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Thread: What You Should Know About Taxidermy and Taxidermists

  1. #1

    Default What You Should Know About Taxidermy and Taxidermists

    What You Can Do To Help You and Your Taxidermist
    1) Before your hunt, stop by and ask details on how your taxidermist would want you to skin and prepare your animal and/or antlers. This will not only make a great impression on your taxidermist, but it will insure that you are doing your part in properly taking care of your trophy. Taxidermists hate it when people bring in capes or hides that have been butchered, and the client always says, "well, my buddy told me to do it this way." There is no excuse for not educating yourself.
    2) If you really care about proper specimen preperation, ask to observe a cape being turned and fleshed and salted. This will not only make you an expert, but it will then allow you to help others and have a valuable skill that is rare these days. FYI, NEVER SALT ANY SKIN UNTIL IT HAS EVERY OUNCE OF FLESH REMOVED FROM IT.
    3) Be prepared when you drop off your trophy. Alway plan on having half the mount cost ready for a deposit. Always bring license and tag information. Time is money, and when a taxidermist has to wait on you to call later with that info, it is an inconvenience.
    4) Give your taxidermist a tip. Taxidermist are providing a service, kind of like a waiter or waitress. A tip would be the ultimate thank-you and make a life-long impression. A taxidermist remembers EVERY tip they ever got.
    5) If planning hunts with a few or more buddies, request a seminar. This is the best kept secret for hunters. One can compare this to a tupperware party for guys. Talk to your taxidermist and ask him if he would be willing to give a couple hour seminar for you and your buddies on how to prep a cape or anything else. If you get anough people, a taxidermist might be motivated for the pure advertising possibility. If you belong to a club or organization, that would be a good activity idea as well.
    6) Trades are often welcome. If you have a gun or bow or pair of binos that you might want to trade, most taxidermist will take that as payment. Most good taxidermist have a good gun collection.

    You Have a Rights
    1) You have a right to a reasonable turn around time. A decent taxidermist can have up to a year turn around time on your mount. Any more than a year, is mostly inexcusable. A year is a long time to wait, but more than that is a red flag. At best, it could mean that your taxidermist is really busy and is doing the best he can. At worst, it means that your taxidermist is mismanaging his time, business, and money. Some shady taxidermist live off of people's deposits, and that is not right. The deposits should be going towards tanning, supplies, labor, overhead costs, and misc. job costs. Usually when a shady taxidermist is taking longer than a year, it means they blew a lot of customers deposits and cannot afford to get the required supplies to complete your piece. However, the 'one year' rule does not apply to a good taxidermist who has suddenly seen his business grow recently. If this is the case, just ask him what he is doing to meet the work load. This sort of circumstance is a good sign. It means you have a good taxidermist and he might reward you with super fast turn around times in the future if you stuck with him. Don't be fooled by flakes though.
    2) If you have legitimate worries, creeply feeling, or red flags, PULL YOUR TROPHY IMMEDIATELY. Most people know when something is not on the up and up, and if it happens to you, request your antlers and cape be turned over to you asap. If the taxidermist seems flakey, then demand he turn over your animal. You can call the state troopers if need be, but that should be a last resort. If this happens to you, NEVER let a taxidermist tell you that you owe him for the full amount. Unless the piece is finished, your deposit takes care of everything. If you are really uncomfortable doing this, contact a reputable taxidermist and ask him to guide you through the process
    3) You have a right to check up on the progress of your trophy. A monthly phone call is fine, but hounding your taxidermist with calls and unnanounced visits is not very cool

    How to Insult a Good Taxidermist
    1) Don's ask for a discount while promising to bring in multiple specimens. Unless you are a personal friend of a taxidermist, don't ask for a discount. You don't get a discount at Walmart for buying multiple items. You don't get a discount at a barber shop if you and a friend both get a hair cut. Would you work for less money just because some stranger ask you to? The labor/time, material, and supplies it takes to mount an animal is the same no matter how many are brought in.
    2) Don't Call on the phone and make your first question, "how much do you charge..?"A good taxididermist will be insulted. He has spent years studying and learning and spent thousands of dollars improving his craft, and it is a slap in the face for someone to narrow their search for a taxidermist down to price check. If a cheap price is more important to you than a quality mount, then a good taxidermist doesn't want you as a customer anyway. Also, if you spent thousands on a truck, 4-wheelers, guns, optics, and hunt preperation, then why all of a sudden turn cheapskate when it comes to honoring your trophy animal?
    3) If you fall on sudden financial hard times, don't ignore your taxidermy bill. Just call your taxidermist and be honest. Ask them if you can make payments. No taxidermist will turn you down because they want to get paid, and most are understanding.

    After The Mount is Done
    1) When taking your mount home, ask how to keep it clean and well taken care of. Most people think when their mount is picked up, it is all done, but there is maintenance to consider. For example, a deer head will need cleaned every month. The hair can be wiped down with a windex rag, alway wiping with the hair pattern and never against it. Plus, all antlers eventually dry out and lose some color and density. You can combat this by applying mineral oil twice a year to your antlers with a rag or tooth brush. It is little things like this that will keep your trophy good-to-go for eternity. Ask your taxidermist what you need to do to maintain your animals.
    2) If you liked your taxidermy experience, spread the good word to others. Nothing makes a taxidermist feel better than good word of mouth getting back to him.

    Strategies For Getting Work Done Fast
    1) Use your wife or friends. Have your wife or friend call your taxidermist on the 'down low' and request that they get the mount done for your birthday or Christmas. Tell the taxidermist how it will be an epic gift because it will fulfill joe six-pac's lifelong dream
    2) Tell your taxidermist that you would really like to have your mount for an event. A sports show, or a business opening or whatever.
    3) Be really honest and offer help. If you are dying to get your mount back, then just show up and ask sincerely. Tell the taxidermist how much it would mean to you and ask him if you can do anything to accelerate the process. A TIP or special payment would be a great gesture and you could just chalk it up as a rush charge.

    Tips To Improve Your Knowledge of Taxidermy
    1) Tanning:The most important step and the foundation for a quality mount. Tanning is the most important aspect of your mount because only a properly tanned and shaved skin will last forever and not crack or dry out or lose hair. Some taxidermists do their own tanning, which is a concern. If they are experienced veterans of taxidermy, then they might one of the few who have figured out how to accomplish a quality tan. If they are hackidermists, run for the hills if they say they do their own tanning. Here are a few questions to ask someone you might suspect as a hackidermist.
    A-Do you use a fleshing machine and tumbler? If they do, then that is a good sign.
    B-Do you use dry perservative? If they say yes, run for the hills. DP is trash for anythign larger than a fox.
    C-Do you send your hides to a tannery? If yes, that is a good sign. That means your taxidermist is sending your skins to a professional who specializes in tanning. Even a bad tannery is better than most of the best taxidermy self-tans.
    2) Ask your taxidermist what he does to improve his work and keep updated on the latest technologies and techniques. Most really good taxidermist are always learning. They take seminars, they compete in taxidermy competitions, they exhange methods through videos and books, and they have subscriptions to industry literature and magazines. If your taxidermist is not well established, then they should be doing most of the above mentioned.
    3) If you are trying out a new taxidermist, then ask him for references. Just like outfitters, a good taxidermist will have plenty of references to offer you so you can check on them. It is not rude to ask and it shows that you care about your taxidermy
    4) Ask your potential taxidermist about his experience. You will know if he is BSing you. Ask him how many particular animals he has mounted of whatever species. If he talks big, ask him to see photos of his past work. This just keeps everythign above board.

    Secret Complaints By Taxidermist About Customers
    1) A client took up an hour of my time telling me his hunting story. By the way, there are only three hunting stories:A-someone stumbled on a trophy with little effort B-their trophy should have been shot by a buddy, but something quirky happened and the client shot it instead C-Either the client hunted super hard and was rewarded with trophy or he hunted this particular trophy for "years" before fatefully connecting
    2) The guy butchered the cape. This means the client not only cut it wrong, but when they did cut it right, the seam looks like a jigsaw cut it.
    3) The client salted the cape wrongly. Some people have heard about salting capes or hides at one time, but salt is the worst thing you can do if the skin has not been properly turned and fleshed. If there is meat of any kind on a skin, salt will only lock it into the skin making it impossible to properly flesh. Find out what "turn and flesh" means and NEVER salt anything unless you know what you are doing
    4) The client had a size issue. This is a classic and historical complaint made by uneducated customers that are mostly directed at fish and deer mounts. The complaint is always worded the exact same way, "I thought my deer's neck was bigger than the mount you did for me", or "My fish was a lot bigger/longer/thicker than the one you mounted for me". The real deal is that when we are away from our trophies, they all grow just a little bit in our minds. For deer, most photos are of a dead deer that is relaxed and limp in death. It is not standing and holding its head and neck up, which is what mounts simulate. A live deer is not bunched up and burly like a dead deer in a photo. Its head and neck are extended as in real life.
    2) Some client actually ask me for a discount while promising to bring me tons of work and all their friend's work as well. See above about discounts, but this is a true occurance that repeats every month in a busy shop. It never happens by the way.
    3) I told the guy how to do it, and he screwed it up anyway. This is another reason to stop by and physically observe how to properly take care of an animal.

    I hope this info helps someone. Remember, there are 'taxidermists' and 'hackidermists', so chose wisely. This entire post was written by me and me only. None of it was cut and pasted or copied in anyway. I don't mind if you copy the material, but please remember to credit me, fabricfan. Thanks
    Last edited by fabricfan; 11-10-2010 at 03:22. Reason: additional info

  2. #2
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Fairbanks most the time, Ancorage some of the time,& on the road Kicking Anti's all the time


    good clear concise information thanks for putting it all i one spot...
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

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  3. #3
    Member ramhunter's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Very good info!...thanks for posting, this should help a lot of folks looking for a good taxidermist. Also I wanted to add that a lot of taxidermists are not a ‘jack of all trades” meaning that they don’t do all species well. Some are very good at fish while others are good at big game!.... I have one do my sheep, bear, deer and birds etc.but he is not good with fish and small animals and will tell you that! I have another do my fish, and he only dose fish and is very good at it!
    Bottom line to me is, you get what you pay for, I’d rather pay a little more for a mount done right!

  4. #4
    Member Mort's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Niceville, FL


    Great writeup! If you ever have (even unspoken) thoughts that taxidermists charge too much, do a "taxidermist appreciation" tour and see how mind-numbing some of the prep work can be - thinning the eyes, lips, nose; sewing the little nicks and holes, expecially a trophy with fur instead of hair. When you realize how much can go into a trophy, you have a much better appreciation of their price structure. It's SO much more than a form, some putty and hide paste, glass eyes, and some sewing!

  5. #5
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Eagle River, AK


    That, sir, is an excellent post. I am going to make it a stick in this forum (trophy care), as this is sage advice that will be valuable for years to come.

  6. #6
    Member AKHunterNP's Avatar
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    May 2008
    North Pole


    Tips? Really? Never heard of that one before.
    "...arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe...Horrid mischief would ensue were the good deprived of the use of them." -Thomas Paine

  7. #7
    Member Alaskan22's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    Gnome, Ak


    Quote Originally Posted by AKHunterNP View Post
    Tips? Really? Never heard of that one before.
    I agree. I tip by paying $210 per sq ft for my bear rug. Now...if I needed a "hurry job", then I'd consider a "thank you" tip...but not just for doing what he is suppossed to.
    Know guns. Know peace. Know safety.

    No guns: no peace. No safety!

  8. #8


    lot of taxidermists are not a ‘jack of all trades” meaning that they don’t do all species well.
    Great point Ramhunter. I was aiming this info towards big game, but you are so right, find a taxidermist who does good work on specific species for sure.
    Tips? Really? Never heard of that one before.
    I never meant to imply that tips were required. If you do tip though, I guarantee you that it will reap some benefits that are unseen. If you think tipping is stupid, don't do it.

  9. #9


    This is an awesome thread! I am a taxidermist and I totally agree with everything except the tanning part. I do my own tanning for a reason. I just dont trust anybody to do it. Plus, if I send capes to a tanner and it takes them three months to get them back to me, that's a lot of lost time when I can tan them myself, save money and time, and most importantly, I know they are done right. As for the rest of the info on this thread I agree 100%! you brought up a lot if stuff that most people never think about.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011


    Tic, don't be offended by self-tanning stigma. Maybe you do it well, but most garbage can tanners don't do it well. There are five or six tanneries in the U.S. that are some of the best in the world. Why not send your skins to a reputable outfit who specialize in tanning, and who's only job is to tan? Makes total sense to me. If you are putting out good tanned specimens, then thank you for doing it right and for taking the time to do it right. Good luck

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Washington State


    Another suggestion is to take lots of photos of your animal. Not just the usual trophy shots, but close-ups of the eyes, ears, nose, etc. before and after skinning. Photograph the skinning cuts and the inside of the hide. If there is anything unique about the animal that you want preserved in the mount, photograph that. The photos may be helpful to the taxidermist, but they are most important as a record of the condition of the animal or skin. A smart taxidermist will also take lots of photos of every animal or skin brought into the shop for the same reason. It really helps to prevent disagreements about the condition of the animals, especially if there is any damage.

  12. #12
    Member Burke's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Palmer, AK


    Thanks fabric fan

    There are often times in life that I do not ask the right questions because i don't know what questions to ask, pure ignorance (i expect i am not the only one) and there is really no chance to learn enough about certain subjects to ask the right questions.

    That is why this sort of sharing you have provided is important to me.

    Please don't take this as criticism, or negative...but I was curious how you learned all this, are you a taxidermist? Or do you know one who shared with you?


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