Okay, I know many of you ask yourself, “how do I go about choosing the right taxidermist,” am I correct?
Of course, you could just speak into your phone an say, “taxidermist near me.”
But, that’s not going to tell you what you really need to know.
In this article, I’m going to explain what you should be looking for in a taxidermist that you will be contracting to mount your trophy of a lifetime.
Just like anything else, first impressions are everything. If something doesn’t sound, look or even feel right, always trust your gut.
Questions That Need Answers When Choosing a Taxidermist
The answers to the following questions do not necessarily determine whether a taxidermist is competent or incompetent. However, you might learn enough to know whether or not you feel comfortable enough to risk putting your trophy in that person’s hands.
Is The Taxidermist “Online?”
In this technology-dominated era, one question worth finding out is, does the taxidermist you are considering for your trophy have an internet presence?
These days, almost all legit companies have some sort of online footprint, whether it be a fancy website, or a social media business account. So, do your homework!
What Is Their Contact Information?
Does the taxidermist you are considering have a dedicated business landline? If the answer is no, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign of cutting corners if it is their home phone or a mobile phone only.
Do they have a local area code for their business phone number? If not, it could mean that this person moves a lot, bouncing around and taking deposits and trophies with them and just never changing their contact information.
There are a lot of “here today, gone tomorrow” taxidermists out there. So, be careful!
What Type Of Payments Are Accepted?
A very important question to find out the answer to is, does this taxidermist accept only cash and/or ask for full payment upfront?
Now, you can always expect to pay a deposit before the work is started, but usually 50% is sufficient.
Demanding full payment up front and/or only accepting cash is a big red flag!
Being paid in full could give a taxidermist little incentive to complete your project in a timely manner, or in extreme cases, complete it at all!
Cash only transactions could mean they are hiding, or trying to hide, something from the IRS or the bank. There is no reason to not at least accept a personal check or even credit/debit cards.
If they are running from the IRS, they could easily disappear on you.
Also, make sure you sign a work order or contract with them on the work to be done. This agreement should explain in detail what is expected in the end-product, as well as the deposit paid and balance due. This will help to keep both you and the taxidermist on the same page regarding your requests and desires for your trophy mount.
What To Look For In Quality Taxidermy
Now that we have the business end of the matter out of the way, let’s discuss quality.
There are many levels of quality in taxidermy, just as there are in any other service industry such as home repairs, mechanics, restaurants, lawn care, etc.
Are you looking at getting your buddy that practices taxidermy on the side or as a hobby to mount your trophy whitetail? Or, are you looking a high-end professional job when it is all said and done?
Remember, this is something that you are going to display in your home or office that reminds you of a memory of a special moment in your past. You will be looking at this “piece of art” for the rest of your life. So, think it through.
There are taxidermists out there for everyone’s expectations as well as budgets. But, don’t have high expectations on a low-budget and do not settle for shoddy work when paying premium prices. It’s up to you to determine what you want, and what you are willing to pay for, in your taxidermy work.
Taxidermy Details (There’s More To It Than You Think!)
On to the work itself! Are you looking for standard, what we call “straight out of the box” taxidermy?
Or, are you wanting custom, all the bells and whistles taxidermy, that gives you and your guests the “WOW” factor when walking into the room to see it? Again, this is your decision to make, and it’s your money you are spending.
Some of you may be thinking, “what are the ‘bells and whistles’ in taxidermy? After all, a deer head is a deer head. A life-size bear is a life-size bear, right?”
All taxidermy work is not created equal! For instance, do you want your finished whitetail mount to have a solid jet black nose? Or, do you want to have the nose look realistic and show all the depth and colors that are really in a deer nose (believe it or not a whitetails nose is not solid black)?
Do you want the high-end glass eyes that look alive with white banding and veining detailed into them? Or, do you want generic, solid brown or black plastic eyes, just to fill the void in the mount?
What about your mountain lion or grizzly bear, even something smaller like a fox, bobcat or coyote? Do you want them to look realistic and alive, or look like a cartoon character having a bad day? Because, you can get either one.
These are all things you NEED to discuss beforehand with the taxidermist to make sure he/she can meet your expectations.
Don’t go by the ad they have in a magazine, on a billboard sign with trophies and ribbons in the back ground, or their website covered with competition pieces they have put hundreds of hours into to get those plaques and awards.
Go into the taxidermist’s showroom and view other clientele’s work that is waiting to be picked up. Go view someone else’s mount in their home that has been completed by the taxidermist in question.
You want to see what goes out of the shop on a day-to-day basis and make your decision based on those pieces, as opposed to the ones that were meticulously done with the intent of pleasing a judge at a convention and had professional photographers doing photo shoots for the website or ads.
I’m not saying that the competition pieces are a fluke, but it’s worth questioning whether a taxidermist produces, within reason, the same high quality, eye-pleasing work for everyday customers.
More To Consider
There are some more things to consider when choosing the taxidermist you would like to handle your work.
What Is Their Niche?
All taxidermist have their niche. They may not admit it, but they do.
So, just because taxidermist (A) does an awesome job on your trophy mule deer from your Wyoming hunt last fall, do not automatically assume he/she will do a high-quality job on that largemouth bass or giant catfish you just caught out of your private farm pond, or that beautiful pintail drake you harvested back in the winter on that frigid coastal morning you’ll never forget. You very well may need to get taxidermist (B) and maybe even taxidermist (C) involved to take care of these projects for you.
Also, you do not have to settle for the local guy if his work is not up to your standards. Trophies are shipped all around the world daily, so don’t think you are limited to a certain area.
When Your Trophy Is Not In Your Town
If you are planning an out of state or even out of the country hunt, and you are using a taxidermist in your hometown, check with them to see about expediting your skins, trophy antlers and/or horns back to you, or to the taxidermy shop, BEFORE you leave for the hunt. They should know all the ins and outs of taking care of these sort of things.
Likewise, if you are using a taxidermist local to where you will be hunting, inquire about the cost and process of getting your trophies back home before you leave them. Failing to find out the answer to this question could cost you big money, or even worse, the loss of your mounts.
Turnaround time to get your work back is another big issue for most hunters and taxidermists alike.
Always ask when you can expect to get your trophies back. Keep in mind it is an estimated time frame.
So many things can happen between drop-off and pick-up that are out of the control of both parties. For example, work load, illness, weather, family issues, can all affect turnaround time.
No one wants to hear excuses for why something doesn’t go as planned, but if your taxidermist gives you a completion time of six months, don’t call them at the four month mark asking, “Hey, just checking on the progress…” Give them the six months you agreed upon.
Likewise, if he/she gives you a one-year turnaround time frame (and you don’t have a problem with it), and a year goes by without an update, by all means give them a follow up call and they should be able to give you a much more accurate completion time at that point.
If the turnaround time is an issue for you and you would like to get it back sooner, most taxidermists offer a rush service, and for an extra fee will jump your project in front of others and give you a certain pick-up date for the extra charge.
At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to choose the right person for your taxidermy job. Just like the time and money you put into your hunting food plots, equipment, traveling, scouting and guide services, you should also expect to put that same effort into your search for the right taxidermist for the trophies you harvest and would like to mount. The animal deserves that from you.
Today, you can flip on the Outdoor Channel and see all sorts of activities. From bass fishing to buck hunting, the new age of technology has done wonders for the outdoor community via television and online streaming.
More money and notoriety continue to flood these sports which when coupled with new-age platforms, allows content creators like LunkersTV, John B, Lojo Fishing, and many more to reach audiences one would have never thought possible until recently.
Education Via YouTube
In the early 2000s, most people were only going to discover hunting or fishing was if their family member or friend introduced them to it.
Now, you can type “fishing” into the YouTube search bar and learn all about traditional and lesser-known types of fishing from scratch within hours. This opens up an entirely new world of possibilities for kids who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the great outdoors.
While these are certainly exciting times in the outdoor industry, one outdoor sport has been slower to gain an online identity… bowfishing.
This is not to say that bowfishing content isn’t accessible, but the people who are primarily posting online content about it are hunters and bass fishermen who try to shake things up for their fans while enjoying the occasional bowfishing outing.
While many of these content creators do a great job, the sport is really missing its own creators dedicated solely to bowfishing, just as there are many YouTubers, bloggers, and podcasters dedicated to bass fishing or deer hunting.
This could be due to stereotypes that often plague the sport, or simply because no one has taken that leap of faith yet into uncharted territory.
Why Bowfishing Will Thrive
So, let’s talk about why bowfishing has a bright future and why it should thrive online.
If you’ve heard about or seen videos of bowfishing, but aren’t familiar with the sport, you may be thinking “It’s far too barbaric to last; especially as society’s attitudes shift.”
However, bowfishing is better prepared to survive than it may seem at first glance.
The younger audience is alive and well
Most of the pictures submitted to us are from kids who are still in high school or are recently graduated.
“Okay, so we know people can do it, but it’s just so brutal. I mean, modern media can handle hooking some fish, but we are much more environmentally sensitive now, right?”
We are certainly more environmentally sensitive than in the past. But, that’s exactly why bowfishing can find acceptance.
Many of the fish we shoot are invasive species that pose a threat to the balance of the ecosystem. Even many of the other “non-invasive” targeted fish need some level of population control so that the “game fish” we all love to reel in can thrive.
Much like with deer hunting, bowfishing can serve as a means of maintaining balance in our waterways. Since bowfishing can be a powerful tool for conservation, there are not many restrictions in place currently pertaining to the number of fish one can shoot. This is something we think people could get behind and support, or at least accept out of necessity.
“Okay, so if bowfishing can grow with the times, and has a built-in future generation of capable participants, why can’t we just leave it be and hope this will be enough to carry the sport?”
In the early 2000s, bass fishing was doing well, but there was a pretty clear divide between recreational participants and its professionals.
Instead of being a passion that someone could pursue, it was deemed more of a hobby for country folk after a hard day at work or in school.
But, then YouTube came along, and before you know it, content creators emerged from the woodwork and took the sport by storm. Many individuals from different walks of life took up the sport. (Remember what we said about archery being one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S? Well, bass fishing is right there as well, thanks to these YouTubers and many others in the sport).
Sponsors have taken notice of this trend, and more attention is on the sport than ever before. Many of the tournaments can be watched on a live-feed, and before you know it, we are going to have a generation of kids that saw fishing for the first time on a phone screen.
Just like traditional fishing and hunting exposure has grown with the rise of social media, bowfishing will continue to grow as the outdoor community continues to be exposed to the sport.
But, regardless of how fast bowfishing may grow during this generation, we must be careful not to lose that peaceful connection with the outdoors that makes it so special in the 21st century.
Perhaps you have read another one of my bowfishing articles regarding the future of bowfishing, but in this article, we want to offer up some bowfishing tips that our team member, Alex Brandt, thinks every bowfisher should know for this new-age of the “eOutdoors” (the term is a slight exaggeration, but hopefully it drives home the point).
Each tip will be followed by a brief discussion of solutions to the issues cited and how we can follow the rules.
A big step in this growth process of bowfishing is gaining acceptance and coordination within the outdoor community before broadcasting to new audiences. To do this, we need to improve our reputation collectively.
These first two tips (“rules”) are dedicated to improving the reputation of the sport of bowfishing. And, if you’re new to the sport, these first two are especially important. But, even if you’re a seasoned bowfisher, a refresher is certainly always helpful.
Tip 1: Don’t dump fish in public areas or boat ramps.
Dumping fish in these areas gives bowfishers a bad reputation. Additionally, doesn’t help make the public water access points smell particularly inviting.
One alternative solution would be to find local farmers who may want to use the fish for fertilization purposes. Another option is to dump them on a large plot of personal private land where the smell would not bother anyone.
If you want to get really creative, look for a local organization that may be interested in taking on the fish. For example, some local zoos encourage bowfishers to donate excess fish to feed birds and other animals.
You could also eat the fish. But, if the sound of gar fish doesn’t exactly sound inviting to your taste buds, it’s good to know there are still options.
Tip 2: Know the laws in your area regarding species, bag limits and seasons
There are plenty of legal pitfalls when it comes to bowfishing, and you want to make sure all of your ducks in a row so no one is enjoying the sport illegally.
Be sure to call your local game warden, and they will (usually) be more than happy to let you know what the bowfishing laws are in your area before you have the chance to make a mistake.
If your game warden isn’t accessible, or the thought of doing so seems like too much of a hassle, there are tons of online resources you can find on the subject with a quick Google search.
The final tip relates to all bowfishers both old and new. This is one that was relevant years ago, but it is especially critical now. Not only does it involve preserving a positive reputation for bowfishing in the outdoor community, but it involves setting a positive example for the rest of the world as well.
Tip 3: ALWAYS be mindful of your surroundings.
Guess what? With the rise of smart phones, everyone has a camera on them all hours of the day, and the internet loves to amplify bad choices.
We lecture kids on this topic quite a lot, but they are growing up in a social media-centric world and it’s just modern-day life. To be honest, adults need a refresher in this course just as badly as the younger generation does.
All it takes is one video of someone doing something they’re not supposed to for public opinion to shift on an outdoor activity like bowfishing.
This tip has a second relevant component as well. Try to avoid fishing heavily populated areas (especially at night). And, if you must be near houses on a crowded lake, try to be conscious of where you are shining your lights.
The same can be said about music. By all means, play whatever you like until your heart is content, but be sure to turn it down for temporarily when you are near houses at night, or when passing another group of boaters.
These things are simple, common courtesy. And, as human beings, we should really try to bring more of this back into this divided world. Lead by example and don’t follow the norm, especially if it’s not the standard your parents raised you by.
Now that we have covered the “dos and don’ts” of bowfishing in this new age, let’s talk about what you need to get started.
If you’re already an avid bowfisher, you can probably skip this next section. But, if you aren’t already bowfishing on a boat surrounded by LED lights and a pricy bow, you may want to stick around.
One of the big concerns we hear with bowfishing is that it’s expensive to get into. However, this is not necessarily the case. Below is another three-step process for getting into the sport.
First, all you really need to get started is a bow with a reel and string, an arrow or two, and some polarized sunglasses. Rather than investing in a boat right off the bat, you can “test the waters” by simply finding a bank to bowfish from.
Next stop: A boat
Secondly, once you and your buddies are comfortable with the sport of bowfishing and know it’s something that you will continue to enjoy, you can start the process of looking for a boat.
Obviously, boats can be expensive. But, you can keep things pretty cheap if you hunt for deals on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Once you have acquired a boat, all you will need is a trolling motor and some cheap LED lights you can buy off Amazon to put on your new boat (even if it’s used, it’s new to you, right?)
A quick search shows us you can get a two-pack of 40-Watt LED lights for around $40. Buy three of these, and you are all decked out and ready to go!
Share your content
Now that everyone is ready to bowfish, here’s what we hope you will do… Create great bowfishing content and share it with the world!
The great thing about the evolution of technology is that you can get your start creating content with your smartphone.
You don’t have to start off with fancy cameras and GoPros. Just download some editing software onto your phone and start making movies about your life. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with this, then you can invest in some nicer equipment.
If you make videos, we guarantee it will be worth the investment.
When we started 573 Outdoors, we sat at a kitchen table and realized that documenting our lives wouldn’t just be for other people. All of our biggest catches, failures, and unforgettable experiences in the outdoors could be for us to cherish forever as well.
It is something we can show our kids someday and say, “look how ridiculous we were.”
You can’t put a price tag on documenting memories with your best buddies.
You can still send in your favorite clips to different pages to promote (and we definitely love to see that content pour in), but it is important for you to start stitching together your own videos as well.
Our fans are who have built us up so rapidly, But, we feel like it would be selfish to suggest you should send all of your experiences only to us. We care more about the longevity of the sport of bowfishing than we do our own business.
The path forward
We started 573 Outdoors to celebrate our friendship, become a part of a fantastic community, and to start a revolution in the world of bowfishing. To do that, we can’t be the only ones out here. We want to create a lasting impact on the sport.
While we love amplifying other people’s content in conjunction with our own, we don’t want to be the only ones (or one of an elite few) shouting to the masses forever.
If we can get people on board with this and gain some traction, the money will arrive and be put into the sport, leading to more popularity and more eyes.
Maybe there can even be a Major League Bowfishing tour someday as there is with bassfishing. It all starts with this next group of content creators, and if we leave a good reputation and try to make a difference, we can leave this thing a heck of a lot better off than we found it, and our sport can grow for the better.
Now, who is ready to jump into the sport of bowfishing with us?