eye orbits are incorrect on the mannikin. I want to shout, GET REAL. Have you ever LOOKED at a live (or dead for that matter) deer? THERE AIN'T NO "SYMETRY". Deer are like people. I dare you to take a picture of yourself, split it vertically right down the center of you nose and put one of those halves up against a mirror. See if you can recognize that person. It sure won't be YOU. Cally Morris said during a seminar some years back that if he could take a live duck and get it to stand perfectly still during a competition, it would likely snore no better than a second place ribbon. That's a sad commentary when "judges" are that nit picking. Wanna be a judge? Just win a show and next year you are one. What ever happened to a blind hawg finding an acorn. Winning a show would hardly make someone a good judge (especially if it was the Delaware show he won. LOL)

In the Air Force I was a "master" mechanic (read taxidermist), but my work was still inspected by a Quality Control Specialist (read judge). Electrical connections are made through "cannon plugs" and most technical directives (orders) require that a cannon plug be tightened "hand tight". My mechanics were suddenly getting dinged by this yahoo QC for "improper torque". I marched right over and put his ass against the wall for an explanation. It came down to if he could loosen the connector, it was over-torqued and if he COULD loosen it, it was under-torqued. Obviously this was a lose-lose proposition and my threats to have him replaced corrected the problem.

That's what taxidermy judges have become at the lower levels of competition. Mary Coombs in Taxidermy Today covered it well when she wrote that today's judges seem to be required to FIND something wrong regardless and seldom if ever comment on what's RIGHT.

I figure that about 99% of all taxidermy work is commercial grade and almost 100% of the outside customers seldom see championship class taxidermy or see any real difference between good commercial and GREAT competition taxidermy. If that's the true case, why are we allowing judges to beat us up as an industry. I don't mean to imply that we don't NEED impartial and objective criticism on our work to strive and make it better. What I mean is that (as happened in several shows in the last few months)if the judges do not award a single blue ribbon in the whitetail category, what is it telling the poeople who are our customers as well as the competitors themselves. Does it mean that only work done by that judge could ever achieve a blue ribbon? What happens to his or her work at the next show.

I'm the last person to advocate "lowering the standards", but all shows should be separate entities. A state show is the lowest rank on the totem with the regionals and then the nationals. Standards should and MUST be increasingly more difficult. When an individual reaches the national, it should be judged by THE STANDARD and not the individual whims of an overagressive judge. If several mounts MEET the standard, THEN and only then should the nitpicking have to be resorted to.

And if you don't think this is a common perception, tell me why more and more of the smaller shows are resorting to the "5 Foot Rule" or the "Commercial" categories. I think the whole scenario could be cleaned up by firing the QC guy before we get to burning veins in duck feathers like the carvers no do.

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu

Two points George

This response submitted by BobB on 3/13/02. ( )

I do not want to argue George, but if the standards at the state level were set differently, competitors reaching the higher level may then get hit hard (as unprepared). This could be a turnoff and reduce some from returning.

About the 5 ft rule and now commercial, maybe the goal is to seek more involvement. Several states have to financially survive on their conventions and need entries to do so.

The 5 foot rule is a great way for folks to enter the circle of competition. Many may want to compete, but just need to get their feet wet.

The commercial, may also increase entries, as many working taxidermists don't have the extra hours to pour into a comp piece, but may certainly be happy to compete and support their state group, by just grabbing a customer mount of the wall.

Here here, George

This response submitted by Cur on 3/13/02. ( )

Jeeze, I hate to be accused of running to the side of another nasty pro again, but right is right. This is a time of technical horsehockey that amounts not to one hill of beans except to split the proverbial hair.

Judging a mount for other than it's visual impact and presentation is a matter of personal choice and, (I am not always sure about this one.), the merits of the judge's awareness and personal work routine. To shore up George's assumption, very few mounts I see look "real". These streamlined coiffed and manicured excuses for wildlife do not come close to the reality the assembly man really wants in his work. And why is that? I believe that it is because folks are too concerned with the nuts and bolts crap and not near enough concerned with the actual life characteristics of the specie in general.

I am not near as concerned about the woodcarver syndrome as I am the model airplane panic. I am afraid I will go to Walmart one day and find a pedestal mount whitetail deer kit with snap together parts and a mail in form for a taxidermy license. The old skills and patent abilities are dying so some sniffer and toucher can vouch that there is not one square centimeter of drumming on a mount, no brad left un-punched and an inner ear finished all the way to the tympanium.

The thing I see missing most in the mounts I have been privileged to view over this lifetime are nearly all lacking in specie's character and motion because someone spent too much time sticking their nose into a manual or a watching a video and no time watching the critter as it went about life! How many "dead" fish hang on walls? Half the taxidermist I have met rarely see a living fish. The colors reflect that in the finished product. Most strive to overcome this flaw, but many never do.

Art content is another thing that is sorely missing and the ability to judge the art content in a work is sorely evident in a lot of winning works I have seen. Animals that would walk with a limp if alive, critters that are able to balance erect only because of a number six wire up their rump, or foot or whatever. Mammals standing in snow and magically held up by a sky hook because their feet are on top of the snow, and not buried in it as feet tend to do. Habitats hinted at, but not achieved because the individual has never been there. And you know what? The judge hasn't either! that is why the stuff is judged in the first place, and not passed on as incompetent. There is no jury system to keep out the works that are poor and shouldn't be judged in the first place, as there is in all major art circuits.

The placement, arrangement, harmony and potential energy of a work, along with the negative space use is much more important to the ultimate decor use of a taxidermy work than is some ridiculous symmetry, or a small patch of drumming. Natural creatures are FULL of drumming. There are vacules and intersteces all over an animal's abdominal area; At the base of the lower neck; in the groin, and shoulder areas. Animal skins are loose. These modern forms with the creature looking like the cover of Body Builder's Magazine are inane cartoons of life itself. Little veins that never show in the living mammal and only show because there is no groove in the fascia for the blood tube to run through. Sure, sure, some veins do show, but they are seldom evident through a winter coat.

The upshot is that the bulk of the judging is done for a simple part of the equation. The concept that a finished work is a piece of art is nearly lost, George. God help us if it dissappears completely. Fine art is judged from a distance and without touching. touch one of my originals and you will go home with broken fingers....LOL. It is not judged like furniture or a rolled and tucked upolstery job, either! The only way this field will soar to the heights attainable is to have competitions where only the art merit is judged. We can eliminate the poor techincal works by jurying them out of competition, perhaps the judges should come from the local art guild, and not from the ranks of taxidermists whose own habits may not be so precise either.


This response submitted by Sean Sullivan on 3/13/02. ( )

I find it absolutely amazing that when I look at a high quality mounted bird that each individual segment of each feather is perfectly in place, but carvers are purposefully putting "flaws" in their carvings to make them appear more "realistic".

Just a thought...


its funny george...

This response submitted by Frank on 3/13/02. ( )

I refuse to compete over some of these same Judging complaints that happened to me. Being from NY the old assc. had non-taxidermists judging. Some of the judging was bad...real bad. I am sure this has changed with the new assc,but my attitude has not. Simply put my customers are my judge!My hats off to the folks that do compete and enjoy it, I just have found other ways to get my kick thats all. (please folks don't take this as a negitive spin...its not ment to be)
The way I see it there is three options available here George:
#1 Deal with it...
#2 Do something to change it...
#3 say to hell with it and move on.
I chose number 3. I still from time to time go to shows and seminars but for the most part just do my thing.

I look at judging as some ones personal opinion about your mount. You are right in the area of nothing is perfect, but there has to be a line somewhere in the sand. Where that line is sometimes is as simple as "who" is judging that show. You see folks bring in refrence photos on different things that they enter for the judges to look at, or sometimes a little note attached to a mount. The way I look at it if the mount doesn't tell the story...the note won't help!

My,My, MY!

This response submitted by Doug on 3/13/02. ( )

How good it feels to hear 3 giants in this profession voice the opinion of competition that reinforces my own. BRAVO George, Bill, and Frank!

It's not that difficult is it?

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/13/02. ( )


You have brought up many points of a large topic. There is MUCH to say with respect to what you have mentioned and I will attempt to respond to the theme of your questions. First, your analogies with respect to the military doesn't apply here, unless the military had three standards. Taxidermy competitions typically consists of three levels: novice, professional, and masters. But "us" judges only get one score sheet. Please understand this: Novice speaks for itself, Professional categories are basically customer or commercial quality stuff, the Master category is suppose to be captious.

Second, seeing how your frustrations are with the master categories, i.e., perfection, symmetry, etc., Yes it is a point worth discussing. If you were to take apart a working engine there would be only one way to put it back together. Most of nature is balanced very well, and when one studies anatomy it becomes clear that symmetry (balance) is not just important but critical when it comes to re-creating or otherwise putting an animal back together. If I look dorsally at "someone's" fin orientation , and again frontally, I can tell if that individual understands what they were doing or not at a glance. If you found an anomaly in nature and wanted to portray this at a masters level then you better be able to make it look convincing, purposeful, and natural. Otherwise because of human nature we as judges doing our best at being objective, will usually deduct from your piece. Tell me what excuse do you have for lopsided eyes? Or fins on a fish that aren't symmetrical? Or Nare openings with different sizes? If you don't want your piece to be judged at this level , for heaven sake don't enter it there! If you want to have people google over your work from five feet away inter the novice category.

Third, Aaaa lets just say that you can't ( or shouldn't )believe every thing you read in a magazine shall we?

Inclosing George, I think that you need to compete until you win a blue ribbon or two, and have the opportunity to judge several shows before you do any judging yourself about competitions or judges.

Is it the universal wavelength?

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 3/13/02. ( )

Just recently I have been pondering the judging system and wondering how it could be changed to favor realism, artistic composition, and the portrayal of "life" without overlooking the importance of craftsmanship and attention to detail. It has been an interesting intellectual exercise, and it makes me appreciate the effort that went into the current scoresheets.
Very tentatively, I am visualizing a two-part system of judging.
The first part would be strictly hands off, and would determine the BASE score by generously awarding points for the visual aspects of taxidermy. (Anatomy, grooming, balance, composition, symmetry, correct painting, etc.)
Bonus points would be available for things like multiple specimens, very difficult poses, extraordinary habitat or base work, very difficult specimens and etc.
The next section would be the "take away" part, checking for hands-on things like sturdiness, drumming, visible seams and etc.
A mount that scored very well on the first part could survive some "hits" and still end up scoring well. A very well crafted mount that was merely adequate, as far as composition goes, could also do well.
I am still in the very early head-scratching phase as far as this goes, but does it sound feasible to you guys?
I would also like to see a mandatory class for all judges just to make sure we/they are all on the same page. -Just a guideline as to how to rate various features and flaws, point-wise.

OK folks. I'm ready. You can start shooting now.

Nancy M.
PS: 'Glad to see you back, Cur!

What I love about a competition is the judging.

This response submitted by John C on 3/13/02. ( )

Been there done that, Hell I know I aint the greatest just good. But what really get me is when the same judge see a piece I did but its three years later and scores it higher, or he says if the fish was swimming up or down it would have been a blue ribbon. Come on get inthe water most fish swim fairly level even when chasing bait.

What is needed is a JUDGES SCORING SYSTEM, what we actiall score the judge, hell yes, rate the judge through out the high and low. This will help the judge and thier humility, it could possibly keep it from going to thier head.

Maybe judges should be forced to compete and certified to judge only at certain levels?

Another option is if you dont like the judge screw it there are other shows.

George you are right nothing is perfect. Judging sure is not and I feel as you do, many judges dont really know the subject.

Year back I judged a show and let several things slide on fish and docked some on other things. Well darned if the crowd did not go buy a new rope. I reached under the table opened the ice chest and said where do we begin and who is first. In the ice chest laid three largemouth bass less than five hours from being caught all with different anatomy.
They even were caught from the same spot on the lake and all were close to five pounds.

I see ducks do different things, I try to repeat what I see, one judge says wings to high, the next says wings to low, on and on. I nevered entered many mounts more than once until the last few years and it is terrific to see the inconsistancy within the judging community.

Good points Jeff

This response submitted by George on 3/13/02. ( )

But the two shows I was referring to had no MASTERS division. The Delaware show isn't big enough to have a novice division either. And as I said, I don't want the bar lowered. I would expect state level to be the equivalent of high school in a better analogy, regionals would be college, the nationals would be post graduate work, and the Masters being a PhD thesis. The standards in high school can hardly be equated to post graduate work. And as long as I DON'T compete, I can give an objective and uninvolved viewpoint, but I appreciate the thought. I'm a better judge of my work than judges are and I've taken the steps that Cur suggested: I weed me out before I try. LOL.

The scorecard

This response submitted by Mark on 3/13/02. ( )

I just took a look at a fish today at a friends shop that had quite a was a competition piece from 8 years ago. It did very poorly when judged at the state level, as a matter of fact it didn't place. Guess it upset him a great deal after the 80+ hours he had into making it the absolutely beautiful piece that it turned out to be.

It is encased in a glass box. Without touching it, he took it to the Nationals and it took first placein the same catagory. Guess he had something to prove. That was the last time he competed.

Things that make you go hummmmmmmmmmm.

Nancy, think you have a great idea. Maybe we should all come up with a scorecard that would make it easy for the judges to judge and the competitors to understand the system.....not sure about each judge having coolers full of fish......but why doesn't it suprise me that is something John C would do? LOL

way too big of a Pandora's box

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 3/14/02. ( )

I find it difficult getting started on this, like Jeff said theres a lot here to address. First, a set of rules. If you want to be judged for appearance, and not as a critical, fine toothed opinion, let your customers be your judge. Commercial work is the perfect venue, and profitable, too. If, on the other hand, you choose to get in-depth and are willing to get a bit anal, go to the higher end of it, the taxidermy competition. The score sheet isnt a secret, you know in advance what it is you are up against. Many judges DO step back and view these mounts from a reasonable distance, but we also recognize a scoresheet that asks for more scrutiny, as does the competitor. I find that the guys who just get redicules are the few who didnt know the answer to begin with. Some of us judges DO look to reward where we are able, not just subtract. Bob said it VERY well when he described why the commercial division is in place. In fact I agreed with most of what he said! Same with Jeff. George, you also were correct when you sarcastically stated that all you have to do is win, and next year you are the judge. Too many times folks choose the popular guy, the newest name, to judge. Thats not always the best bet, though. How many times have you all heard me say that sometimes the best judge out there might not be the winningest taxidermist, hes just good at evaluating and critiquing. In all fairness, these states have a difficult time finding judges. I have had to decline a states request to judge due to schedule conflicts, only to have them ask ME who they might consider. I for one want very much to redesign the scoresheets we use. I can tell you one thing, the current ones sure are nice compared to what used to be out there. I hope I can speak with some accuracy here, as Im a frequent judge at all levels as well as an active competitor. I also realize that by the time I get to read this post again in a few days itll be filled with complaints from every guy who didnt win but felt he should have, as well as the praise of everyone who won a show, too. Oh yes, and George, at the state level we DO judge the mounts against the live model, regardless of what show, but just score them with that in mind. I realize there are inconsistencies out there, though. I personally just strive to not be a part of that problem...

Taxidermy is strictly...

This response submitted by Lars on 3/14/02. ( )

STILL LIFE. A moment in time of the real animal. And it better be balanced, symetrical, and insinuate life in the mount, or to the human eye it will be uncomforatble to view, and there-fore be regarded as less appealing. In a mount, we are able to scrutinize it because we have stopped it long enough for us to do so. Face it , there are just plain horrible positions and balances that creatures are perfectly able to achieve, and they possess imperfections that are not noticeable while they are moving. But, for the "still life" we create, the most appealing triats must be presented. That is how art has been judged since the first cave paintings. It is only human to want to produce the more appealing view. As was stated above, the different levels in most competitions are able to accomadate the different degrees of participation. All have a chance at a "people's choice" award, that should satisfy the "no touch" competitors. If you think a duck looks good licking his nuts, then create it in a mount. You may be able to create it accurately, but it will not be visually appealing and accepted as such by the majority of viewers. And judges are only human. And until you create the "Android" judge, human perception (and everyone's is different)will always rise to the occasion.

Let's lay it all on the line.......

This response submitted by Cur on 3/14/02. ( )

Let's look at the facts. This whole dog and pony show is about egos. The judges' egos, the participants egos and even the audience participation, "viewer's choice" egos. What qualifies a "judge" in the first place? An ability to be all seeing? An inate ability to know, beyond the shadow of doubt, that his or her choice is inviolate, final and beyond reproach? I think not, or else there would be no young judges. Does winning a blue ribbon qualify an individual to become a judge? Hell no, it doesn't. An individual may be the very best bird person on this earth, but the ability to successfully mount a bird does not qualify them to judge the work of another artist.

The very worst judges are those who are heralded as 'experts' in a given area. Their own successes often cloud their vision and cause them to award those who follow their example, shunning innovation and concept that is beyond their comprehension. The entire system currently in use defies logic and interpretation. The judges who are qualified, for whatever reason, often convert a volunteer effort into a sideline economic venture. I have judged. The process involved was austere and isolationist, at best. This field is much narrower than most art fields and should produce far fewer "experts" than it seems to have conjured up in the last two decades.

(Perhaps it is the video brigade, or the willingness to offer up secret methods and techniques, that has led to the current plethora of "Masters". Whatever the reason, this field seems to have engineered more 'experts' in the last twenty years than it did in the previous two hundred!)

George's point is not about sour grapes. Unlike a lot of citizens, he is a thinker. Jeff tried to benumb him by waving off his analogies as if they didn't matter. They do matter to George, Jeff, and should to you too. Our lives are just a reflection of those who go before us, and our ability to relate is directly dependent on our past experiences and elucidation. If George wants to use his background analogous to the present facts, let him do it. The onus is on you to perceive his methods, which you did, by the way, so there was no need to attempt to erradicate the statements, their having been said and understood. (By most, I might add.)

This all boils down to a couple of assumptions: One being that there are those among the minions who have either been declared or so offered the judgeships, and the other being that there are those who actually believe that the way to the truth and the light is by being judged. That, folks, is where and how the division between craft and art is placed. True art results when mental concept is wed with ortho-graphic dexterity to complete an envisioned design. Craft comes from a smidgeon of concept and a tome of blueprints and patterns. We taxidermists are currently buried in a mountain of blueprints, components and concepts that may or may not be correct in the final analysis.

The entire system of organized taxidermy was established on the base of fellowship - a method for the minions to gather under a group umbrella and worship the coming mannequin. Now this loose knit fraternity has adopted a bible of rules and regulations and is composed of two basic groups: Them that say they are, and them that wanna be. I would like to believe that this artist stands outside the spincter ring and would much rather judge his own work based on accumulated knowledge and skills that are independent of any industrial or individual standard, than leave that judging to a dubious qualifier.

Not someone who has scored low

This response submitted by JEM on 3/14/02. ( )

I'm not a sour grape that scored low on a competition, I've never entered one, mainly because of the issues raised above.
A few observations - Ever notice that the NFL doesn't select it's best retired players to ref the superbowl? Doesn't the actress Jane Seymore have two different colored eyes - how would see score in a taxidermy competition? One of my wives breast is slightly larger than the other - still look pretty nice to me.
Maybe these comments are inrelavent or bad examples, but the fact is the majority of us recognize that the system is broken.
In my opinion competitions have gone to the point that they are scoring for truly total perfection, if that is correct than we best strive for perfection in the judges. As Bob said above, states need additional involvement, if so then something must change -to do the same old thing the same old way and expect different results just aint gonna happen.


This response submitted by Paul Czarnecki on 3/14/02. ( )

All I can say to this is WOW! First of all, let me say that I am in awe of the some of the incredible insight posted here. Almost everyone had valid points, whether for or against, the whole judging dilemma. Frankly, I don't see a problem here. There are lots of opinions on the subject such as judge qualifications, judging methods and scoresheets but there are still just two sides to the story. You either enjoy competing or you don't! Whether one competes in a "competition" or not should not deter that individual from attending a convention and enjoying the seminars and comradarie that conventions offer. I have been attending conventions for 19 years and can honestly say that I have learned something at EVERY convention that has helped me in my own studio. And that was whether I competed or not. George, instead of running down the judges and the judging system why don't you use your "NTA influence" to change the system the NTA is perpetuating? We have the NTA Judges Association whose purpose is to "put judging on an even playing field" and "give states a core of qualified judges to draw from". We have the "new and improved" NTA scoresheet which was supposed to simplify everything and bring competitions back to a learning tool again. Both of these "revolutionary advances" in the taxidermy industry are keeping taxidermy competitions static. If the NTA wants to do something for the taxidermy industry then maybe it should look at its own system. Sorry to turn this into a NTA issue George, but the "problems" you complained about are NTA problems. The Pennsylvania Taxidermist Assoc. has addressed the problems George is complaining about. We have formulated our own scoresheets for our conventions. They are designed to give the competitor the best education possible on one sheet of paper. The judges have plenty of room to explain their point and competitors will actually be able to understand what the judge means. They will be tested for the first time next weekend at the PA. Taxidermy Championships by judges Savides, Matthews, Walker, Krueger and Dante. A "qualified" core of judges with a GOOD scoresheet-- what could be better? George,if the NTA would like to adopt the NEW PTA Taxidermy scorsheet I'm sure something could be worked out with a licensing agreement and a "fee". Finally, a note to everyone: NOT listening to the wisdom of Nancy, Jeff L, Yox and Lars in their posts above is a mistake. These individuals have been around for dozens of years (especially Lars) and their opinions should be valued and respected by all. Take care and remember: "Taxidermy, being art, is just an expression of one's opinion and so is the interpretation of it".

Just an Opinion

This response submitted by Critter on 3/14/02. ( )

OK here As taxidermists we perform many it sculpting, painting, woodworking, etc... For one person to judge anothers he MUST have the same skill level in all the areas shown. Not one of us on earth will be qualified to do we select judges who have shown a great deal of skill in most or some of those areas. A judge didn't get where he is by just being good at eyesets even though he couldn't get the nose right. They have to master the whole thing.
I truly liked Nancy's scoresheet idea on the 3 levels of a couldn't possibly be done with one judge. It would have to be scored by three different judges where they only perform and give opinion on the one factor. When a piece is judged at a show the judge knows when he walks up if he likes the piece or not. From there a general score is placed in his mind until he looks further at the details. This will determine if it goes down a notch or two. It could look great at 5 feet but the lacks details or craftsmanship up close. That is just the way most judges rate your work, so the 3 part sheet doesn't work. Reason being that if it looks like it's going to fall over at first glance, subconciously, the judge has already decided it doesn't merit the highest score. Hence the reason for the three judge panel.
We will never get away from touchy feel judging on the higher level in taxidermy ! Everyone want to be judged like a painting for some reason? True we are artists, but we are also craftsmen too. Would you buy a chair just because it looks good at 5 feet? It looks just can't sit in it because it isn't sound or has some other flaw that cannot be seen from a distance. If you want to be judged soley as an artist then paint something.
Everyone seems to think that competition has dragged down this industry but you are wrong! Years ago we would never think about telling someone our "secrets". Now we talk about them daily. Also look at the difference in the quality from just 10 years ago let alone 20 years. If it weren't for competing people wouldn't have studied the animals to such great lengths and applied them. This is how the quality got better and the mounts more lifelike. Just ask some of these guys who were around in the business 20 or so years ago...heck go to a garage sale and look a t an old deer mount! The materials and methods have come so far today that even a beginner can do better then alot of what was done 20 years ago.
I compete by forces me to go to extremes in studying the animals we mount. As commercial guys we spend most of our time worrying about making a buck and getting the freezer emptied. We don't change our accuracy level because it it right or wrong. A good friend of mine once said it doesn't take any longer to do it the right way...but you have to KNOW the right way.
OK I guess I said my

DAMN Bill G.......

This response submitted by Leanna on 3/14/02. ( )

That was better than Chocolate ICECREAM! Happy to see you brought the main issue back to hand. This original posting was NOT about sour grapes indeed, just about a great looking mount, minus the internal probing of specimans orifices I hope most of us know nothing about..LOL It was as I perceived, about the ridiculous aspect of finding things wrong. Antlers aren't symetrical, neither are nares. It was never about the obvious flaws such as lopsided eyes, backwards earliners or inside out speed septums....ahem...

While I say I like to compete, I know I'm only lying to myself, I'm sure I could find easier ways to get pissy and frustrated while mounting a customers piece for judging, and much less public ways to earn my badge of humility....BUT, I LEARN from it, so I do it. ON THE FLIP SIDE OF THE COIN....I completely understand what George is getting at....some judging is getting to be too analyzing towards unlifelikedness, thus ludicrous. But a coin not only has two sides, it has an edge...and thats where we see how things are held together, and PROBABLY won't change much. Satisfactorily enough, I've had good down to lifelike judges, then again, I'm LOOKING for the mistakes I've traipsed over. I always believe in "good" tipping the scale on "evil"!

Kudos to the honest eyed judge, no matter the outcome. We will always have our anal eyed judges though, who are probably honest as well, and that's the darkest cavity of Pandora's Box, Yox mentioned. Competing is a tough job, judging is a tough job. Both should be taken only serious as they are, and not to over compensate Gods work and his sidekick, Mother Nature.

And Nancy, keep thinking gal, I think you may be on to something!

One more thing

This response submitted by Leanna on 3/14/02. ( )

And great opinions from the rest of you by the way!

Where to start on this great posting.

This response submitted by Kenneth on 3/14/02. ( )

I just wanted to say, everyone has viable points in this posting. George you definately have a knack for getting the blood flowing. I tend to lean towards Jeff's, Bill's and Paul's postings. I love competitions. I have competed since '94 and have had my share of great, good, fair, and poor judges and experiences. Someone wiser than myself said, "Never ignore another, you can learn something from every soul you meet". There is nothing that says I have to take the word of a judge as the gospel truth. You know why I trust men like Bill, Jeff, and Paul? They have been to the top of the mountain I am climbing. They know something, I need to figure out. If competing and seeking a title is not your interest, go and enoy shows for the many other events. Shows are awesome, great learning tools and a good social events.
As for judging; I don't believe a governing body can decide who is a great judge and who is not. When I compete at other shows, I meet other taxidermists/judges. I have been to shows where the judge had many conflicts and presented an attitude towards the competitors. Did I invite them to come spread the wealth at our OKTA show, NO. I spend a lot of time choosing judges for our show. I do my research on these judges. We haven't had a poor judge in many years. Get your competition committee chairman to get references. Don't just go to a book, close your eyes and stick your finger on one. Please don't get me wrong, the NTA book is full of excellent judges and theyhad our interest at heart, but their are many judges out their that are also excellent and don't believe in the NTA judges book. Use it as a tool, not as a recommendation. Call other states and ask their chairmen about judges they have had in the past.
How about the judges that haven't competed in the last 15 years? Are they still current to the modern techniques? I have ran into a few with an "old school mentallity" and they were not open to new ideas. Their old fashion ways were imprinted in their mind and these new methods were inferior. How about judges who have never competed? I been to two different shows where a non-competing supplier was judging. This again is the competition committee chairman's fault for not researching judges.
There were so many ideas brought up in this posting, a person couldn't possibly touch on them all. One that caught my eye was George's chronological ordering of achievement in taxidermy. He listed National as the top of the totem pole. I understand George is on the board, but I would like to expand a little. Where does the IGT show and the World Show fit into the picture? I am not for sure, but "Best In World" in a pretty nice title. Is the national competition a true evaluation of the highest level of competition, when many of the best taxidermists in this nation refuse to compete in it, due to all the term oil. It is amazing the number of people that show up for a world show. I honestly believe the IGT show numbers will be on the rise soon. An IGT title is worthy, isn't it. I would take one.
Anyway, there were many ideas posted here that are truly legitimate. Some were just the same old complaints and gripes. This is what America is all about. Freedom to voice your opinions. George this was truly an excellent posting. Keep us on our toes and the blood flowing.

I had to sneak in and check this

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 3/14/02. ( )

OK, OK, Im off to the show after this, honest! You know, the Utah state EGO-FEST, like Cur described. You know, I wish I could articulate more then just accurately here. Ill try. BillG (Cur), while I respect your opinion and your time spent in the art industry, I cant agree in whole with what you said. Please folks, dont accuse me of chafing because he hit the "ego button", because if you read me at all in the past, I speak freely about ego being what drives us. I dont wanna come off as being defensive either. Bill, your descriptive and George's, for different reasons, do ring true to a certain degree. I feel that some of those points made are the literal "foul line" that we try to avoid when competing and/or judging. Theres no doubt in my mind that if we held a show that didnt offer ribbons and a banquet afterward, just a verbal critique, that it would have a lot fewer participants. But ego isnt the backbone of it either. Bill, I could take your business, your theory in art, and change it to MY way of seeing it for argument sake, and prove my point so well. The only reason I dont is that I cant think of a way to do it without it looking negative, or like a personal attack, neither of which I would want to portray. Plus, Im gone after this and wont be able to clarify, something I know Id need to do by about 9PM tonight, lol. I hope my posts dont suggest the sour grapes that DOES run rampant in ANY contest, taxidermy competitions included. For every show Ive had a good bitch about, theres been plenty more that were fine. I guess the bottom line HAS to be that we all know going into it what we can expect. We know that those opposed to them will see more of the inconsistency, and those who enjoy them will see the advantages more clearly. Human nature, just like competitors being upset when they dont do well, or any other behavior. As a judge, I want to go there and do well for the sake of those who hired me. To me, I understand the effect I might have when I place a ribbon. A ribbon may help that person with their advertising once they get home. BUT, it may also effect the other taxidermists in his area, too. I need to recognize that responsibility. To just give them away is just as bad as looking like those blue ribbons are MINE, and I dont wanna share them. I dont want an errant blue to advance a guy to a division hes not yet ready to compete in, either. I can honestly say, with a clear conscience, that I believe Im doing the right thing when I judge. I base that assumption on my email, comments made both to me as well as behind my back (lol), and to the fact that Im invited to return. But, BUT, I dont kid myself either. Theres not a whole lot of folks willing to do this either, so maybe Im asked sometimes because there aint a whole lot of other choices! I had a man almost in tears thanking me for "giving" him his blue ribbon recently. Well, you know I told him I didnt GIVE him anything. I was just glad that I could recognize that he had EARNED it, based on what the current scoresheet said. Im just evaluating, period. I know that over the many years Ive judged, I have made statements that I now know are not as accurate as I once thought. Who hasnt done this? We all learn. My even posting here to represent this side of the coin ought to prove not that Im an ego monger, or that my arrogance blinds me, but that I feel this passionate about the issue. I will defend this because I believe in it. It is NOT without most every flaw mentioned above, but its not as bad as previously described in this and other past postings either! Yeah, yeah, Im going on and on here. Let me close by saying that after reading these threads, I feel compelled to say this. I resent some of the accusations. I also feel that you cant paint an accurate picture based on being active in our taxidermist shows from the eighties. The clothes are different, the music doesnt sound the same, we have all matured, or like a few, just gotten old, things have changed. Fire away, Ill TRY to reply Sunday night...

It's still very basic.....

This response submitted by Lars on 3/14/02. ( )

What qualifies a judge to view your work and allow him to judge it is... YOU, entering the competition.

Opinions and Value

This response submitted by Pat May on 3/14/02. ( )

As long as I have been competing there has always been one thing that remains constant at shows of any level. Opinions. Although the scoresheet may be the same, let three different judges use it to score the same piece and you will get three different opinions. Will they all be the same? Maybe but more than likely not. Is the scoresheet a standard? No because it will be interpreted differently by each individual. Is the animal the standard? It is supposed to be but because all animals are not clones of each other it can't be. So what is the standard? There is not one period! So is this to say that there is no value in a judges opinion about your piece.? No way. What it does say is that everyone sees things from thier own perspective. And let's face it some people in this industry have a pretty darned good perspective of what they feel the essence of any particular animal is and therefore what a good competition "piece" is. A show is not a foot race with someone who is the absolute winner. It is merely a gathering of "pieces" that are given numerical value based on someones opinion aboout how close he or she thinks it is in comparison to the real animal and if it is put in a setting that is visually appealing. What you get out of that depends on how much you value that judges opinion.

I like some of the opinions written above on this matter.
One that hits home for me is Lars perspective of a piece being visually appealing. Taxidermy pieces are made for one reason and one reason only, to be viewed.

Another opinion I agree with is Jeff's about you shouldn't believe everything you read. A lemming once wrote " hey guys let's all jump off a cliff"

Those are my opinions. Place value to it and then get on with it.


This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/14/02. ( )


That was a great synopsis and perspective. And Lars, what a awesome way of viewing quality taxidermy or competing, you know I like the phrase "Still Life" too!

If you are a talented,competitive type person,and want to achieve in mastery of Taxidermy, there are some great bits of information, and direction given you by active people who are in the know here in this thread.


This response submitted by Dave Toms on 3/14/02. ( )

I feel like I am in a post graduate course on art! The insight here boggles the mind. Best post I have seen in months.

Competing is what it is. I think it all comes back to why you compete and what your expectations are. If you leave the ego at the door... then you won't have to worry about them spoiling and turning into sour grapes. All judges are not created equal, neither are artist. I learned more with one afternoon with Jeff Lumsden then I have at all my shows put together. What did I do? I watched him judge. I don't know about all judges but I will say that he looked at the entire presentation, composition and tech accuracy. He was fair above fair and I would not want the job. Some like Picasso, some like Rembrandt, I personally like Bob Kuhn... too each his own. Art is personal, no two ways about it, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Thanks for the education here folks!


Add Lars to my list, also....

This response submitted by Kenneth on 3/14/02. ( )

Lars, I apologize. I must have skimmed through your post earlier. I just read Jeff's new posting, so I decided to go back and re-read your post. Agreed - Masterful.
Now back to George...blood flowing...Whose responsibility is it to change the things that are incorrect with forms and replacement parts. It is mine, the competitor. The sculptors of these fine mannikins and artificial parts are only human, and humans make mistakes. If I want the best of show, I can not rely on interpretations of others, I must trust what my reference studies show me. Thanks again, George, somedays you bring out the best in this forum.

Well, this will be my last thread on this post......Whew!

This response submitted by Cur on 3/14/02. ( )

Well, Bill:

(Why do I feel like I am talking to myself?) I don't intend to imply any impropriety on the part of judges, nor am I against competition. In the art fields that I roam, competition is a daily regimen against the works of all others at my level on a world-wide, basis. When a work is placed in a Gallery or into a catalog, it is side-by-side with the work of other luminaries' from which the final judge, the customer, may choose. (That would be like your customer being given a choice of fifty raccoons, each having been done by a different shop. Only of the fifty would be selected, paid for and taken home to the den. Now, that's competition!) When artists do personal appearances at a wildlife galleries, they face the music for hours on end. Participating in a national show places one in front of not only the critical public, but also the eye of peers from all areas of the field.

I remember once around 1973 when my art was featured in the attrium of the Cleveland Colliseum during the Cleveland Sportsman Show. I was on the firing line for eight hours a day for five days - whew! I had both a painting and a sculpture of a Ruffed Grouse in that exhibit. (Now any descriptive key to grouse lists the tail feathers in a range from 13-17. I think my sculpture and painting both had 15, as I recall.) If one sportsman challenged those two works, 200 did. Even though the painting is the one used on the letterhead of the Ruffed Grouse Association to this day, and the sculpture is in several museums, those hunters all had personal experiences that led them to think that I hadn't done my research prior to executing the works!

What does all this mean? It means that we are judged far and wide beyond the rooms and halls where the ribbons are clustered and the competitors gather. It means that the technical portion of the judging should be a hair-splitter, in my personal opinion, and not a primary consideration. I have studied wildlife for my entire life, and still know precious little about it. One thing I do know is that there is no symmetry in nature or in humans. There is a right and left side to all living creatures, from butterflies to elephants. The symmetrical argument is valid when it comes to wall-eyed mounts and other obvious detail flaws, but when the consideration goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, the validity goes out the door.

Many artists, myself included, strive for anatomical detail and that elusive, fleeting effervescence of life to impart realism to our efforts. Few of us achieve it. Two great artists have, in my estimation. They are Barre, the sculptor and Sheppard, the painter. Neither of the two began their careers as a wildlife artist. Sheppard attained fame by painting trains, of all things! Barre was a poor man's Rodin. Barre's sculptures lack keen anatomical detail and symmetry but they are the very essence of life reflecting itself. Sheppard, too paints wildlife from a position of innocence and just records the light, shadow and detail of the subject with an observance that is uncanny. A technical critique of either's work would find them lacking. Viewing the works of these two giants leaves most folks breathless. Sheppard receives six figure sums for his paintings. Barre's bronzes will also bust your wallet.

Whats the point? Here goes:

My original point was to just show support of George's initial statement because I agreed with his premise. In this and the other post, I do not intend to imply any bitterness about the existing process, nor do I intend to slam the processors. After all, the current process is all there is, there ain't no more. There is no need for defense of your actions, Bill, nor for that of any other. I know that you are a fair and honest judge and that you take great pride in those credentials. My opinion, however, is that the judging should be done on a broader basis and the judges should represent a cross-section of wildlife fields. There are many wildlife biologists and naturalists that know far more about mammals and fowl than do the taxidermists. There are art professors and professionals who know far more about posing and content and impression than do members of this field. There are also a host of hunters, both professional and amateur who have a valid opinion of what is or isn't impressive. I think a judging committee should be composed of individuals from those areas as well as members of this profession.

This entire diatribe isn't about anything other than seeing the entire forest and not just the individual trees. Is there room for improvement in the present system? Yes, in my opinion. Can taxidermy join the ranks of other fine art media? Yes, it already has, the difference is that some of the resin guys and gals call it "life casting" and have made some serious inroads we should be prepared to follow. Thousands of credible artists around the world use parts of wildlife in their works. Why should we be content to worry about the symmetry of nasal components, and not strive to reach outside our self-imposed restrictions and become one with the remainder of the art world?

Bill, you know me. I am as individual as they come: I am brash, outspoken, opinionated and defiant. I do fit all the terms of definition for a curmudgeon. (In fact I kinda like the name...) But the one thing I am today and will always be is a defender of this field and a promoter of its' cause. I think the system in place has outlived it's purpose and needs to be revamped, that is all. I don't believe there is one solitary judge on the current roster who does not mean well. I do feel though, that this form of artistry deserves to reach the next plane. To achieve that level requires introspect and change. Too many times we all sound like Rodney Dangerfield. "We get no respect". Well, we deserve far more respect from many more corners than we currently enjoy.

The rest of you, go to the bathroom, tilt your head back and look up your noses........HA! Two different size nostrils? Take five points off your countenance and see a plastic surgeon. Just remember that no matter how much plastic surgery you have, your children will still be ugly.......see ya's!

How did I miss

This response submitted by Jim Tucker on 3/14/02. ( )

all this? Funny enough as I read the posts above on this much debated topic I see the SAME names as always debating it. Nobody is wrong either. I too have grown tired of the "nitpicking" competition judging but I also realize there has to be a standard. For myself the awards were just no longer worth the effort and FREE TIME I used in my competition work. I have a LOT of other interests besides taxidermy and when I have free time I don't spend it toiling over show pieces. I still go to the shows, I enjoy them, but I don't enter. Spending time the last 7 years in the competion room during judging has opened my eyes to what judges go through. I am AMAZED at the different levels of ability each judge has to do his job. I am not talking about our local heroes either. Nationally known judges with beads of sweat pouring off their brows, barely able to get the job done. Others did it with ease and vice versa. What I am saying, just like competitors judges abilities are not all equal. Another practice that I feel makes judging too "opinionated" is the practice of "pre-judging" the room before getting down to the scoresheet. Almost every judge I have observed comes in and "groups" the heads from best to worst, using basically the 5 foot rule everyone is talking about on here. By doing this the judge is picking mounts by his own "preferences" and likes. Judging them against each other, instead of against the scoresheets like intended. I think we would have a much different outcome if the judges were in a separate room and each piece was brought to them in numerical order. Only once did I see this practice of "pre-judging" not be used. A fish judge showed up on Saturday after all the entries were in. His wife assisted him. He had all the scoresheets brought to him and he took each fish one by one NEVER looking at another entry. His wife read the the sheet line by line and he gave her his score. He was done with his 50 fish in no time (comparatively speaking). After he was done he had NO IDEA what any fish had scored. He never asked. He then went and looked around the room at the fish and other entries. This guyknew how to use the "OLD" scoresheets as they were intended. He let the SHEET score the mount not his "opinion". The best part was that one BOC ended up being a standard wall mount on an oak panel. It just SCORED the best. The "NEW" sheets leave too much room for personal preference. Basically you write a numerical score picked out of the air. There is no way to tell how you were deducted at all. Judges seem to like the "NEW" system. It takes less work, BUT I HATE IT! I never have had a problem with my scores. I have done well over the years. I tend to agree with George though that it has become WAY too anal. I believe it is because there are WAY more quality entries in a show then in years before. I look at the 75 or 100 WT heads in our show every year and 75% would have gotten a BLUE 10 or even 5 years ago. It seems that mostly "good" taxidermists are competing these days. The number of trash entries has fallen considerably. this makes judging even harder, and splitting hairs more necessary. This debate will NEVER be solved. Just figure that judges are by and large doing as good a job as can be with the current system. Until something better comes along we are stuck.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly.....

This response submitted by Jim Kimball on 3/14/02. ( )

We've got one going here....

If you don't understand the reason you enter a Taxidermy Comp. like most other types of competition, is to get the "judges opinion" on your mount or talent. Your not going to be happy and you shouldn't compete. Sometimes there opinion isn't what you want to hear, sometimes it is.

What I don't understand is why a person would decide not to attend a comp based on what they read on this forum.. Just because a couple of Old Farts come on here and say that the system is so un-fair. Well guys life is un-fair most of the time ! If your the type of person that feels safe in the box you have created around you and your work, then you "should not" enter a show. One thing you must remember is that your friends and family will always tell you your work is fantastic ! You know why ? Most of them couldn't tell the difference and "heres the good one" they don't want to hurt your feelings..
I don't remember the scores or the ribbions from each show I've attended. What I do remember is the judges opinion on what he thinks of my work. There's not a better feeling in the world then to have a judge walk up to you and shake your hand and say "Way to go"... But George was right when he said "not all judges should be judges." I had a judge at the NTA Show in TX. walk up to me and say "your peice is nice but its been done before" and then proceed to open his personal photo album of his mounts and show me a picture of a mount he did years before... At that moment I lost all respect for that judge and walked away... Did I stop competeing ? No...... Will I ever attend a show that judge is judging ? NO ! Its as easy as that...
And to the Old Farts........ Why are you guys so affraid of change and the advancment of this industry ? Is it because the biggest advancment in your taxidermy life is when you went from paper forms to foam forms ? And I'm sure from what I read in your posts you BITCHED about that when it happened too..

Thanks Jeff..

This response submitted by Lars on 3/14/02. ( )

Yes, IIIIIIIIIII coined the phrase "Still Life"" way back when IIIIIIIIIII was a ....oh wait ...sayyyyyy, isn't that the name of your studio? LOL!

If I knew more than most of the judges...

This response submitted by Hoop on 3/14/02. ( )

I guess I wouldn't compete. I've seen alot of their work and I know that I am being judged fairly. I am trying to kick it up a notch and improve my commercial work the most and hopefully I am learning from the judges and other competitors. There is no doubt in my mind, that everyone that has posted above could wup my butt on their worst day, but I guess I like the learning process and trying the different methods and techniques that I see at competitions and on this forum.
As I continue to improve my work, the mountain appears to be getting smaller. For some of you its' just a bump in the road, which must be as frustrating as heck, like losing a race by .0001 of a second and getting the silver instead of the gold. As in my profession of 24 years, I am teaching the "young pups" valuable lessons that they probably would not have learned on their own. As in taxidermy I'm learning from all of you, many things that I would never have learned on my own and that in itself is worth its weight in gold! Good luck to everyone in future competitions.
By the way, if any of this made sense, you score a 98!



This response submitted by George on 3/14/02. ( )

All I hear on here are "artists" and every artist knows full well what STILL LIFE is and taxidermy ain't it. Taxidermy is more a moment in time. Still life means landscape, fruit bowls, cut flowers. Taxidermy is intended to portray one single snapshot in time and hold the viewer's/owner's imagination as to what will happen in the next second. But, back to the crux of this discussion (Damn, I hate interrupting this one. It's on such a roll.)

Bill Yox and I had a l-o-n-g discussion on this one a few hours back. Bill and those OLD FARTS who have matured in the industry seldom have me sniping at them. Bill is probably one of the most conscientious judges I've heard about. My real gripe is, like we spoke of, the new guns in town looking for the fastest draw. Too many "new" guys are assuming that because they won one gunfight, they can go in, assume they are the epitome of the elite, and ransack a competition. A judge who knows he IS or ISN'T at the very top of his game can objectively evaluate a piece without playing it against his own talents. I can name a dozen who do this. It's those other guys who are acting the heavies. And just WHOSE fault is this? You ain't gonna like it, but it ain't the judges. Its the show HOST. Judges WORK for show hosts and if the hosts see that the competition is being used, it's the HOST'S responsibility to step in. In fact the HOST should have briefed the judge BEFORE he took the floor at how the show was to be judged.

Here's a true story. I'm just a dumb country boy but I've caught my share (and someone else's) of pond "trout". (That's a largemouth bass to you uncultured folks.)I know what a bass looks like- inside AND out. Several years back, I was at a show and the very best largemouth bass I had ever seen was entered. It was so perfect I felt like fileting that sucker right there. The detail was impecable and the gills were astonishingly accurate. There were a couple of other freshwater fish and one big goofy saltwater species I'd never heard of. I KNEW which fish was the best.

WRONG! The bass I picked only got a second and the big goofy one won a blue AND BOC. How could this be? (Get ready.) It seems the pretty bass had been mounted using the JUDGE'S FORM AND EYES and the judge thought it would be unfair to award the bass. Now tell me with a straight face that using the OLD NTA sheets, the NEW NTA sheets or the PTA sheets would have anything to do with this outcome.

Ken asked why the analogy I gave was centered on the NTA, but I never said that. I used "national". The IGT is a "national" organization as well. Paraphrasing Larry Blomquist, most of us agree that the World Show is not in that same league in any way. First of all, it is a commercial show for profit and secondly, it is just a NAME. Cur is contemplating starting a Universal Show. I guess after he gets that done, the next one will be a Galactic Show. As one baseball player said, "If it's the World Series (SHOW), why are they playin' it again next year?"

And I hope I never implied any competition of judge was not FAIR. Life ain't fair. My point is that we allow ourselves to be beaten up, in public, in front of our customers at our own shows. What does Joe Schmoe think when he walks into the Lower Podunk Capital Show and finds that of the 30 deer entered into the competition, not a single one is good enough to win a blue ribbon? I know Jeff won't like the mlitary analogy, but we were always taught to "Critize in private, praise in public." What happened to that? THAT'S what the score sheets or for - CRITIQUING. A guy pays $50 to get beat up on paper but still takes a $6 ribbon home and HE'LL BE BACK NEXT YEAR! Forty-four dollars ain't bad profit and both sides win. And the customers who come through get to be duly impressed.

Lars did make a great point wondering why anyone would avoid a competition on the grounds of ego. If you've never been to one, you have no idea what you're missing. You will be completely overwhelmed to meet like minded individuals in a relaxed atmosphere outside your shop. You won't believe the sponteneity of such events and you'll wonder why it took so long to get there. Forget hanging that silly "title" on me from my affiliation. I'd love to see you at the NTA, but if the IGT or the World Show is closer, more convenient, or of more interest to you, THEN GO. And when you do, I'd bet you'll be like the World Series and be back again next year.

George, I think I know.....

This response submitted by Kenneth on 3/14/02. ( )

just exactly where that Largemouth bass is, do you want to buy it?

Play on words

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/14/02. ( )


"Still Life" in reference to taxidermy, is a play on words, think about it... I don't disdain the military either that was somebody from Arkansas. Use any analogy you like, but I didn't know the military had three standards, my mistake?


This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/14/02. ( )

One more responce George, if you were to pass out ribbons like flap-jacks so "everyone wins" then you've just diluted the "merit" to ribbons and awards. And there by letting everyone think that there stuff is ready for some other larger show. I remember when it was more difficult to be awarded a "Golden Akeley Medallion" and I strove with all my heart for one, and received one. That award is very precious to me, and to any one who earns one it will be. That is what this is all about.

My 4 cents worth.

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 3/14/02. ( )

I must say that this posting has got to be the fastest accumulation of total information ever on the

The whole topic is immense as many of the above have pointed out but like George, Cur and others I see some major flaws in the system. The Gunfight analogy and the Mannikin worshipers are excellant starting points. I can't understand how a 20 year old bird taxidermist who wins the national title in duck mounts be considered the best in the world, especially when he uses someone else's cast head and bought body and spent 100 hours working on one special piece with the intent to become a world master? I don't see any of these new and upcoming taxidermists as being anything special. Taxidermists, in my opinion should compete in the professional category with customers mounts (as John C. has mentioned many times). At the Master's level I see nothing wrong with devoting 50 days of non-stop 12 hour days on a mount, but that kind of work is rarely done for the customer. There is just too much difference between a competition piece and a customer piece. Many times the quality of the specimen determines if a mount can even be a blue ribbon. Without a premier specimen to begin with even a good taxidermist is behind the eight ball to begin with.

Personally I DO think that taxidermy can be a still life. I prefer mounts that don't have that much action in them because I would hate to have mounted in my livingroom a bobcat leaping for a just-out-of-reach grouse for a twenty year period. I'd probably dismount it and put the grouse in the bobcats mouth after a while. Peacefullness is what I like in a piece - without waiting for something to happen or anticipating something to happen. Using the same two animals I would have a grouse at rest sleeping in a hemlock tree with a bobcat passing underneath without noticing the grouse.

Of all the comments above only two do I have any real disagreement with. Mr. Critter insisted that to be a judge at a taxidermy competition then the judge must excel in all the areas of taxidermy. I think it would be fascinating to have imput by an art curator or art school make a trip to a taxidermy competition just to see how they would interpret the work. That would suffice for the "art" end of it, but the naturalness of the specimens would be much better judged by Game Commission, Fish and Wildlife Personelle, or Professional Bird Watchers and the like. They have more familiarity with living birds and mammals (Except those that have captive animals to study). These people wouldn't know whose manikan was used, or hold grudges against certain manufacturers of eyes. All silly stuff.

Art is always a personal opinion and how a single judge can determine who is good and who is great seems difficult to understand. A team of individuals may be better but I can see the logistical difficulties.

The second post I found little merit in was that by Mr. Kimball. I can't figure what he was trying to say? I don't think that George's correct perception that judging nostrils should not be the determining feature in best in show, is hurting taxidermy. If taxidermy is truely an artform that should not matter. Unfortunately 95% of taxidermists don't truely see it AS an artform, but as a craft where everything must be symetrical and perfect.

If I had to creat a competition to determine the best bird taxidermist at a competition I would tell all comers to bring supply's consisting of excelsior, foam, or balsa wood, and all tools and to show up on a given day. I would have handy about 50 small birds of the same species in the same stage of moult and fat, attach numbers, and draw lots. Then the taxidermists would have three hours to fully mount each bird and all involved would judge the 50 resultant mounts. Without equal starting points and equal time utilized it is difficult to see how one can judge many mounts and have the title be worth anything.

I look forward to seeing what the new PTA judging form is like, though I gave up competeing many years ago as it served no purpose to me.

Thanks George

This response submitted by Lars on 3/14/02. ( )

Some very good points there that I agree with totally. #1 the host, I told our esteemed judges this year that I wanted this show to be tougher than before, NOT national standards, because I agree with "the steps" but if basic merits for a blue were not achieved, then don't award it one. I was seeing the same mistakes on mounts made year after year and it was time to get the point across to those who were very close to a higher standard. When the tally was coming in folks came to me and said "Where are all the blue ribbons? What would are customers going to say when all they see are reds?" My response was that this show was not for the customer's egos, it was for the taxidermists. If they were not EVENTUALLY producing a blue ribbon mount then they were not learning anything to improve their craft. It doesn't matter to me that they don't carry it on to their commercial work, but by gosh this is a competition and you should put forth your best effort. It is a downgrade to display your second rate work when takes your best attempt to learn. To hell with winning, LEARN something at every competition you attend. You will win when you apply the stuff learned. Enjoy the event. And Jeff explained "Still Life", but I should have originally included qoute marks around it the first time.

Old Farts? And just who made Kimball the definer?

This response submitted by Cur on 3/14/02. ( )

Old farts beat the bushes down so tykes like you can walk a little easier, Kimball. The entire diatribe went well until you tried to diminish the validity of our arguments with that juvenile dismissal. To say that age is a sign of cessation of innovation and searching for new methodology is a pretty "old" concept in itself.

It was an "old fart", your language, not mine, that initiated this tome by inquiring about change, and not an attempt to hold on to the recent past. The change from paper forms to foam probably happened before you were born, in the first place, so I don't understand that comparison. Only an individual with little knowledge would believe that that was a significant step in the first place. There have been many more of equal import.

That was a stupid assignation. Surely you can interpret what you read with more skill than that post would indicate. And don't say "we" you have excluded yourself from the Old Fart's Camp.

Horsehocky! foowie!

This response submitted by Jeff Lumsden on 3/14/02. ( )

Easy there BillG -

I thought you were finished with this ("technical horsehockey that amounts not to one hill of beans") thread? Any how Mr. Kimball was just using another analogy that I notice you didn't disclaim. I was around when the switching from paper to foam was an innovation and guess what Mr. Kimball was right wasn't he. It's just a point that everyone else understood? We are all getting along in years, human history is built upon others who have come and gone. News flash?

I would like to see the judging system changed.

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 3/14/02. ( )

I really like the idea of having a qualified wildlife artist judge the mounts on artistic merit and a qualified taxidermist (or panel of taxidermists) judge them on craftsmanship. The scores could be expressed as two numbers, for example 84/91 and then averaged to give the final score. I think this would help the competitors to see their own strengths and weaknesses too.
(This for Stephen)...I have some serious qualms about relying on anybody who is affiliated with the game dept. to have actual knowledge pertaining to wildlife. My personal experience with the (infamous!) Washington DFW is that they are clueless. And they apparently can't afford a field guide to tell the difference between a gyrfalcon and a peregrine, or a boreal owl and a screech owl. Forget warblers and native sparrows!
(For Bill G.) One problem that I see in comparing taxidermy with other types of wildlife art is caused by all the restrictions governing the sale of wildlife. There just isn't a good way to let the "buying" public pick and choose among taxidermists. Only a few taxidermists advertise their work nationally and the rest are mostly unknown except in their immediate area. If I want to buy a painting of an eider I can go online or I can pick up magazines dedicated to wildlife art or I can go to a gallery. "What you see is what you get." If I want a mounted eider, it is pretty much "BYOB" - very difficult for the non-hunter.
If I wanted to collect mounts by a given taxidermist it could be nearly impossible if I didn't hunt them or buy them to be mounted. I just feel this is a little bit more than most art "buyers" are willing to go through. Now, there ARE those who will commision a work to be done... my favorite kind! (We need LOTS of these people!)

I really think if enough people put enough thought into it, and if it is truly what people want, that the current system of judging can be changed to reflect the evolution of taxidermy as an art. Maybe all the focus on symmetry (as determined by digital micrometers!) and the structure of the inner mouth (down to the stomach contents!) has been a neccesary stage to go through. Before it reaches the point of "the correct smell for the species portrayed" maybe it is time to step back and see if this is where we want to go. I think the taxidermy industry has progressed so far in recent years that the details are pretty well covered. I don't feel that they should be overlooked - rather, they should be expected. The next level is going to be artistic expression. Is the taxidermy industry ready for this challenge? Think of the progress that has occured in portraying small details since competitions began. Now imagine what could happen if the competitions stressed artistic merit as well.
I think it would be very exciting to attend a taxidermy competition where ALL of the mounts were artistic masterpieces as well as technically accurate.

Nancy M.

NOW, this is the FORUM!

This response submitted by George on 3/14/02. ( )

Jeff, I couldn't agree more. I don't want ribbons passed out like flapjacks either and extracting what Bill G. said, I think that the responsibility of the lowest level of shows. And Lars, super that you called the shots. Right, wrong, or indifferent, I think that's just what all hosts should do.

Nancy, I love your idea. I just wish it could become a reality.

As you know, I've been on here since the beginning and I don't think I've ever seen a better result for a possible imflamatory posting. I hope some of you have learned as much as I have on this one. Super job, everyone.

Nope, Lumsden, he wasn't

This response submitted by CUR on 3/15/02. ( )

The allegation was wrong in premise and purpose. A blue ribbon is just a piece of cheap cloth. It doesn't say anything about purpose, intent or character. It seems that there are two camps, those that enjoy the comps and those who don't participate. But it sure does seem that the defense of the system comes strongest and loudest from those who profit by it. Like George said, maybe it's time an old fart like me organized a Taxidermy open and gathered up my own crowd of judges. The results might be the same in the end, but the rules will sure be different. Sounds like a program that would keep this old fart going for a little longer...LOL.

Guess I had better start looking for a sponsoring town and some backers for the project. Hey, it is only in fun....let me see, the NTA, the IGT, The World and the Cur open........think I'll just do it, then the only opinion will be mine, at least at conception!LOL By the way, the new judges will not come from the old crowd.

What can be bought for a few pieces of colored cloth?

This response submitted by John C on 3/15/02. ( )

Here is somethng to think about.

It takes money to put a show on, we all know that. Few states assoc. have that kind of cash on hand. So you want ever taxidermist in the state to be a member and yes they entered they put out their best work. its not 1st, 2nd or even third place quality, but they may not be back.

Why? The egomaniac judge, told them their work was crap, and pretty much in those words, yet something on the other table was just as bad and it took a 3rd place home.

Or the new member sees a mount he knows was done by someone else and entered in a previous show, because he was there, the judge is told about it, there are witness and yet the greater than thou, holyman does nothing, nothing at all. Give this
mount a ribbon and the newmember say "What kind of crap its this?"

Does ethics not carry through in everything the judge does? Sure he may do good work, and well the judging may be ok. but here has been some crooked crap go on at a lot of shows. I say if the judge wants to stay on his pedistal, they should learn to be a lot more tactfull to those beginners. We can easily see whos work is not really there yet.

Like George says, they guy paid $50. to come to the show, you give them a $6.00 ribbon, be bought items from the suppliers.

Let look real quick at a show, Judges, fees, seminar rooms, judges rooms. Some states put up the officers too. Ribbons, hospitality room and food. The list can go on and on. Who pays for the Association, not members dues. But those out of state taxidermist who are spending big money and time to drive. Sure dont give everyone a ribbon, I have been on both sides, but build that yong taxidermist ego up!

My son has been to many shows with me, but he says he will never go to another one. Why because the judge on his deerhead was a total ass to him, insulted him, this boy was 15 years old at the time, had done his best work, as a mater of fact it was his first deerhead period, yet it scored a "high" 3rd place.

Fact was the officers were rude, the judge was rude and insulting.

Face it taxidermy shows lost one competitor that day forever. So badly I cant even talk him into trying again. Yes my, son entered his first deerhead in the pro class and should have been proud.

This should show everyone that the reason your association is small and you dont have the members, it could very well be how the judges treated them once.

There are some great judges out there, dont get me wrong as I know a few of them. These fine judges need to pull the other assinnine turds under the wing and guide them.

Yes there are some Judges, I Disdain!


This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 3/15/02. ( )

The "Game personelle" I was referring to was those that work full time with the animals they would be judging. For example the game biologists/employees who operate the pheasant farms and raise 20-30,000 pheasants annually for stocking, the Bear biologist who has tagged 1800 bears over twenty years and crawled into dens and placed cubs, the deer biologists who have radio-collared 100 live deer and followed them for 2 years of their life, the turkey biologist who has netted and transferred several hundred turkeys at various times of the year. I certainly did not suggest that the enforcment officer has ANY concept of what a given animal should look like - I agree they never would know the identity of even common non-game species. I would say close to 30% of the several hundred non-game specimens our museum has received over the years from the Pennsylvania Game Commission are incorrectly identified.
I do believe the idea of the "Cur Open" would be a great one, but in order to emphasize it as the ultimate it would have to be much bigger than the World, the Galaxy, or the Universe. Perhaps The "CUR INFINITY COMPETITION"

Nancy Thanks

This response submitted by Critter on 3/15/02. ( )

You seem to be the only one who understood what I was saying about the system.
To say that a mechanic (there not a military the BEST at all it transmissions, engines, brakes, etc is crazy. They too can do most of it but SPECIALIZE in what they are best at.
SO to say that ONE judge can possibly be the STANDARD for taxidermy anatomy, general craftsmanship, artistic composition and wildlife behavior is outrageous! That is what I said...that is why I said there should be a panel of judges with the QUALIFICATIONS in that who judges the portrayal, one who judges anatomy, and one who judges the artistic portion...combine the three seperate scores and you have something. Then and only then could you possible FAIRLY judge a competition today.
Todays competition is taking bounds forward to more anatomy (some say anal) and presenting it as an artform. As a competitor I don't want to see either lack...but it should contain a HIGH degree of all portions. I see so many "KISS" method mounts do better then a artistic piece just because the nostril color or texture (whatever) isn't to the judges liking. SAdly the well done artistic piece suffers, so we spend more time on the nostril detail then the true beauty of nature.
No I'm not talking about my pieces either...we won't go there. I have done very well in competing and had the same trials as alot of the newbies. Difference is when I got my first HORRIBLE MENTION ribbon I didn't quit...I learned and moved on.
I don't feel competitions should be a sprinkle of sugar for everyone...we are here to learn. If nobody tells you it's wrong you'll never look to do it right. Because obviously it was right.....right?

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu

Due to the large size of this file, this posting is closed.