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How to find the best taxidermist for your money

 

Taxidermy care for lasting results
All photo credits: Jason Schillinger, owner of Schillinger Taxidermy, 661-972-5532

Hunters spend endless hours applying for tags, contacting outfitters, talking with their hunting buddies and dreaming of killing that next record book animal. They invest an enormous amount of money on new packs, optics, boots, rifles and other equipment to collect the trophy of a lifetime. Some hunters have to save up for years for a hunt. Others juggle work schedules so we can pursue our passion. I like to tell my wife that hunting is a sickness and I get sick every fall for at least 2 to 3 months. I love hunting and will do whatever it takes to spend time in the mountains chasing these wonderful animals.

But once you achieve your goal and make it back home with your trophy, what is the next step? It should not be looking in a phone book under “taxidermist” for the best price and most convenient place to go and drop off an animals and get it back years later. You should take as much time choosing a taxidermist as you did planning the hunt! You don’t buy a $5,000 rifle and put a $100 scope on it…It is important to invest time in carefully choosing a taxidermist. I cannot tell you how many times I have remounted animals because a hunter dropped it off at the first taxidermist they contacted.

Questions to ask a taxidermist
 

Setting the hide on a deer mount

Always ask every taxidermist these questions before allowing them to mount your animals: 

  • Where did you learn taxidermy?
  • How long have you been doing taxidermy?
  • How long does it take to get my mount back?

All these questions should be fairly easy for a taxidermist to answer. You should also ask to see examples of finished client mounts. Their finished work in the back room is most likely what you will receive in return.
 

Taxidermy work on a sheep mount

Interview your taxidermist

When you interview a taxidermist, make sure to ask why you should choose him over a different taxidermist. Anyone who immediately starts bad mouthing another taxidermist should be a red flag. A good taxidermist does not need to do this. Instead, he should show examples of his work, discussing the detail and pride taken with each and every mount that is completed. Try to open up a dialogue so that the taxidermist can explain what separates his work from his competition.

Checking out recently completed work

Looking at the eyes on a sheep mount

Next, compare mounts. Ask if you can use a flashlight to check the quality of their work around the eyes.

Continued below.

goHUNT INSIDER equals better hunting research

Examining the pupils of a deer mount

Are the pupils level? Does it look life like? Does the inside of the nostrils look like flesh? Does the inside of the ears look and feel real? A lot of taxidermists will not fill the pinholes around the lips and ears. Look closely to make sure the pinholes are filled.

Nose attention to detail for taxidermy work

Five final considerations
 

Checking over taxidermy mounts

1. Price

An extremely low price could mean a lack of experience or a taxidermist who may be experimenting. A taxidermist that charges the highest price is not always providing the highest quality of work. It is up to you to decide what is a fair price for your trophy. The higher price usually means they have more overhead. Might be the difference of having a store front or a large shop building at you personal residence. In the end the same profit could be made.

Jason Schillinger quote

Average price list for mounts

Species Low Mid High
Antelope $450 $600 $1,150
Mule deer $450 $650 $1,150
Elk $900 $1,350 $1,800
Bighorn sheep $700 $950 $1,200

 

2. Tanning the hide

How do they tan your hide? Do they send it off for commercial tanning or do they tan it themselves? Ask them how they know that it is your hide going back on the mannikin.

3. Studio

Is it clean or a complete mess with the family dog chewing a customer’s moose antlers in the corner? A taxidermist who is organized and clean usually apply the same principles to working with your trophy.

4. Communication

When you contact the taxidermist, is he returning your call or email in a timely fashion?
 

Attention to detail on the eyes of a deer mount

5. Attention to details

Most importantly, remember to choose a taxidermist that pays attention to the details and the small things that 95% of us may never notice. It does not matter if it is big or small — it is a trophy in your eyes and that is what matters.

Setting the hide on a deer mount

Take the time to choose the right taxidermist. The best advice I can give when choosing a taxidermist is meet them, look at their work, and think about quality first!

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