The anticipation and preparation leading up to any long planned dream hunt is part of the adventure. When the cards come together and the hunting Gods smile down upon you, all is well with the world as you pose beside your hard won trophy. With today’s airline restrictions, the disposition of your hides and horns becomes a problem that needs to be addressed. Some hunters leave their prize for a local taxidermist, and some would never consider any other than their favorite animal artist back home. Here is a story of two hunts where I left my trophies behind with far different outcomes. This article will not get you any closer to the right choice but will show you how things can go right or go horribly wrong.
Three years ago my wonderful wife took me on my first safari to South Africa for my 50th birthday (what a woman!). I had made up my mind before I went that I would have my trophies shipped home to my favorite taxidermist, Dan Wyant in Clinton, NJ. My excellent PH, Chris Brooster of Crusader Safaris took me to their taxidermist; Karoo taxidermy in Graaff-Reinet. They took my on a tour of their facilities, showed me samples of their work, and bowled me over both in price and quality. I decided to take a chance and have my work done there. A year later when the crate arrived I was overwhelmed with both the amazing life-like artistry of their work and more than happy with the greater than $2000 savings over having had my work done here in the states. Karoo mounts thousands of African animals every year, and knows exactly how they should look. My man Dan is the best North American wildlife artist I have ever seen, but his African work is limited by geography. I know I didn’t make him happy with my choice, but I doubt Karoo could make a whitetail come alive like Dan does. I made a great choice here.
I also made a second time spring bear bow hunt to Manitoba a few years ago. My Guide was wonderful and our party of four tagged out in short order. After a lifetime of trying, I had finally arrowed a beautiful cinnamon phase bear with a perfect coat. Our guide had some mounts and rugs around the lodge by a local taxidermist which seemed of high quality. I had also seen some of his work done for friends of mine the previous time I had hunted in this Manitoba camp. On that hunt, I choose to take my bear home, but some of my party had opted to leave their bears and have the work done there. When their bears were delivered to New York 10 months later, I saw the quality of the work and wondered why I had bothered to schlep my hide home, paying the excess baggage fees as I went. That in mind, on this second trip, the 4 of us left our bears behind expecting the same results. That was the last we would see of our trophies for several years. After numerous phone calls to both the taxidermist and outfitter, we finally received our bears. If the length of time wasn’t bad enough, the work was the worst I had ever seen. Whatever personal problems interfered with the taxidermist’s life had been taken out on our trophies. If this had been an American taxidermy shop, we could have driven there, demanded our hides and brought them to a new shop. The fact that he had moved from Manitoba to Saskatchewan made the quest for our trophies that much more frustrating. The beautiful bear I had so long hoped for looked like a flea market bargain from the 1920’s. The hair is matted and sticky, the ears are worn through to the liner, the face is listless, the color had faded, there are white leather edges showing all around the skirt, and the tail is not even attached to the backing. By far the worse rug job I have ever seen.
So what did l learn from these two experiences? Absolutely nothing!!!
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