This is going to sound like a rant, and in a way I guess it is. I saw where someone posted a thread the other day similar. SO not to hijack his thread, I'm posting this one. I have been learning Taxidermy for just under 2 years now, so I speak from experience and this information is of course my opinion. Anyone please feel free to add to it. If you are thinking of learning Taxidermy there are 3 things you need. 1.) Specimens: No matter how much knowledge you gain you will never learn without practice. To practice you need Specimens. It is now late August and hunting seasons around the country are opening. Get the word out that you need specimens. Trappers, Hunters, and other outdoorsmen are your best bet. Friends looking for "lightly" hit roadkill isn't gonna cut it. If you don't know anyone who hunts or traps, google clubs in your area and contact them. Get as many as you can put in your freezer. This applies to all areas of Taxidermy, ducks, mammals, fish and bones. Avoid paying for specimens. Sometimes it's not only illegal, but you need your money for supplies. Going from a whole animal to a finished mount is 90% prep work and 10% fun stuff. Learning to skin, flesh, salt, tan, wheel, wash, degrease, macerate and pickle is what you should have as your first goal. Skinning a raccoon for lifesize down to the feet and off the skull is no different that skinning any other animal. Same with squirrels, possum, Nutria, mink, martin...you get my drift. Have plenty of specimens on hand so you can practice. You will not (more than likely) be able to take your first specimen and get it mounted. You will cut too many holes, mess up in the tanning process, rip off legs, ect. So have a mindset that these are PRACTICE. If they make it, Great, if not oh well, go to the freezer and get another. 2.) Supplies: Supplies include all tools and reference needed to do Taxidermy. Everything from DVD's to scalpels. These cost money. Make yourself a list of things you NEED and prioritize them. As you get the funds order them. Reference pics are a supply. You have to have them. Download from the Internet. If you don't have money to start projects, download pictures. Keep in mind that people make DVD's to make money. Very few are gonna show you every step, exactly as it should be done. Get as many different ones as you can and take notes. Taxidermy.net is a great recourse. Use the search. Ask questions, but do not expect someone just to tell you exactly how to do something. Read the archives, many times a thread topic doesn't reflect the body of the posts. 3.) Knowledge: This is the biggie. If you watch 5 DVD's on how to mount a Bobcat and you try it...you'll probably do it wrong. I know I did. Use the DVD's, Taxinet, and YouTube along with PRACTICE to get going. At some point you need live instruction. The absolute BEST place to get that is at your State Show. I was fortunate enough to get this advice when I started out and it has saved me thousands of dollars and hours of time. The first year I got into Taxidermy I attended 2 State Shows. The knowledge is unbelievable. Do not go there with the attitude of "It's a vacation", or, "I can't go because I don't have anything to enter". Go with the attitude that you are there to get as much information as you can. Go to every seminar that interests you and TAKE NOTES. Even if you don't know what the heck they're talking about. Write it down. Talk to people. The hallways are a treasure trove of information. Make friends and get contact information. When you are allowed in the showroom look at all the mounts. Pick out the ones that YOU like the best and find out who did them. Ask if that person gives classes, or would consider allowing you to call, or email them with questions. Most important of all in my opinion is GO TO THE BANQUET. Write down the names of the people who win. If they are not the ones who did the mounts that you picked out in the showroom, talk to them. Ask if they give classes, or would mind mentoring you. The greatest thing about going to shows is that you learn what good Taxidermy is supposed to look like. If you are reading this and want to get into Taxidermy and have never attended your State Show you need to plan it NOW. Most shows are in the Spring/Summer. If your State Show is in March that's 28 weeks from now. If you put 20$ a week aside you would have $560 by the time the show was here. That should be plenty to get you there, pay dues, motel, and banquet tickets. Think about it. It costs on average 250-500$ a DAY for Professional Instruction. You get 3 days, with 20-30 "Instructors" at your State Show. Not to mention the contacts you make. It's no fun to continuously mount stuff that looks like crap. Once you get sick of doing it wrong it's time to get a class. There are numerous Taxis on here that advertise, and there are reviews for them. I have heard horror stories of folks that paid local Taxis to "teach" them. If you have already attended your State Show then you know what good taxidermy looks like. Take classes from someone who does good work. Well that's my take on it. Hopefully it will save someone time and money.