By Woodrow Polston
The art of taxidermy has been practiced and appreciated around the world for thousands of years. Some scholars date its origin around 2200 B.C., in ancient Egypt. But various forms of taxidermy predate this time according to religious text.
In the King James Bible, the New Testament refers to an individual known as ‘Simon the tanner.’ In the Old Testament, the book of Genesis illustrates that taxidermy was practiced in the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden. As a surprising revelation to many, the text reveals that God was in fact the world’s first taxidermist; “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them,” after the fall of man.
The modern art of taxidermy has come a long way from where it first began. Many hunters across Missouri, have celebrated their successful hunt, by paying a visit to their local taxidermy shop. One of those shops, a few miles outside of Curryville, is Little Timber Taxidermy, owned by Brian and Heather Worthington.
In their busy shop employee and fellow taxidermist, Michael Butler, worked on setting antlers into a whitetail deer form.
“I went to taxidermy school in 2001,” Worthington said. “And I have been doing it ever since. We have been working at this location since 2014 and have built up a client base from word-of-mouth.”
They have received a lot of work so far this year.
“We have taken in about 50 deer and one bobcat. We try to limit ourselves to about 20 shoulder mounts a year, and welcome all of the European mounts that we can get.” He noted that they also farm and own several other businesses. But that doesn’t stop them from doing their taxidermy work.
“Despite everything that we have going on,” he said, “we try to get all of our orders filled by Spring.”
A shoulder mount is done by tanning the deer hide, which is a lengthy process, and then bonding it to an appropriately sized deer form, commonly made of polyurethane foam. After the hide is on the form, the antlers will be set into a specialty clay. The mount will also have glass or high-quality plastic resin eyes, form pieces to hold up the ears, grooming and even painting will be among the finishing touches. European mounts involve a much simpler process. The European mount is a bleached white skull with the antlers still attached. There is no tanning involved.
“We have a lot of customers who come out from St. Louis, and even Kansas City,” said Worthington. “Our long-distance customers reach as far as the state of Louisiana. And of course, we have a lot of local business as well. During deer season, we also offer a cape service to out of state hunters that are traveling back home to their own personal taxidermist,” he added.
Having a cape done on a deer, is the process of preparing the hide for a shoulder mount, which involves cutting the hide a certain way. If not done properly, the hide may not be suitable for mounting. For an extra fee, most deer processing facilities will also offer this service to hunters who bring in their deer for processing. If a hunter wants to have a shoulder mount done on his trophy, it must first be caped to do so.
Early methods to create various animal mounts relied on using current practices to preserve animal hides and tanned skins. The skins and hides were removed from the animals. The flesh was removed from the skeletons. Then the animals were stuffed with cotton, sawdust, paper, or other such materials, and the skin or hide was stitched back up around this frame. The result was an unrealistic representation of what the animal would look like in the wild.
As taxidermy has evolved with a renewed interest in the last several decades, the methods used by taxidermists have improved. They started by working with anthropologists and other experts to determine how a species should look, to produce a more realistic display.
The use of foam, metal rods and wire frames replaced the method of using actual bones in the exhibits. The foam could be cut and shaped to better represent the natural form of the animal. The rods could be placed in as bone-like supports for the heads, tails and legs. This gave a customer a much higher quality product. With the right care and maintenance, a good taxidermy mount can last 25 years or more.
If you are looking to have a trophy mounted and want more information, contact Little Timber Taxidermy at 573-470-2463. They can also be found on Facebook.