Get to Know Your Taxidermist

Most of us will at some point consider having taxidermy work done. By consider, I mean that we will think about how cool it would be to have a white tail shoulder mount or trophy trout to hang on a wall. Unfortunately, most of us don’t seriously consider this until after it’s too late.

When I shot my first Vermont deer in 2018’s regular season I already knew what my plan was. If it was a mature buck or younger buck with better than average antlers I was going to have a European mount done. That deer wasn’t much for points but there were five solid ones which, combined with its 19 3/8″ spread made it a good candidate for a euro mount.

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Even for a euro mount, it pays to have a professional taxidermist do it for you.

I am fortunate in that I already knew a taxidermist. Barry Bouker of Bouker’s Taxidermy has been in the business for over 20 years and does quality work on all manner of fish and animals. He is and always has been an avid outdoor enthusiast. This is important in a taxidermist because it engenders an understanding of the importance and significance of your trophy. Barry did a great job with my euro mount and explained to me the process for creating one. I know, a euro mount doesn’t take anywhere near the level of skill, artistry and patience that a shoulder mount demands, but just the same, Barry took the time to do it right. The skull is bleached to a clean white and the antlers have a natural look. Bottom line: it looks like a professional did it, not a DIYer.

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It’s pretty clear that deer shoulder mounts are a popular item at Bouker’s Taxidermy.

I asked Barry what the biggest mistake customers make when having taxidermy work done. Without hesitation he stated simply but emphatically “Waiting too long. The sooner you get it to me, the better.” Apparently there’s a trend among hunters and anglers to take their time deciding whether or not they’re going to have a mount done and not take proper care of their harvest while they make up their mind. If you can’t get to a taxidermist right away, freezing is in order. Wrapping the specimen securely in a towel or its own hide and then in plastic is a good approach. It’s really no different than wrapping meat for the freezer- the idea is to inhibit freezer burn. Barry told me about a client who had a bear mount done that he’d kept in the freezer for three years. Other than some minor freezer burn, it was in good shape. So if you are on the fence about taxidermy, the freezer is your friend.

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The artist, at work in his studio.

Another issue we discussed is the lack of education about taxidermy and what goes into it. Most sportspeople don’t understand that the seemingly exorbitant cost of taxidermy is a necessary part of the process. A capable and competent taxidermist (like Barry) isn’t doing a $200 job and charging you $600 for that shoulder mount. He’s putting in time, effort, skill and artistry to make sure your trophy looks as good as it did in life. Because the end result looks so good when done right, it’s easy to commit the logical fallacy that it must be easy to do. If only the taxidermy client could see the whole  process!

If you think at some point you might want taxidermy work done, do your homework ahead of time. Look up taxidermists in your area and get in touch with them. Ask if you can stop in a look at their work. Nearly all have some kind of studio space to show off their talent and many have websites. Tell them what kind of project you are considering and ask what they need from you when the time comes. Taxidermy is like life- you get out of it what you put into it. To be prepared ahead of time is to ensure the best for your trophy.


3 Comments on “Get to Know Your Taxidermist

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