It is of course possible to simply put taxidermist + the name of your nearest city into a search engine and pick the first result that comes up, but this is not an advisable method unless you are an exceptionally lucky person.
Putting some effort into locating not just any taxidermist but the right taxidermist for the job is well worth the effort and can save you a lot of headache in the long run. After all, getting an animal mounted isn’t cheap, and we also tend to have strong sentimental feelings attached to an animal that we go through the trouble of having preserved. No one want to put their prized hunting trophy or beloved pet into the hands of someone who won’t get the job done right.
7 tips for finding the right taxidermist
1.) Ask around
Start by trying to get honest recommendations from others, such as hunting buddies. You can also use social media to ask around in hunting forums and similar groups. Don’t forget the specify within which region you want the taxidermist to be; maybe you aren’t willing to send that deer from Canada to Australia to have it mounted even if the taxidermist is top-notch.
Hunting shops can also be a treasure trove of information.
2.) Make a visit
One of the advantages of chosing a taxidermist that is within reasonable distance from your own location is that you can more easily pay a visit or two before you make up your mind. Check out the place, meet the person or persons who work there, get a feel for the whole thing. Hopefully, there will be a showroom where you can inspect finnished mounts.
If you can’t make a visit, ask the taxidermist to send you detailed photographs of previous work. Reputable taxidermists are usually more than happy to show off their creations. Be wary however of scammers who simply pull some pics from the internet. Doing a reverse image search to find the source of the pic is a good routine.
3.) Big isn’t always better
The fact that a taxidermy company is just a one-person operation located in someones home is not a red flag in itself. There are many small-scale taxidermists that do a wonderful job. The same goes with the issue of formal education/certifcation.
4.) Look at the details
When you inspect a finnished mount to determine the workmanship of the taxidermist, both the overall impression and the minute details are important. Take your time to closely inspect things such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and feet/paws/hoves.
If the hide is separating from the underlying structure at orifices such as ears and mouth, that is a red flag.
5.) Don’t be a penny-pincher
We are all on a budget, but letting price be the most important factor when selecting a taxidermist is dangerous. If you can’t afford the standard price and have to go bargain hunting, maybe it’s best to simply not have the animal mounted? An extraordinarily cheap price is often due to cheap materials or someone doing such poor work that they have to drop their prices to get any business.
Of course, simply picking the most expensive taxidermist isn’t the right way either. Sadly, we don’t always get what we pay for. Our advice is therefore to not let prize – high or low – be the main factor when selecting a taxidermist.
6.) Make use of the taxidermy associations
Is there an applicable local, state or national taxidermy organisation that you can contact? Some of these organisations keep “black lists” of disreputable taxidermists that should be avoided.
Some of these associations also host taxidermy competition and will let you look at pictures of previous contest entries. Hopefully, you will spot a display that jives with your vision for your animal.
7.) Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to be that person who asks a million questions.
Here are a few that can come in handy when you are trying to find the right taxidermist for your project:
- How and when did you learn taxidermy?Note: A lack of formal educaton isn’t a warning sign in itself. There are quite a few amazing taxidermists in this world who don’t have any formal diplomas or similar, because they are self-taught, did an informal apprenticeship or learned from mail-order courses back in the days.
- How long have you been practising?
- How long has the company been in business?Note: This is someting that you can check out yourself if you want too, since it’s public information.
- How many mounts do you do in an average year?
- What do you specialize in?Note: It is very difficult for one single person to be a specialist at every possible kind of taxidermy, from polar bears to okapis. If an individual claims to be an expert on everything under the sun, that’s a warning sign.
If you are dealing with a company with several taxidermists, they should be able to tell you about each person’s specialization and you should be able to have a specific person do the job. You don’t want your polar bear to be handed over to the okapi expert.
- Can I see your taxidermy license / permit?Note: Find out in advance if a taxidermy license, permit or similar is required in this area.
- When will I get my mount back?
- Can you provide references?Preferably get the contact information for someone who has had the mount for at least five years, since some types of shoddy work doesn’t start to show until after a few years.
- Who will do the tanning (if applicable)?Is the tanning done in-house or is the hide sent away to some third-party tanner?
What’s their system for ensuring that they absolutely get the right hide back?
- Will, may animal/mount be insured while at your workshop?Will this insurance also cover time spend with third-party companies?