Competitions and Judges

Submitted by gary on 01/16/2004. ( )

What's your opinion about competing? Here is some things I feel that go on at almost at every competition I have been to. I think some of the judges have in their mind who's work they like and don't like before they ever get to judging the work. Before you guys tell me they have no idea who's work they are judging and names are hidden, ect. I'm going to tell you if go to enough of these competions it's easy to pick out who's work is who's. Now that may not be true in every case, but it does go on. Also, sometimes the people judging can't put aside how they may feel about an individual and use it to hurt the individual or to hold them back. I feel this is very unfair. You may be friends with someone they don't like and if they know it's your mount they stick it to you. How do we get pasts this stuff. Some people out there are just trying to learn and better their skills. I mean I think it's a great honor to win and their are some out there that think having a title like national champion or world champion makes them better than everyone else. Guess what when the next competition starts there are going to be new winners. I'm just thinking out loud wondering how can you ever better yourself with this kind of stuff happening all the time?

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu

You didn't win, did you Gary?

This response submitted by George on 01/16/2004. ( )

If you read what you've written, you'll see what I mean. Sure I can tell which boar Rick Carter mounted, and which ringtail cat Ken Walker mounted, and which pheasant Jim Kimball put up, and which fish Frank Kotula mounted or which deer head Frazier Craig mounted because they are flawless. NOW, put these same guys in the same room with other National and World Champions and you'll see how a judge earns his money. The trouble with competitions is that they're ego driven and EVERYONE'S ego suffers when his or her very best work didn't quite cut the muster. You ALL say you're there to learn and improve your work, but deep down inside, you know and I know that's not true. You really wanted someone to tell everyone else how good you were and you're disappointed it didn't happen.

I understand it completely and you competitors have my highest respect. It's easy to sit on the sidelines like me and criticize, but only by playing the game do you get the priviledge to gripe. SOMETIMES judges do get it wrong, but so do NFL referees and MLB umpires. On the whole, however, they don't do it often and if you weren't personally involved, you'd probably feel the same way. Most mounts look good at a distance (except those gadawful messes from ebay), but the 10 foot rule eliminates many of them. Move closer to arms length and you've brought it down to a handful. Now put on the magnifier visor and the Mag-Lite and only the best survive. SOMEBODY has to be the best on that day and it's certainly no disgrace not to be. If you did your best work and it fell short, you just have to use the experience as a learning tool and "next time" just might be yours.

I have been involved...

This response submitted by Jim Tucker on 01/16/2004. ( )

in copetitions since the early 80's and in all that time I have only seen ONE case where a judge was unfair. This man is NOT asked to judge ANY shows anymore because of his rep. Other than that all of the judges have been on the up and up. I am talking behind closed doors to as I have spent many an hour in competition rooms during judging. I may not agree with some choices a certain judge has made on my pieces, BUT I never believed them to be unfair. Judging is a thankless job. For every "happy" guy there are 10 "unhappy" guys. To those that judge thank you for your time.

Judges and Competition Chairmans

This response submitted by Kenneth on 01/16/2004. ( )

I have answered this one before. It is the responsibility of the competition chairman to weigh out the abilities, honesty and qualities of a judge. Any judge, who is worth his weight would not dare buy into what you are stating. Any judge who gives into these pressures are poor. In many years of competing, I have seen very few judges who give into these pressures. But, I see numerous competitor who believe they were cheated, and I believe George address this.


This response submitted by Tenbears on 01/16/2004. ( )

I think I will use a tid bit taught to me by Mrs. Tenbears. We Are very active in 4=H and watch kids who work very hard get shot down at horse shows. When they cone to us with tears in their eyes. My wife says. You did your best. It is only a $4.00 opinion, ( the cost of entering). Now you know what that particular Judge looks for, the next time you can be better prepared. I realize it cost a bit more to enter a Taxidermy Competition. But if it is true for a 12 year old, it certainly should be for adults

You vs. the score sheet

This response submitted by Ken R. Walker on 01/16/2004. ( () )

Many times judging there were mounts I wanted to give blues to but the score sheet wouldn`t let me!The people who consistently win all understand one thing:It`s them against the score sheet regardless of who else is competing.I prefer the NTA score sheet because it will teach you best how to work your way up to the nationals or worlds.


This response submitted by Ric Carter on 01/16/2004. ( )

As an artist, i have seen biased judging before, and it will happen again. No way around it, it's going to happen from time to time. The only thing that works is to get your work until it is undeniably the best.

By the way I am not Rick Carter the GOOD taxidermist. I'm a bit of a lurker that is just learning. If you want to see what I generally do, do a Google search for "waksupi", and look at my page.


This response submitted by gill on 01/17/2004. ( )

I have been invited to judge 3 shows this year. I have competed sinse 1990. Im very excited about sharing, and learning from others. I hope to view every piece as this person put their all into this. Can I give this piece a blue. what can I share with this person. for years I was judged "too hard", until I realized it wasnt the judge, the problem was my work stunk. I dont know all there is to know, but I hope we can have some fun and do better next show.
Dan Gill

Judging its the hardest thing you will do.

This response submitted by John C on 01/17/2004. ( )

Ok maybe the best thing for you would be to volunter to help record scores.

I know my work is not the best never will be, but I do compete with customer mounts. What I have learned is not to worry about what I did, but what I did not do.

I will listen to what the judges are saying to other taxidermist about thier mount, chances are you have or are making the same mistakes many do.

Its really incredible that many make the same mistakes! It happens in all catagories.

Should you get a chance sit in on Rick Carter's deer seminar, I did at the NTA summer 2003 and learned more about deer than all my years in this business, so did my girlfriend and she did not know what good work looked like. She does NOW!

Its you against the deer, not against other taxidermist.

I know Ill sound like "Joe-know-it-all" but...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/17/2004. ( )

Darn it, Ive been there! Im a competitor and a judge. Ive made a bad call, and Ive been the recipient of a couple. I can honestly say that, in my 15 some odd years of judging, I have not been told by the association to pick a certain piece to win. I seldom even have had guys suggest it. Yes, now and then certain guys hint to certain tachniques or opinions as I get ready to go in, which is obvious. But, as a professional, I do my best to go in unbiased. As a competitor Ive been the recipient of only one dirty deed that Im aware of. Ive also been the recipient of a few bad calls. Bad, but honest mistakes. Now step back and think of all the shows Ive entered, and Ill tell you this system is still batting a pretty good average. These shows arent crooked. I recall the show I blew a call on, too. It was an IGT show I did, way back when, and I had two deer heads in mind, and needed to choose one over the other. In the many years since Ive learned enough additional info about deer to realize, in hindsight, that I probably misjudged that guys mount. It still bugs me to this day...

Gary believes that we as judges pick our boys to win. Gary is very wrong. Do any of you realize how hard it is for me to judge a show where I DO know many of the competitors? Do you have any idea how many people Ive come to be friends with at these shows? Thats a lot of favoritism! Im asked to judge a show, and its a great honor too, just like it is to win. Well, when I judge the NY state show, Im judging mounts of competitors Ive competed with or have judged on and off for years. Many are past students. Many are neighbors! Dont you think I recognize traits that they have? Hows this for a question. Do you think its easy handing a guy like Fred Vanderburg a B of C ribbon, and he lives a mere 3 hours from my studio? I have customers from his area. My giving a guy a ribbon is actually going to advertise against me, you know. I awarded ribbons to guys as close as five n minutes from my studio, too. Look, if they earned the score based on the scoresheet, its my job to recognize that through evaluating the mount, and awarding it that score.

This is my last year judging, and its because of people like Gary. Not a slam against him, as he only sees these shows through his eyes. Hes entitled to this opinion. But after all these years, I cant effectively judge a show when there are now more and more Garys out there. Gary's opinion of these competitions has become the norm, and Im not able to judge with that being the general consensus. I used to get an occasional disagreement when I judged. Now, all four judges at the show have a couple each time! Heck we were getting arguments from guys at the World show. There were mounts that had open mouths with jaws hinged halfway back instead of at the point of connection, like real anatomy. Thats the judges fault? The best part is, Ill make enemies from that. Go figure! The Minnesota state show in March is most likely going to be my last judging assignment, and quite frankly, Im almost releived.

In closing, let me say this. Theres some very talented, honest judges out there. I know, theres a couple who have no right judging too, I wouldnt compete at a show theyre in either, hahaha. And yes, theres also a few who are making noise, trying to get noticed, but give them some time. Theyll do fine. And so will you as a competitor. But youll have to go into it with a better attitude than some have lately...

Look, some of you will be angered by these words and think Im way off. But ask yourself this. Ive won a lot of awards over the years, and Ive also handed out a ton more. How out of touch do you really think I am?

Honest Question

This response submitted by Paul I on 01/17/2004. ( )

Why not have the mounts shown but leave off who mounted them.This way the pressure would be off the judges and you would get a lot less of the people who did not win to know that it was done by the sheet and done fair.I think if I were to judge I would prefer this method and not have the person who mounted it standing there figuring out what Im thinking.After the competion you could have a session with the judges to figure out how to mount better. Its a win win situation for both parties.

I'm with Bill

This response submitted by Kim Owens on 01/17/2004. ( )

I have seen the competition scene from both directions for 20+ years. In the early years- I saw my husband thrilled to death over the 2nd and 3rd place ribbons he received. He got his critiques, went back home and studied his score sheets and worked at improving the mistakes he made. He spent alot of money on reference material, made many carcass casts and spent hours 'playing' with dead birds. In not too long of time- the 2nds became 1st and then the 1st became best of categories and best of shows and North American champions. Finally- the calls to judge shows started coming in. Talk about a Pandora"s box! Some are gonna get angry by this but- what the heck- the direction of competing started to change. Competitors started raising hell with judges, the ribbons became more important than the education they able to receive if they would ask for the critique. The internet came alive and angry competitors could log on to their computer and slam the heck out of a judge that did the work, studied the reference and had a different opinion of a particular mount than the person that mounted it. Not necessarily a different opinion- but the knowledge to know where the competitor went wrong. Several years ago we had a friend that went to the Texas show with us. He was very talented and mounted really beautiful birds. There was only one problem- his birds were beautiful but they were not accurate anatomically. He did not win the blue ribbon he desired. Needless to say, he never competed again and eventually got out of taxidermy. I think we now are an industry full of egomaniacs. This is not everyone for sure, but we all know the saying ' a few bad apples'. It does my husbands' heart well when he does critiques and people are excited to learn from him. This is why he judges. It certainly is not for the few who cuss him, that call him an idiot, and that tear up their score sheets in front of his face. I have sat in many a competition rooms throughout this country with great taxidermist and judges. Why everyone else at the show is having fun, they are locked in rooms with flashlights, reference and pencils that never hold a good point. They usually get to sleep at 3-5am, only to get up at 7 to give a seminar or go finish the job they have been hired to do- all with you, the competitor, in mind. The ribbons are nice- they show your success- but they should not be your primary reason for going to conventions. Learning from people that have already made the mistakes should be. I don't know a judge that has not felt at one time or another he made a mistake in judging- they are human- they have good days and bad days- they do their best and most of all- they have taken time from their own businesses to help you- the competitor become better taxidermist. And for those of you who think- heck- they're making money judging this show- the joke is on you.

I agree with George...somewhat(LOL)

This response submitted by Doug on 01/17/2004. ( )

I agree with George on some points. He named several animal artists(and there are others) whose COMPETITION mounts are "flawless." For someone capable of that level of achievement, the motivation must certainly be ego. They undoubtedly know more than the judge who scores their entry. The "learning value" for such a competitor = 0. Then there is the professional who can produce a HIGH QUALITY commercial mount for his/her customers. Such a taxidermist can be justly critiqued for "little" omissions and inaccuracies. However, 99.9% of customers whould never notice such detailing, and it would take the artist much extra time to include such "improvements" into a commercial mount. Time is money to most of us, and it would be financially unjustified to spend a LOT of extra time on details that customers would never notice. The DOLLAR VALUE of such learning from competition = 0. You might consider that a row of ribbons hanging in a showroom gets more work for a taxidermist. I doubt it amounts to anything substantial. IMHO, the REAL educational value of competing is for those "professionals" who lack the basics ( knowledge, skills, methods) to produce a HIGH QUALITY commercial mount. Ebay is full of them(LMAO!) A taxidermist like that can learn to do a better mount as a result of competing, and good mounts attract customers. Learning value for these persons = 10!


This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/17/2004. ( )

Thats how its done already. Its just that after time, we recognize who does what type of work and can often guess whose entry is whose. We dont try to, its just obvious after awhile.

Kim is right, its often about ego, no doubt about it. When I compete, I enjoy the lift it brings me. Ego isnt bad, as long as it doesnt get away from you. It has with me in the past, so again, I speak from experience! I can say its been years since Ive seen an entry thats close to perfect, though.


This response submitted by Paul I on 01/18/2004. ( )

Thanks for the input as I like learning about the higher end of the art from the best as I have been on the other end also.It must be very hard on you to see and hear comments like Garys when you try to do the right things.I say keep going because most of these guys will respect you and the few who do not deserve nothing.

Great posts, Kim and Bill

This response submitted by George on 01/18/2004. ( )

You've both explained it beautifully. As you know, I don't compete, but I work the NTA show and I see what those judges go through. Sometimes I'm not happy about some things, even from a distracted sense, but never have I had more respect for their knowledge in doing what they do. If anyone thinks it's the money, they are crazy. Shows all pay the judges some stipend from reimbursement for travel, lodging, and food to a set sum of money. I don't know any judge who couldn't make as much money as they are paid for that week of work, by staying home and doing work for themselves.

I know Doug never intended it to be interpreted this way, but his post might lead some to think that after a person has attained that skill level and all those awards, they should stop competing. Nothing is farther from the truth. The bigger shows DO have categories where they compete among themselves, but the fact remains that we would all be hurt if we weren't able to see what the pinnacle of our industry looks like and compare it to our own work. I'll apologize to him personally, but John Lager is a good example. Each year John's work seems to get even better than the year before. He's gone from basic taxidermy to creating works of art from wood, specimen, and environments to paint a canvas in his pieces. Ken Walker has gone from real animals to realistic reproductions that even museums have doubted their authenticity. Frank Newmyer has gone from birds to bronzes. Even Mike Boyce eschews lifesize sculpture to taxidermy now. Sure it's all ego when you say it from an impersonal point of view, but would any of us truly know what was possible if it weren't for these few people pushing that envelope. I can say with a great deal of certainty that the work of the National Champion in 1973 probably wouldn't look as good as the work I saw last year on the Junior Taxidermists tables. You can't appreciate any of this unless you see where today's competitions AND JUDGES fit into the scheme of things. I'm still in awe of mounts I see every year and I'm dumbfounded when I see the "magic" in the hands of todays taxidermists. Only with judges pushing that envelope, and taxidermists using the shows as a learning tool did it ever get to this point in the first place. It's a shame these dynamic people have to suffer disdain when they should have our undying adulation. Next time you don't get that coveted blue ribbon, I hope you have the maturity to accept what you got as a challenge instead of an embarassment.

its like school

This response submitted by gill on 01/18/2004. ( )

I went through school on C's. I was OK with that. But can I imagine competing in a show with these names mentioned above, and getting a blue ribbon? Not beating them, just getting an A in the same class. WOW! I dont think its Ego, as much as setting goals in life, and not settleing for C's.
Dan Gill

and before anyone says it in the negative sense...

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 01/18/2004. ( )

Theres a bunch of excellent taxidermists out there, whose names we know well. Theres also a bunch who choose not to compete for whatever reason. Their work is great too. I didnt want someone to think we were implying that you had to be competition proven to be valid for any praise.

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu