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Calling it quits

Discussion in 'The Taxidermy Industry' started by George, May 7, 2018.

  1. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    After over 60 years of loving this fantastic ride, I'm getting off at the next station. I intend to be here because it's in my blood and I feel I can still contribute, but the day to day operations have taken their toll and I've suffered my last burnout.

    Instead of going quietly, I'm going to tell you what led to this. I suppose you could say it's the world today. I've seen the slow and steady as she goes turn into the gasoline assed, instant gratification mentality. Where once a customer's word was his bond, I wouldn't turn my back on half of them today. With the exception of those rare people, most customers will bitch and moan about your prices. They want museum quality work for Goodwill pricing. They demand to know why it "takes so long to do ONE deer" and when you tell them they are one of many and will likely take most of a year, they start all over. Many of them will take their stuff and tell you they're going to find someone who's cheaper and faster and for those, I have a stock of brown paper bags to hand them their crap and tell them to go.

    Many of you are in denial of what I've been saying for years: taxidermy is a dying industry. Most of you are just too dumb to recognize the signs around you. Just look back in the archives at some of the names who appeared here at it's inception. I'm guessing now but Jean Lavalee, John Creager, Richard Christoforo, Frank Kotula, and I are about the only hangers on (as I said before, we're just too dumb to quit). Certainly Ken Edwards has been with us through thick and thin.

    Next is going to come the chest grabbing, heart rending screams of the competition guys. Those that aren't dead are dying a slow death. Some will boast that their numbers have increased but few of you will recognize that it increased simply because there are less states around you holding them and people are migrating to that last bastion. I've seen highly talented young guys come in the door and blast right to the top. They bask in the adoration of their peers but then find that the customers who pay the rent aren't willing to pay for that quality of work. Another chink in the armor was when money came into the fray. We created a class of gold diggers who nomadically traveled far and near in search of prize money. (I once say a grizzly bear that had been to 5 different state shows.) Then we had to pay judges (rightly so, now mind you, since why should a person leave their business for a week and go across the country to help someone else without expectation of remuneration) who simply can't win doing it. (See Bill Yox's post on Facebook) It's a lose-lose pyramid scheme that guys at the bottom quickly tire of playing and the ones at the top begin in-fighting about who's being played and who's playing.

    Suppliers played their roles but also realized the futility. McKenzie seems to be the favorite whipping boy and accused of monopolizing the industry. REALLY? So a business is monopolizing if it buys out smaller companies who can no longer make a profit? With the government intrusion into all facets of our lives, the mom-and-pop, small businesses IN EVERY FIELD are drying up. When I started, there was only one catalog: Van Dykes. Many of us learned from those catalogs. Sure Northwestern Taxidermy Supply was there, but they carried about half a dozen non-descript forms and their magic Calorex powder, but they weren't effective or efficient. When the Northwest students multiplied, Van Dykes got bigger and spawned a lot of smaller companies. Everybody ate. When the business went down, those businesses dried up. Economics 101

    The shows. I suspect that the World Taxidermy Championships will be the last one standing. Cry and scream all you want but taxidermists don't play well together and shows are no exception. Just like organizations, there tends to be one or two people who keep it afloat. I already know there are those who are going to ridicule this statement and that's all well and good, but you can't reinvent the wheel no matter how hard you try. Few of you even know the history of modern taxidermy and less about the idea of organizations. We really aren't that old.

    In April of 1972, a kind hearted, gentle man and his wife, Charlie and Lola Haynes wanted to drag this industry out of the closet and with meager money they made off their small taxidermy supply house and business, they formed the National Taxidermists Association. It didn't take very long for bigger egos to decide Charlie wasn't "refined" enough to be in charge of such and endeavor and he was railroaded out of the spotlight he'd created. Suddenly organizations sprang up all over with over 35 states eventually having associations. Nationally, the biggest of them at the time was the Piedmont show where people drove hundreds of miles and slept in cars to be able to learn from the best of the best. The NTA had its own infighting however, and the International Guild of Taxidermists was formed to separate good old boys from good old boys. Same situation. Guys took out their rulers and decided whose was bigger and the IGT fell on hard times. They sent out an olive branch to the NTA in hopes of salvation and instead were given a lump of coal. Feeling it's oats, the NTA decided to require state associations to affiliate with them and that began their own tumble. Board members who saw how a small select group was going decided to start their own association and the United Taxidermists Association was formed.

    Look at the industry today. There are only a handful of states holding conventions and though they seem to be successful, the membership growth is lackluster. Piedmont and the excitement it generated are only fond memories. The NTA imploded from mismanagement and misappropriation. Their "Regional" shows have withered away and the one I attended last year only had 5 small suppliers show up at the very seedy venue that had been chosen. Though the NTA tried to regenerate, it's actually pretty much a non-player. There are no books publicly available, no elections held, and no correspondence. The top players have been in a continual state of flux and from my understanding, board members are hand selected as is the president. The UTA, though certainly well constructed and organized with a realistic mission statement has grown deafeningly quiet. Key players tired of doing everything and their replacements had lives to live. I'm a life member and haven't seen a ballot in a couple years. Though both groups make appearances either individually or with other state associations, neither carry the weight such organizations would have 40 years ago. The saddest thing I've ever witnessed was two shows held in Birmingham, Alabama. The first one had about 2500 people participating. Two years later, the halls echoed when a small group walked down it. There were likely less that 500 people in attendance.

    Sponsors? Van Dykes was bought out by Cabelas on a venture that didn't last 5 years. Cabelas cut their losses and sold Van Dykes to McKenzie. Even the once mighty Cabelas has sold out to Bass Pro Shops. Carolina Fur Dressers created Headquarters Supply that was purchased by Big Rock Sports. Big Rock had hosted a national competition in conjunction with their trade show. I'm not sure but it seems that the competition has disintegrated.

    Pooh pooh this all you like but there's been a drastic change in America. Since 1991, we have lost over 2.5 million hunters. That should scare hell out of you if you take into consideration the number of hunters who no longer need your services. We have always been cast as a sort of pariah for what we do, but with a national movement to outlaw private ownership of guns, we tend to be looked upon as Neanderthals whose time is past. The rank and file hunters are everyday citizens today and their money is guarded. The cost of us doing business has gone up and already we see the attraction of "European mounts" being done by the hunter himself rather than contracting us. Certainly many simply can't afford us. A few dogged individuals relinquish their only control of workload by keeping prices the same or even, in some cases, lowering them in order to have work. We never bother to realize that such actions punish us for the sake of others and oftentimes businesses are nickels propping up dimes. I'm sure all of you know at least one person who has to do taxidermy in order to pay off the bills for his last year's supplies last. What little deposits they took have been used for more timely causes and now there's obligation to take in even more work to buy the supplies for last years work.

    Now before one of you smug ashholes try to tell me that if I don't like this business, I should have got out and not been so negative, this is for you. You aren't smart enough to understand there's NOTHING "negative" about that. It's a positive scenario of where we're headed without some monumental changes. I'm simply being pragmatic and what I've said either has come to you in a nightmare while you slept or it will eventually. You can't invent the wheel, I didn't invent the wheel, but whoever did, got it rolling and it's going to take a serious effort to stop.
  2. wa

    wa Thanks John...this depicts me better

    So true!
    images of nature likes this.

  3. images of nature

    images of nature New Member

    Agree with most if not all of what you have stated. If I may add that social media has not helped the instant gratification generation, as a strange form of jealousy is created with every post! Where is my animal, why did they get their animal before me. It is a race to bottom!
    Doug Motgomery and Rino T like this.
  4. Sometimes its just time to move on.
    artwildcreate likes this.
  5. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Well dammit George, you sure know how to piss in a guy's cornflakes. I'm sorry that you have gotten a bitter taste for the taxidermy life. There are plenty of truths in what you have written here but, call me an optimist or a fool, matters not to me. I will do what I can to keep taxidermy relevant, I have to, it is my career of choice. I have had another career and fought to keep it going but when the company I worked for moved to the other side of the state, I switched to taxidermy full time.
    I'm not sure if you are aware of this but I recently joined the board of the UTA. It is one way I feel that I can contribute to keep taxidermy relevant. Granted, I may fail and taxidermy may become obsolete, but I doubt it. I have been in business for over a decade now and my business has grown every year, granted I do not make the disposable income that I use to but I do OK. I don't spend hours behind the wheel anymore just to commute to and from, I pay less for car insurance and maintenance on my truck. I can make less and still live how I want to, typically. Yes, there are lean times but that kind of goes with just about any career, save for careers related to the medical field.
    Now before you call me an idiot that doesn't listen, let me say, I believe I hear what you are trying to say and I hope that I don't become as bitter as you have in the future. I may, who knows but, right now I'm not and I refuse to see that it is bad as you claim. I do wish you well in your retirement and hold no grudges with you for being who you are, Take care and please do stop in and give advice when you can. I plan to be here for a while.
    Todd B, freeze_1, sarahdj and 2 others like this.
  6. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    Great thread George. I learned long ago that the surest way to go broke in taxidermy is to work only to impress other taxidermists.
    woakley144, JL, Rino T and 5 others like this.
  7. Timjo

    Timjo Active Member

    Thank you Mr. George for sharing your story in conclusion of 60 years in a career of taxidermy. It is earned wisdom that most in this field or plan on starting, should take heed.
    Hope things go well for you.
    JUST FISH and msestak like this.
  8. Dave York

    Dave York Well-Known Member

    I don’t know how anyone does any kind of work for 60 years without hating the business they are in.
    I was a HD truck mechanic for 30 years. I hate working on my own vehicles.
    At times I was a fleet supervisor. Dealing with people can cause one to loose faith in mankind.
    George you’ve put in two lifetimes in this business. Hats off to you for doing it as long as you have.
    Grummpy, tviper56 and msestak like this.
  9. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    3Bearsn you're hardly the first person who's told me I'm " bitter". Perhaps you need a new dictionary or I'm perhaps reticent in saying it well enough, but you couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm not bitter in the least. Do you think I could have lasted this long being bitter. I'm a pragmatist and truly believe my motto. Do you realize that you have 50 more years to get to my enlightened state? I wish you the same success that I've had. Taxidermy is simply not a career choice no matter how you rationalize. It is,in fact, a lifestyle. Careers are based on 40 hour weeks,health care packages, paid vacations. This is a rhetorical question: how many times have you abandoned personal or family plans in order to meet some customer's demands? How many times have you ever worked Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and then spent the weekend with your family? Unless you live in a different world than I did, I know the answers I have to those questions are exactly like everyone else's. Being honest with yourself has nothing to do with being "bitter". When you aren you're seldom surprised.
    Mark V., tviper56, 9pointer and 3 others like this.
  10. Richard C

    Richard C Well-Known Member

    You have covered most all the bases truthfully. There are a few you left out but I'll hit on them in a few days . 3 Bears , George doesn't hate the work he hates the customers mentality related to and towards taxidermy and taxidermists. You'll find out sooner or later. That's what burns us out ! The actual "work" is relaxing and self rewarding . It's dealing with all these rectum vents that bring us the work that causes the burn out . In India , the caste system regulated the taxidermist to the bottom of the caste system with the rubbish collectors and undertakers and they couldn't live in the cities , they had to live outside the cities.
    The big cities in the NE are void of taxidermists . About 10 years ago I met a old client lawyer hunter that had a bear to do lifesize . I asked him who he brought it to , he said he had to go way up in Maine and that around his home area , Boston, he could find a crack dealer faster than a taxidermist. I did explain to him that there was a lot more money in crack than taxidermy. I met him again a few years later and asked him if he got his L/S bear back ? That set him off again as he said the taxidermist shrunk his bear and did a terrible job on it ! I guess the guide must have told him how big it was , to get a bigger tip ! We will continue these taxidermy customer stories in the near future . I have a lot of them , need to write a book.
  11. rbear

    rbear Well-Known Member

    George I'm glad you are following your heart and moving into your next life chapter of retirement. Putting up with people for 60yrs is amazing and you are a saint for doing it.
    I personally have been in the corporate world for almost 40yrs with one of those careers you are talking about. Do I have health care get paid a fair sum of money you bet. Do I work 40hrs a week, and take weekends off, are you F'n kidding me. Taxidermy is a career just like any other. If you want to succeed at any career you have to make personal sacrifices. Now taxidermy as a well paying career that is a different story.
    I do taxidermy as a part timer and will do it in my retirement for extra cash.
    Again George you take care of your self and enjoy the piece of mind you will get from not having to deal with the general public.
    Last edited: May 8, 2018
  12. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    George, I do not need a new dictionary. What I hear from you is bitterness plain and simple. Granted it may not be directed towards taxidermy, but it does damn well pertain to the nuances that go along with taxidermy. You can call it what you wish, it is your story after all.
    Richard, my last career also dealt with customers, many who are considered to be in the upper class and let me say this, they made the average taxidermy customer appear to be level headed and understanding. I have learned that the best way to get along in any business that deals with customers is to expect them to piss you off, that way when they don't, you are pleasantly surprised. Actually after thinking about it, I have been dealing with customers for better than 30 years, I would think I have a decent handle on what to expect form most. I'm betting that taxidermist are no different when having other services performed for themselves, especially if they know nothing of the procedures and practices.
    We always seem to piss and moan about our customers but guess what, we would all be nothing but people that play with "Stuffed animals" without them.
  13. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    Not to stray too far off topic, but let's be real here. "A career in taxidermy" is an oxymoron! It is not a career, it is a job. That's a good reason why (I believe) many of us get burned out so often, or burned out, period. There is no long term planning for this future like a true career. And if any of you did plan on getting into this you certainly didn't need any training to hang a sign on your front door and start your business. There is nothing beyond taxidermy to strive for. Anybody can do it. Maybe not well, but "yes" anybody can do it. That's why the pay sucks and the benefits are non-existent and the boredom kicks in. Taxidermy is a j.o.b.. Some may love it. But, it's still a job, not a career. If that offends some, get over it and go back to school!

    George, it has been an interesting ride to say the least! And I have always enjoyed reading your posts as you have a unique, eloquent way of saying things. I may not always agree with your thoughts, but I enjoyed reading about them! Besides, where's the fun in agreeing all the time anyway? :)

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but my 2 cents for what it's worth. George, you have been bitter as long as I have read your posts on Taxi.net! And I wasn't too far behind you when this website started. Maybe the burnout has been going on THAT long? Not to be too judgemental, but I think it's convenient to blame your bitterness on your customers, and that may be true to some extent. But, I believe boredom is probably the real reason. 60 years in a repetitive, dead end job can do that to a person! But, some have been in the business nearly as long as you and they are much more positive and seem to enjoy their job. It's the way one reacts to their situation that they chose to put themselves into that truly counts.

    Anyway, good for you! Whatever reason(s) are behind your choice, I think it's been a long time coming and will be a good thing for you. The stress of deliverables are my biggest issues with this job - and much of that is brought on by myself due to the boredom. I have re-invented myself numerous times throughout my life as I tried to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (and I hope I'm not too far behind you!) Change can be scary, but (for me) it recharges my batteries! Some people are blessed with being born knowing exactly what they want to do in their careers - and I know many folks that truly love what they do and will only stop doing it when they are unable to perform anymore.

    Reinvent yourself George and do the things you've always thought about doing but have never done. I've been meaning to buy your book. You have the gift to write - why not write some more? Something outside of taxidermy. I am swamped with work and stress out over it all the time. Today, I went fishing for the first time this year! And I live on a lake now!!! Unbelievable how getting away from taxidermy for a while doing something I love was a major stress relief for me! And THAT is the real problem. And in fact the only part of our jobs that crosses into the career definition. You cannot get away from taxidermy when you work out of your home!!! I lose track of the days all the time. Weekend? What's a weekend??? The crap all adds up. And each of us is different. I actually like dealing with my customers because it's human contact! Working alone takes it's toll!!! For me, this job is too repetitive. You can only do so many walleyes before you are no longer challenged!

    Anyway, as usual I am rambling - lol! Congrats to you and take a break from this place. You'll thank me!
    George likes this.
  14. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Thanks Marty. I really don't need to reinvent myself as I've been building furniture and woodworking almost as long as I've been doing taxidermy. Regardless of what 3 Bears says I've never had a furniture client to match the guys with dead things. I just quit DOING taxidermy, not talking about it.

    Attached Files:

    Duckslayr, nemo and FishArt like this.
  15. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    Pretty nice dresser George! I think it all adds up. Whatever reason(s) they are. Making stuff is always rewarding and wood working is similar to taxidermy in that aspect. I suspect many full-time woodworkers would get tired of the whole shebang after many years too. That's why I'm leaning more and more towards recommending this taxidermy hobby, job, career - whatever you want to call it as a better fit for a part-timer. The inconsistency of workload is another reason from that perspective. And from another perspective part-time is one way to maintain interest and keep one's attitude up so burnout never rears it's ugly head.

    Anyway, I never could get into Wood Shop in high school. Always filled. Instead I took a couple of years of Metal Shop - where they stuck everybody that couldn't get into Wood Shop! I had a very interesting teacher that would always call his class a bunch of losers - lol! He reminded me of "Red" from "That 70's Show" because he regularly called students that did stupid stuff "dumb asses"! Can you imagine how he would fare in today's PC teaching world??? But, we did learn a lot from him!

    Enjoy your retirement George!
  16. Megan :)

    Megan :) Well-Known Member

    George, excellent post. I can see your point, and believe I understand it. I certainly hope you stick around taxinet, as I am sure there is still so much we can learn from you. Plus, it would be a bit more boring around here without you!

    That dresser is beautiful. I would enjoy seeing a thread where you show us your projects. My woodworking skills are extremely basic, I love seeing the things other people can create with their hands!
    freeze_1, FishArt and Chippers like this.
  17. Museum Man

    Museum Man Well-Known Member

    me being retired and in my 60's I am happy just having four or five customers who hunt Africa and the states every year and give me enough work just to keep my hands in the fire. not enough to get pissed and not enough to be busy. I could not put up with doing it every day again. more than happy those days are gone. best of luck to you George. quite a few of us will know were you are coming from.
    AZ~Rich and FishArt like this.
  18. Codi

    Codi Well-Known Member

    Great post, George.
  19. Rick Krane

    Rick Krane Fish Taxidermist/ Judge/ Sculptor/ Instructor

    George you'll always have a shop to work in and place to stay here in Hinsdale New Hampshire, but, we'll be fishing too my old friend! Hope to see you in August!

    Rick Krane
    yanta61, D.Price and FishArt like this.
  20. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    George, whatever your motivation is, I sincerely hope you enjoy your next venture. You came to your conclusions by living your life, I respect and understand that and I have no issues with that.
    My gripe is with the negative brush that you paint all of taxidermy and us taxidermists. You sound just like those that aren't willing to accept taxidermy as a legitimate business. I'm betting that at some time in your life as a taxidermist you would have been upset with the person writing what was written here. I don't expect you to answer but I hope you understand what I am trying to say, I think my opening line said it well referring to pissing in a guy's cornflakes, meaning the negativity that I read in your post could shatter someones dreams or stop them from ever learning taxidermy, that alone does a disservice to something that many of us are passionate about. Take care, George, I'm sure we'll interact again, Shawn AKA 3bears
    Mark V., FishArt and AFTHUNT like this.