Figuring out how to choose the right taxidermist is important to hunters, more so than non-hunting folks realize. While the thrill of the hunt and the heat of the moment are what hunters live for, having a trophy enshrined to show off and start conversations is a big part of the lifestyle for many hunters and fishermen alike.
If you’ve been hunting for a few years, chances are that, at this point, you already have a taxidermist or two that you know you can trust. The first rule to assuring good taxidermy is this: if you know someone who has done impressive work for you in the past, don’t look to replace them simply because you want to give someone else a shot.
There are a lot of taxidermy “professionals” out there, and not all of them have the skills to back up their career choice. Even if the taxidermist you’ve gone to in the past charges a lot for the work, there is probably a good reason for that; people who are good at something can demand higher rates, but you ultimately get what you pay for. If someone you find in your local listings is charging a few hundred dollars less than your go-to guy, that’s all well and good, but don’t expect the quality of the work to be as great as you’ve experienced before.
Which brings us to the second big tip of choosing a good taxidermist: don’t try to save money. If you want to stuff and preserve a hunting trophy, the animal in question is probably extremely important to you. Whether it’s the first fox your daughter ever brought home from a hunting trip or the biggest buck you’ve ever bagged in your life, there is a reason you are preserving the thing for future posterity.
If that’s the case, don’t entrust your prize to a taxidermist unless you are absolutely sure you can trust them. Some inexperienced taxidermists will give you a different mount than you asked for; others will entirely botch the preservation process, leading to a deer head that slowly shrinks or starts to smell over time; and others will mess up so badly that they legitimately try to pass off a lesser deer as the ten-point buck you brought to them in the first place.
So how can you assure that you find the right taxidermist if you’ve just moved to a new area, or if you are looking to hire someone for the first time?
First of all, make a list of businesses and names by looking around the Internet. This will give you an idea of possible contractors in the area. Secondly, if you know any local hunters, ask around for references. Perhaps a co-worker can give you an off-the-beaten path taxidermist that you didn’t find with your Google search, or maybe a drinking buddy can tell you horror stories that help you to cross a few names off your list. If nothing else, ask one of the clerks at your favorite local outdoor shop.
Once you have narrowed your taxidermist list down to three or four name, try to meet with them. Ask questions about their work techniques and their state or federal licenses (requirements for these vary depending on which state you are in and what kind of animal you are looking to have preserved), and make sure you see a sample of the work they’ve done in the past.
With a keen eye and a skeptical mind, you should be able to find someone who will do great work in making your ultimate hunting trophy last forever.