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Covid completely shutdown my business in Kauai for over a year, so I asked my taxidermist to show me what it takes to do a mount from start to finish. He wanted to retire from taxidermy as it was not his primary income so he was happy to teach. After helping him finish one mount on a sheep, I purchased about $1000 of tools and materials and got started.
I first attempted a blacktail my brother shot here. Told him I would do it for free if he didn’t complain about how it came out! Made a few mistakes that I learned from but overall it came out ok.
Next I had my elk I shot this past archery season. I thought a bigger animal might be easier but just the weight and size of antlers/cape and form made it a bit tough. Definitely took me some extra hours.
Definitely some imperfections that a taxidermist would easily notice but overall good enough for me to enjoy on my wall! Definitely not going to start mounting anyone else’s animals beside my brothers and mine but at least if I shoot something I want to gag on the wall, it only cost me about 150$!
How did it only cost $150 for an elk?! A small elk manikin is about $250. Eyes are about $16. Tanning an elk cape will cost about $175-$200.
I could give you a pretty good critique but don’t need to it you are happy with how they turned out. If you want to learn more then hang out at taxidermynet, attend state competitions to just learn more, subscribe to Breakthrough magazine. Good luck and have fun with it. I have more commercial mounts to do then I’m retiring from taxidermy.
I'm about to attempt my first shoulder mount this winter on a nice buck I shot this year. I've mounted hundreds of ducks and upland birds for myself as a hobbyist, so I figured why not? I think the improvements you made from the blacktail to the elk are really nice. I'd be happy to do as well as you. I'll be doing this on my own, but I have some experience. My buddy has the flesher and pressure tanner, so that's a plus. The rest of what I need, I have. There is certainly a greater pride to be had, when you not only kill an animal worthy, but you mount it yourself, and every taxidermist or critic starts somewhere near the bottom, so you know you can only improve.
I'm glad you ventured into DIY taxidermy. I did the same thing about 20 years ago. After about a dozen mounts, I finally got to a level that I feel was comparable to a typical professional mount. I also learned it wasn't something I wanted a steady diet of. Now, it would it take a very special animal for me to do another, but at least I know I could.
I also agree with Butcherboy. I think you are under-estimating the costs a little, but it's still cheaper than paying a commercial taxidermist, if you have the spare time.
Good for you I could never do as well as you did and I would never bother trying
Taxidermy is no different then being an artist and if you have no artistic abilities you won't do well at either. One of the biggest things is getting the eyes right. Next I'd have to say are the ears, not droopy and tuck them in tight to the base of the antlers. I'd say you did a pretty good job on the elk after only your second mount. There was an awesome taxidermy magazine called "Breakthrough" back when I was doing some taxidermy. That magazine would always feature the work of national champion taxidermist and have articles covering different topics. I'd highly recommend that if you are looking for tips. Good job on taking on the challenge of mounting your own stuff.
Thanks guys. Yeah the eyes messed me up on the deer. Tried to fix that up on elk and the ear position wasn’t quite right on that. Figured should clean up mistakes every attempt. Yea cost of elk was about 350$, I was referring to small animals like the deer. Don’t think I will be mounting an elk or moose after that one. Just don’t have the space to hang them. Not very interested in taking the hobby to a professional level. My passion is in bow hunting and I didn’t want to spend much money on taxidermy as I need that money for my adventures! Got an AK moose hunt this fall planned and I’m positive I won’t be taking a cape if I get lucky!
I've never tried this. You are definitely more adventurous than me. By the time I add up the cost of the form, tanning, and all the stuff needed to mount my own critters I quickly realize that what my taxidermist charges me is more than fair. But I also understand the satisfaction you get by doing stuff yourself and learning a new skill. My guy is a master taxidermist and he makes it look easy. It's not.
Is that Dennis’ work Pat ? Regardless, it’s good !
Ha, that's my wife's cat.
Not Dennis, although he does excellent work too. I've been using the same taxidermist from Connecticut for over 35 years. He's done every one of my 60 mounts. One man operation, doesn't advertise, and does outstanding work.
I definitely want nothing to do with another craft. Do all I can to avoid being a Jack of all trades and a master of none. But I’m old and my job is very low maintenance. Wish you success in your endeavor there.
Thanks for posting. That takes some effort I'm sure. You made a lot of improvement from the deer to the elk. Way to step out and give it a shot. Sure does give a guy some appreciation for that those Taxis do. It aint easy.
I started the same way in1973, Taxidermy has changed drastically since then. Forms, adhesives, tools, paints and videos of anything you might want to do all make it easier for a new guy to get started. It worked out well for me as a second income, enabling me to hunt all over including a trip to Africa. I retired 3 years ago, the hardest part was hearing the disappointment in my regular customers voices when I told them. Now I have more time to hunt when I want to.
808, I could not sketch a stick figure deer no less a mount.
My first buck I took to a local guy who's real income was a liquor store owner, oh he was a nice guy, but my buck looked like "Frankenstein odiculus virgineanus"... what I mean is, that's not bad work.
For the first timers would one of the kits from McKenzie or VanDykes be a good route to go?
Taxidermy is pretty much an art. Some guys have what it takes and others not so much! I've gotten my hands wet with fish reproductions. I have a lot more spare time than taxidermists to do what it takes to create a life-like fish. That's what's nice about doing your own taxidermy.
I couldn't have done fish without the help from the renown Rick Krane who is an awesome fish taxidermist and instructor! His fish how-to videos are amazing! There are some great big game and bird videos as well. Like everything else, it usually takes a lot of time, patience, and experience figuring things out. It also takes time to figure out the correct process, tools, and materials used to be successful. Some guys pay a lot more attention to details and what it takes to be a great taxidermist.
With that said, you never know if you have "it" until you give it a try!