Submitted by A.E. Walsh on 03/29/2004 at 06:47. ( )

Lately there's been a rash of taxidermists (at varying levels of experience) asking questions about trying to mount new species. The nearly unanimous opinion of respondents was that a taxidermist is absolutely reckless in using a customer's trophy to mount something for the first time. Frankly, this surprised me.

So a responsible taxidermist, when presented with a sheep to mount for the first time, goes out and buys their own sheep hide and horns to mount first? Or a musk ox, lion, or a bull elk? I could buy that reasoning if it were something inexpensive and easy to obtain, sure, you'd want to "practice" on your own stuff, but...Wasn't there a "first time" for everyone on these forums? And did you always "practice" on your own hides before taking on the project?

Does the responsible taxidermist: (a) turn the sheep mount away to someone who has done a sheep, or (b) fall back on experience on other species and do their best?

Curious how some of you would handle this.



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Just ones opinion

This response submitted by Sandy on 03/29/2004 at 07:13. ( )

I can not believe every taxidermist out there has mounted EVERY species in the world before taking in a customer piece. The taxidermist SHOULD feel he can do the job correctly though. Let's say the taxidermist has mounted 500 whitetail heads....then a mule deer comes into the shop. I feel a responsible taxidermist would inform the customer they have never done a mule deer before, but they are confident they can do it. It is just my opinion that if you are confident in mounting certain species (say red foxes) than there is no reason why you couldn't mount a grey fox.

Now lets say you have only mounted fish, and someone shows up with a lifesize deer.....It would then be unwise to accept something that you are not familiar with.

Now the sheep question. If the taxidermist is confident in mounting that sheep I do not see the problem accepting it....BUT the responsible taxidermist will also inform the customer they have NEVER done one. This allows the customer to either take the chance, or find another taxidermist who has had experience with them. But that is just my opinion. Have a great one!

Interesting viewpoint, Abe

This response submitted by George on 03/29/2004 at 08:14. ( )

I guess I never thought of it in that vein and I'm supposing most of us (I did) put it in those words to caution beginners from jumping off the high board without ever jumping off the edge of the pool. It would scare me if someone who'd never mounted anything but small game asked me how he should mount a desert bighorn sheep lifesize, but I see that opinion was really myopic. Why SHOULDN'T he mount it? If a customer is looking for a "deal" or entrusts that person to do it, why should I care.

In my case, it all goes back to a sincere and heartfelt appreciation and love of nature and not wanting any magnificent trophy left in anything but a respectful replication of what it was in real life. I guess that's selfish in reality, but I'm guilty as charged. I probably said it and would continue to say it. I don't expect a person to go and actually buy a desert bighorn, but I'd like to feel a level of talent in the question before I gave advice. But you made a good point, you DO have to start someplace.

How about answer (c)

This response submitted by Paul B on 03/29/2004 at 08:31. ( )

Go and get some detailed instruction on the sheep from a seminar or another taxidermist before starting the project.

I had never mounted a pronghorn antelope and a friend wanted a couple done. I informed him that I had never done one, but would be happy to mount them. I then started the research, which included a trip to Buffalo NY to the NTA convention. Dennis Behn was giving a seminar on mounting a pronghorn and that was my main reason for attending that show. Seeing that seminar made all the difference in the world when it came time to mount.

I guess one could still call it practice, but I consider every mount practice. Like they say practice makes perfect, right. Well maybe in everything but taxidermy and medicine.


Paul B
Practicing Taxidermist


This response submitted by Coyote on 03/29/2004 at 08:52. ( )

No one is telling anyone not to do a mount for someone. But I think what was really meant. Is that a lot of the newbies mount a bird, fish or game head, some kind of small game animal. And they think they're a taxidermist. They advertize themself as so, then when something comes in they never did, then they're in real trouble. Every aspect of taxidermy has it's difficulties, and just because someone bought some books, video's, or even went to a school. doesn't make them a taxidermist.

They should mount enough to be comfortable. So that when someone does come to them, that they have the knowledge to do the mount. Taxidermy isn't just learning to taxi skin. They need to learn anatomy, habitat, painting, airbrushing, at least have some kind of knowledge of tanning, fleshing, turning ect. Even the most knowledgable taxidermist get in a mount they never did before. But they have the knowledge and experience to tackle the job.

Before you try and build up a cliental. You need to build up your confidence, a good showroom so your client's cam see your work. Gain the experience first, then go for it.


It's a judgement call Abe

This response submitted by jon on 03/29/2004 at 09:37. ( jonathan@ )

I've mounted birds now for 20+ years..and feel that I am realatively competent at it. However, just last month, I was contacted by a local science and nature museum who wanted me to mount a Harpy Eagle for them. I declined their generous offer.. simply becuase in 20+ years, the majority of my work has been waterfowl and upland game. I have maybe done a handfull of raptors for local municipalities, but never anything as rare as a Harpy. A Harpy isnt just another roadkill redtail or great horned owl... it's a bird that doesn't come easy and I wanted to make sure that whoever takes on the project is knowledgeable in Harpy Eagly anatomy and habits and a basic understanding of how to mount a raptor so that the animal is done justice with.


Go look at ebay

This response submitted by Paul I on 03/29/2004 at 10:24. ( )

Abe I responded to a post just the other day about this.Go to beginners and scroll down to taxidermy business.This is how someone can get in trouble.While a taxidermist with years of training could do like Paul B said its the new people who might not take the steps needed and screw up bad.I think if your going to do anything you better know what your doing or learn first.Go take a look at all the bad mounts on ebay and then you decide.I know I would be upset if I brought you a once in a life time mount and the results were bad.I think the main point is your the best judge of what you can mount that can win awards.

I Like George am one of the offenders

This response submitted by Tenbears on 03/29/2004 at 10:45. ( )

When I advise someone not to practice on customers mounts. It is when the original poster has stated he is a beginner. It may not even have been in the post that is in question. I may have read it a few months earlier. Some people come here admitting to being the rankest of beginners. gather some information, and partake in discussions about taxidermy, techniques, Etc. Then two or three months down the road they are posting that they are going to open a shop. Now, Who has ability broad ranged enough to mount several species with any degree of proficiency in only a few months. My advice is always made with their best interest at heart. Although I have no statistics to back this up. I would bet that taxidermy shop failure is very high. I would suspect that many new shops fail because the operator rushes into it too quickly. although they may believe they are prepared. They simply are not. In this business the only way to live down a bad reputation. Is to move far away from it. we all Know word of mouth is our best advertising why should it surprise us that it cannot work in reverse. The same person who fails in a taxidermy business. May very well be a huge success if he/she were to take an extra year or two. invest in their education, by working at it on non consequential specimens. And utilize the seminars available.
I hear so many new comers say it is so hard to get specimens. Or they are so expensive. Instant gratification has become the norm in today's society the computer, video games, toys that do everything. Have all taken the imagination out of our youth. they have become totally devoid of problem solving skills. I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. But I get the impression from a lot of the newbies that they feel they should be able to buy a $9.99 video tape. gather advice here for free. And in just a few weeks be a $50,000.00 a year taxidermist. They sound as though they should not have to invest any of their own money, and very little time in learning the trade.
I, and so many others learned by practicing. To this day I have numerous three ring binders of pictures of animals that I have cut out of magazines dating back to the fifties. These for decades were my reference materials. when I was 15 I skinned 44 mink for a breeder to get one hide to practice on. All the wile I was working for him, I studied the captive mink to get an understanding of how they really looked. I learned how to make a natural looking junction between the hair and horn of a horned animal. By buying domestic sheep hides from the slaughter house, If I did not have the money to buy them out right. I made a deal to clean up around the place in exchange. I practiced. and then practiced some more. In fact I did so for ten years before I did my first commercial mount. Today, Many want to get paid wile they learn. They want to invest as little as possible and learn at the expense of the paying customer.
I am not saying a competent taxidermist should not mount a specimen he has never done. I am not even saying he should not mount one he has never seen. once you gain some skill and experience, you can mount most anything by researching, and utilizing reference materials. As most of the principles are the same.
What I am saying is if you want to be successful in this business. You darn well better be competent at what you do before you mount someone's trophy.

Beginners in trouble.

This response submitted by John C on 03/29/2004 at 11:14. ( )

We are seeing it mor and more, on tv in the news. Lack of experience is going to cost these people and its starting to cost them more and more not only money out of thier pocket by having to refund the hunter for SCREWING THE MOUNT UP but even for thier trip.

Part of the blame lays with the hunter and the other part largly lays with the inexperienced taxidermist.

When you see an ad on here that some newbie cannot afford one of the Breakthrough MANUALS well that person is setting thierself up for failure.

Even if you ordered all the tapes and all the books, you are not going to gain the experience!

Anything you want to do there is a price to be paid. That price is the cost of an education. What should that education cost?
$6,000.00 for a school? $20,000 for a school. Cheap anyway you look at it for a bit of education and you are not going to learn all the tricks of the trade.

I hear the samething from a lot of people they cannot afford to go to a workshop or a state show. My question is what to you expect to do or how to do it without an education?

America is quickly becoming a nation of the haves and have nots. Fewer have nots are getting animals mounted, these are the people who cannot afford to take you and your poor quality work to court.

The haves can and will and its going to cost you big time. The trained taxidermist is going to be summoned to say "Yes your honor the quailty of that piece of work is junk."

Do the newbies expect the old pros to lie to the court?

At what cost do you want to put your future on the line, education cost!

What can you afford to do?

John C is right!

This response submitted by Mr. Kim on 03/29/2004 at 16:16. ( )

John C,

Right on! We agree.

Well, I tell you people what. I don't know everything that is for sure. However, If you "newbies" want, send all of your work that you are unqualified to us and we will do it. Of course, the cost of such work cannot be wholesale. We would have to charge you full price just as we would any retail customer. After you have paid for a few "retail" mounts, you will learn that regardless of what you spend on an education,-- EDUCATION IS CHEAP in comparison to not knowing what you are doing!

One of those days!

Mr. Kim

Thank you

This response submitted by A.E. Walsh on 03/29/2004 at 17:47. ( )

I thank you all for your comments, and I value your opinions (not just on this topic, but your contributions to the Forums in whole).

Personally, I believe every expert started out as a novice, and only through God-given talent (and the training/experience required to realize that talent) did they get to where they are. Hands-on experience with once-in-a-lifetime trophies or not, a person should know their own limits and BE HONEST with themselves and their clients.

Thanks agian for your responses,


its all relative

This response submitted by Bill Yox on 03/29/2004 at 21:20. ( )

As beginners we werent getting ls sheep to screw up. We were screwing up ls squirrels instead. But those screwed up squirrels soon became nice squirrel mounts, and we advanced. THEN the sheep came, and we then had the experience to draw from. Thats a big difference from the nowaday newbies that these guys have cautioned lately...

Thought about answer "D"?

This response submitted by Susan on 03/30/2004 at 23:16. ( designhabitat@earthlink )

Ever heard of 'on the job training'? This is the perfect arena for it. If you're mounting, then you're learning. Whether it's new techniques or new products, it's an ongoing process. The only formal education we have in the field, is going to the Taxidermy Mini-Courses at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, North Carolina(usually in April or May) for the past 12 years. Going to the shows is a good practice. But if you want a total experience try the mini-course. It isn't a situation with the "total public"(joe hunter. PETA, taxidermists, munitions/arms dealers, and so called hunting specialists, etc.)all mixed in. It's as close as you'll find to a "perfect learning environment" devoted to the enrichment of the knowledge and the craft that IS Taxidermy. It isn't about competition, well... maybe just a little in the mount competition.The judges comments can really help point you in a different direction in a lot of ways. Can you imagine ANYWHERE with around 400 taxidermists-taking classes given by the suppliers and elite of the craft, enjoying the interaction and fellowship of others that share the same intense interest that we share in improving our skills? We truley enjoy it. We even consider it as a mini vacation away from the studio. I know the instructors enjoy it too. I've even had a few instructors that had a class run long (or all the questions weren't answered yet, or someone came up with something new to try, etc.)that actually moved the class elsewhere in order to finish the class on a more satisfactory level! I guess we were just having too much fun learning to stop any sooner. Those three days are packed with classes, humor, discussions, and yes-learning. Sometimes we are right there when two ideas forge to develope a totally new technique. The suppliers exhibits are a great place to pick up supplies at an additional discount. Don't forget the business contacts that can be made, and new friendships cemented. Try it out if you can-as you can tell- I'm already sold on it! Have fun ya'll!-Susan

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