You have a nice trophy, the best you’ve ever taken, or it was the most memorable hunt you’ve ever been on. You decide that this year you’ll give yourself a present and mount the head to hang on the wall to remember the hunt.
Now, you have to choose a taxidermist. You want the mount to be a pleasant reminder of the hunt, and you don’t want to cringe whenever you look at it because it looks as though it was actually ‘stuffed’ and not mounted. So, how do you go about choosing a taxidermist for the mount?
The best thing to do is to study the animal you have taken, and find photos of the animal to know what the live animal looks like. Notice how the ears and eyes are set on and in the head, note the placement of the horns. Note how the neck fits into the shoulder area, and how long the shoulder is. Armed with this information, now visit several taxidermists, and make sure the finished mounts look like the animals. Note, again how the eyes and ears are set. Note too, the look of the hide. Is it smooth, or is it bunchy and lumpy? Do the eyes look natural? Mule deer and pronghorn eyes are dark, not light brown. Make sure the taxidermist knows the critter he is mounting. In Wyoming , we have a lot of mule deer and pronghorn, so the taxidermists here know what these animals look like, both dead and alive.
Next, ask how long the mount will take. It shouldn’t take over a year, or possibly a year and a half. Good taxidermists have a lot of work. It may take longer but you will often get a better mount, but only if you have assured yourself of the quality of the work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be wary of those who promise a really fast turn around, less than six to eight months. Ask if the hides are tanned, rather than pickled. Tanned hides last longer and I feel they make a better-looking mount.
Ask for references, and call them. See if others are pleased with the work; the time frame, and the price. If you are having your first African safari done, or any exotic game, ask if the taxidermist is experienced in that type of trophy. Ask to see photos as well.
I put price last, because, ultimately, you will usually pay more for a good mount, but be aware that the highest price doesn’t mean the best job, and vice versa. Just make sure that the price is somewhere in the ball park for taxidermists in that area. Prices vary a lot from region to region, so don’t judge a Wyoming taxidermist by one in Maryland , for instance.
If you are leaving the head with a taxidermist that is not in your state, which is common practice, find out what other charges, such as sales tax, crating and shipping apply. Shipping is either by UPS or freight, depending on the size, or arrangements can be made to pick up the animal on your next hunt. Find out which way would be the best in your situation. You will be expected to leave a deposit of one third to one half down. This is standard procedure.
Once you leave the head, give the taxidermist plenty of time, don’t call and start bugging them in about six months time. They will start breeding a small dislike for you. However, if it is two to three weeks past the promised time, give a quick call to check up on the mount, and make sure that it is being done.
Armed with all this information, you should have a trophy that will last a lifetime and be a constant reminder of an enjoyable hunt.