How do you choose a taxidermist? You've compiled a list of taxidermists from your buddies, the phone book, and maybe even from the internet. You've called around, asked around, and drove around...and now it's time to make a decision. You know that you're going to have to trust your trophy to someone... but how do you choose?
We've all heard the horror stories about how a friend shot this beautiful, enormous whitetail. He takes it to a guy down the street that assures him that "he can handle the job" of turning this thing into a life-like wall-hanging trophy. The hunter finally gets his deer mount back and swears it is not the deer he shot! To make matters worse, the deer begins to "shrink" once hung in the den and within months the wife is threatening divorce if the "eye-sore" is not retired to the attic!
Choosing a taxidermist is sometimes like playing the lottery; there is always a chance you could choose the right one. We suggest you consider the following:
Is (s)he licensed by the state? In Pennsylvania, a taxidermist must be licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture. In the case of waterfowl or migratory birds, a taxidermist must also hold a federal taxidermy license.
Is (s)he Certified by the Pennsylvania Taxidermist Association? The Pennsylvania Taxidermist Association has a Certification program which requires a certified taxidermist to have accumulated points, much like continuing education credits, by attending seminars, conventions, and taxidermy classes from Master Taxidermists. Points are also earned by competing in PA taxidermy shows alongside some of the best taxidermists in the world. Points are awarded by the place your piece earns. The better the work the more points are earned. A Certified Taxidermist (CT) must compete regularly and continue to improve upon his/her work. This is one of the most important criteria in choosing your taxidermist.
Reputation. Simply put, "Have you heard anything bad about the person?" If so, check it out thoroughly. A taxidermist can never please everyone, but it's not out of line to ask for a client list and simply call a few of these and ask them if they were satisfied with the taxidermy work.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Do you use professionally tanned skins? Or use dry preservatives? May I see a few finished mounts? How much expertise do you have? Above all, go and look at the individual's work, don't just shop for a cheap price and quick turn-around over the phone. Make an appointment with the taxidermist and ask your questions directly.
Price. Price of the finished mount is always a tough call and sometimes hunters get hung up on the price alone. Consider price carefully and always remember, the saying "you get what you pay for" wasn't dreamed up yesterday. If one taxidermist is mounting deer heads for $150 less than most others, be suspicous of the quality going into the work. Buy the best quality you can afford. After all, you may have waited a lifetime for this special trophy. Picking your taxidermist carefully will assure your trophy really will last a lifetime.