One thing I would like to add, is shopping local may find you a great taxidermist, but in my case it would not. I would have to drive a few hours to find a guy that does great work! So I suggest more about shopping online.
Brian, Pat and myself mount our own birds, so we're not the ones usually shopping. I for one would only classify my work as O.K., and improving. The other two do work that they should be very proud of. However, I think all of us know that there are guys out there that put out work that is outstanding. If we were going to have someone mount a piece for us, we each probably have a list of least ten guys we would spend our money on. I would think that in each of our list of ten, at least 6 guys will be the same on all three of our lists. In other words, there is a top tier group of taxidermists who put out work that makes you look twice, and makes you say wow, how the hell did they groom that bird so perfectly? How do they do such great finish work? There are a lot of good bird taxidermists, and very few great bird taxidermists, and most importantly, way too many bad bird taxidermists. I mean this in perspective to how many people actually know how to fundamentally mount a bird. There are way too many hacks out there selling their product, and calling it bird taxidermy. Is it a skin fleshed, and dried, and mounted on a mannikin? Yep! And it looks lifeless. 100 year old study specimens mounted on a stick at the Smithsonian look better than what some of these schmucks put out. You will know good work when you see it. If you want the best guys doing it, expect to pay the price. That could be $250 and up depending on habitat. If you want good, I would say $250 and lower. There are however exceptions to the rule. There are guys charging more than they should, because they have the market share, and everyone who competes with him charges an equally high fee. This is not normally the case, and more often than not, there is a guy under bidding everyone, knowing that the average consumer is price shopping. In my opinion, these people are suckers, and the first to complain when they get shoddy work handed back to them. If someone is not willing to pay perhaps $50 to $100 more for better work, then shame on them, and not the taxidermist taking their money.
Pat, Brian, If you have a piece mounted by someone else, are you going to price shop? OKAY, I'll answer for them? NO! Furthermore, we are all going to expect to pay more, knowing we will get what we pay for, and we also know the work is at another level than our own.
That doesn't mean price is everything. I have seen birds that are going for $150 that are really good pieces. No habitat, but not my thing anyway, but it still surprises me that guys are working for that fee. I'm not saying there's no meat on the bone for the taxidermist, but they could be making more? If a taxidermist is in an area where there are many other taxidermists, there is however going to be price wars going on. This can be both good and bad for the consumer, and always bad for the taxidermist who happens to put out quality work, and is forced to lower his prices to compete with the price shopping consumer and the other taxidermists who put out less than stellar work, but appeal to that price shopping consumer. In my particular area, the prices vary from $150 to $225, and there's no one I would send my work to. They're not devoid in this state by any means, just none within 3 hours of me (that I have heard of).