How to judge a potential taxidermist

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How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby spwz99 » Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:01 pm

I have lurked around this forum for a while and can't quite find what I'm looking for so I'm starting a new post. If this is listed somewhere else, please point me in the right direction.

My first pup will be hunting her first season this fall and I am planning on having her first retrieve mounted. I would like to make sure the taxidermist is good , but I don't know what to look for when I am looking at examples of his or her work. Can anyone put together a list of things i should look for when judging a mount?

Pictures would be very helpful, but I realize that is frowned upon in this forum for me to ask for critiques of other people's work, so if this is better done over PM, that is ok too.

Thanks!
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby Cougar125 » Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:17 pm

Though I have not personally had any work done by birdman studios (a sponsor on this site), I have seen pictures of his work. If you do a search of the forum, you'll find many examples of his work. He does have a website with a gallery on it also.

I could tell you a few more taxidermists to check out too, but that'd be for PM.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby duxrus » Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:45 pm

1) Do NOT go soley on price. Only use a price list to get an idea of what you get for a general price range. "Usually" you get what you pay for

2) Not THAT important, but see what awards someone has one. (Some people never compete so they might not list anything which doesn't automatically mean ...run away) You want to look for blue ribbons and awards in either Professional or Masters divisions. NOTE: like I said this would NOT be a deal breaker as some GREAT taxidermists opt to just not compete.

3) YOU know what a duck looks like so that along with just comparing work to pictures of the real deal is the best way. You are the one out there "looking in" as to where many "think" their taxidermist is the BEST since the mind tends to merge one's excitement of getting their bird back with the actual quality (or lack there of) with a personal mount. Your brain sometimes over-rides reality.

4)NEVER worry about turn around time (within reason...) GOLDEN RULE ("Most" of the time) If you can get your bird back in a few months then they don't have a lot of work in the freezer (Again....Usually unless you catch them between finishing last season's work and starting new work or paying extra) There are reasons for EMPTY freezers.

5)I never suggest going off other's suggestions blindly....there are a kazillion different definitions of "good" or "great". See work with your own eyes to decide quality for yourself.

6)This should probably be listed as #1.......You MUST begin with a good quality bird to even have the possibility of getting a good quality mount back. You can make a bad mount out of a good bird but no one can make a bad bird into anything great. I am always completely honest with clients. If they bring in a shot to hell bird I show them exactly that with the understanding that only so much can be done and "TRY" to talk them into waiting for a better speciman. With your goal of saving a dog's first mount remember that taxidermists are taxidermists....NOT magicians. :thumbsup:

Take a look at both of the sponsors....Flyway Taxidermy and Birdman Studios to get ideas of GREAT work...then compare others to them.

Good Luck.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby aunt betty » Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:23 am

You do realize that the first bird your dog retrieves will most likely get tore up a bit. I've never had a dog retrieve his first bird w/out a bit of adventure.
Here's an example. These are the first ducks my dog retrieved. Not exactly mounting material. They ARE ducks. (kinda) I usually don't shoot coots but for a first retrieve...why not?
I apologize for ending your dream that your dog's first retrieve will be a magnificent Bull Canvasback in full plumage. Just being realistic. Forgive me?
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby The Waterfowler » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:07 am

[quote="aunt betty"]You do realize that the first bird your dog retrieves will most likely get tore up a bit. I've never had a dog retrieve his first bird w/out a bit of adventure.


I beg to differ. If your dog has been trained properly it will retrieve his or her first wild bird as it would a training bird. Never had any of my dogs, and I've had plenty, tear up a bird on his first retrieve. If the dog has been through force and finished out as any good retriever should be before taken hunting there should not be a problem with the bird other than an early season bird will have in most cases pin-feathers to some degree. Early season birds are often a problem for obvious maturity reasons and as Brian said you can't make Chicken Soup out of Chicken droppings.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby spwz99 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:44 am

I realize that limiting myself to just one bird isn't the ideal situation when compared to picking from a whole season's worth of birds, but its the first bird that is so special, not the 18th because it came out a little cleaner.

I'm going to try and be very picky on the first big duck (I'm not counting teal) I shoot this year so I get a decent looking duck with a clean shot and give myself the best chance of success.

She has been force fetched and I plan on shooting as many live birds over her as I can afford this summer and fall to avoid any issues of her tearing up birds.

Obviously if i shoot it in the face and it just crushes the bill or it breaks a leg I won't bother throwing good money after it, but I'm sure going to try.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby The Waterfowler » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:52 am

Artificial bills can be used and feet can be replaced. Enjoy your quest and time spent with Man's Best Friend.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby duxrus » Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:23 pm

Like Pat (Waterfowler) said "most" things can be fixed so let your taxidermist make the call. Most people think that broken wings or legs are gonners but in the majority of cases can be fixed. Good luck on your upcoming mount but also the biginnings of a life long hunting partner. :thumbsup:
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby spwz99 » Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:07 pm

duxrus wrote:1)
3) YOU know what a duck looks like so that along with just comparing work to pictures of the real deal is the best way.


This is about like telling my wife that because she knows what a car looks like she can pick out a good body shop...

I mean, sure, I can tell you really really bad work, but picking out good from great is where I will need help.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby duxrus » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:08 pm

I don't know what to answer.....great taxidermy work looks like a live bird....not so good work doesn't. There is no tell tale sign other than the looks of it.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby Shade » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:45 am

I know nothing about taxidermy..... Here is what I did: I visited shops until I found one that didn't have one bird in it that I didn't like. On the third shop, I saw about 20 birds that all looked great TO ME. Look until you find a shop that does good work in YOUR eyes. Do this, and you will be happy with your choice.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby Pete-pec » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:16 am

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).
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby The Waterfowler » Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:40 am

Well put, Pete. I mount a lot of birds but only rate myself as worst than some and better than some, i.e. middle of the road. But, I know good work when I see it and you can bet that if I have a one in a million bird I will pay yhe price to have any one of my friends that do great work do it for me. I've been blessed with many award winning taxidermists represented in my trophy room and while my sons want birds for them mounted by me, bless their hearts, I have paid the price to have a few special ones done by others. Keep in mind there are taxidermists and groomadermists. I my mind that means that the great taxidermists are way ahead of the game with anatomy and build their birds from the inside out while the groomadermists have a relative, generic shape with every feather in place but not always anatomicaly correct. I look for birds to be like I see them when I hunt and know what's in my mind is what I want to recreate. Sometimes I can and other times I can't, but I strive to make every bird better than the last.

You are going the right way to preserve your trophy and I wish you to be happy with that. Remember, once it's done it's done so go the extra mile and look at some of the National and World award winners, there are a lot of them out there, probably more than you realize.
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby duxrus » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:35 am

X3.....there will always be someone better so you must decide how far up the food chain you want to go. I would bet over 50% of people getting birds mounted would be just as happy with a 1st place National winning mount as if they got a ball of feathers hanging on the wall that resembles a duck. If I ever make the trip for King Eiders you bet your butt I won't be doing one for myself (have done many for clients) because like Pat said a bird of a lifetime needs to be treated as such. I know exactly who would do it and in what scene it would be depicted in.......with a VERY HEFTY PRICE TAG.

I take a day every year to search the net of every bird taxidermist out there to see current prices vs quality. I suggest you do the same. You will quickly see the differences in quality.

P.S. Pat I would easily say your work is WAY above the curve :thumbsup:
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Re: How to judge a potential taxidermist

Postby spwz99 » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:31 pm

Thanks for the great responses guys!
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