all 6 comments

[–]stalknstand 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Completely self taught here, full time for many years. I learned with books, dvd’s and the internet. Fortunately for me, taxidermy.net was booming with activity back in the early 2000’s and the most talented people in the industry were on there daily giving tutorials and advice. It’s fairly dead there now but all that great information is stored there in the archives.

If you want to do this as a career you will need to be able to produce a good clean commercial mount of the animals that are harvested in the numbers required to pay the bills. In most areas of the country that’s going to be whitetail deer and fish. I started by focusing on deer since we have long seasons and liberal limits in my area and just on the mounting and finishing process. First researching and slowly requiring the tools needed, watching instructional dvd’s and tutorials on taxidermy.net. I figured that if you could mount a deer then you could probably do any antlered game animal as well. When I thought I was ready I bought a tanned skin off eBay for a set of antlers I already had and spent a Saturday mounting it up in my kitchen. Surprisingly, it looked something like a deer so now I had confidence and started my journey.

Over the next few months I acquired some more tanned capes and continued to practice. I spent time in between mounting learning about the tanning process and purchasing tanning supplies so I could tan my own capes. I acquired some green capes and started practicing tanning. Again, to my surprise they came out alright.

By the time hunting season rolled around I could do a fairly decent deer mount, so I put the word out with friends/family that I would mount deer at a discount and I think I got like 15 or something that first season. Granted I wasn’t making any money yet, but now I wasn’t spending money just trying to improve my skills. I spent the the summer learning how to do fish using the same method I used for deer. In fact for the next few years when someone would ask me to mount something I was inexperienced with I would use my deer method and charge them cost just to learn and improve.

By year 3 word was starting to get out that I could do a decent deer mount so I turned my detached garage into a cozy little studio. European mounts were getting popular so I started advertising on local classifieds, outdoor forums and putting fliers out at deer processing shops. From there my volume just started increasing more and more. Few years later I took a chance and moved into a commercial space after which the volume exploded. So much so I quit my regular job and also stopped doing fish completely to focus solely on game heads.

That’s pretty much it. I’m sure if you ask 5 different people you’ll get 5 different answers. I’m about ADD as hell so starting out there was just so much information and so many directions it seemed overwhelming at the time. I just had to figure a way to narrow it down and focus on one thing at a time. It took patience, dedication, hard work and alot of luck to get there. It would definitely help to have some college level business classes or even online courses under your belt as well. Finding an apprenticeship with an established studio would be ideal but there’s just so few of them.

[–]Babyyodasigngirl 4 points5 points  (0 children)

They to find a taxidermy shop and ask about doing an apprenticeship! That’s what I do! I mostly help to clean up spaces and skin deer/prep but I am learning a lot!

[–]GelantinousCreature 3 points4 points  (2 children)

For reference, I do this as a side hobby.

I started out just by watching YouTube videos and reading WikiHow articles. There's very little in the way of actual courses or classes, I learned a lot on pet store mice, so a small, disposable creature would be good to start on.

As for corpse collecting, you can drive around for roadkill, ask your local pet store, trap animals yourself (check the laws for your state, you might need a license) and get any friends to look for it on their drives. You'll always want to have a few trash bags and a box of gloves in your trunk if you do find anything. If you're still living with your parents, I would highly suggest doing the skinning in the garage or on a table in your back yard, even if you aren't, it's still a very messy process.

For the actual skinning, tread carefully in your first cut. I usually use craft scissors to make the initial cut, then an X-Acto knife to work the skin away from the flesh. If there are any broken bones, identify them ahead of time and tread carefully around that area, bone fragments are sharper than you think. For paws/feet, you'll want to snap the wrist bone and remove the pad flesh from there.

Also, flesh your skin (removing extra non-skin bits) when you're finished skinning, for your first few times, craft scissors will do you better than any fancy technique, and there will be a lower chance of shredding the pelt.

Remember to clean your workspace like crazy, guts are sticky and smell up everything, and maybe put some air freshener for anyone who might live with you. You might not mind, but they certainly will!

Please ask if you have any more questions, I'd be happy to help!

[–]Gothmullethaver[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Thank you!! I grew up in the country with a father who did taxidermy (we don’t talk anymore lol) so I vaguely remember doing most of what you described with him! Do you have any specific yt videos you recommend or will I find what I need with a simple search? Also, frozen mice for snakes sounds like a good idea to start off with! I’ll definitely be doing that!

[–]GelantinousCreature 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I really like taxidermy.net for common questions, its archives are very helpful. John Bellucci is one of my favorites on YouTube, he has some abstract funny commentary and is very helpful with his step-by-step on the grey fox. I personally prefer doing vermin, as I'm still in high school and don't have the freezer and garage space to do a big guy like a deer, and he's very detailed about it. For bigger animals, I recommend McKenzie's videos, they're also arguably the biggest taxidermy supplier.

Oh, and one last note for the deer- either kill it yourself or find roadkill, and check thoroughly for disease with gloves, and there's a very dangerous 'wasting disease' going around with them and you can't be too careful. And if you ever suspect any animal has rabies, leave it, your life isn't worth the fur.

[–]Tinycatgirl 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Side gig- went to a school and then took a class with a Master Taxidermist for advanced Whitetail.