Hunting can be expensive. When you decide to go to a taxidermist, those expenses can increase exponentially, so you want to make sure you’ll be getting the most value for your money. Here are five common-sense tips to follow when looking for a taxidermist and staying within your budget.

1. Beware the lowest price

“You get what you pay for” is a good idiom for just about any purchasing decision, but it can be very accurate when it comes to finding a good taxidermist. Don’t be drawn in by by super-low offers that trade away quality in the name of saving a few bucks. Odds are that if you want to go through the trouble of getting an animal mounted, you want it to look good, and you want it to last.

Although it may not look like it, there are a lot of business costs involved in making a quality mount. That includes the price of materials, tanning—whether in-house or elsewhere—and overhead. Taxidermists cannot afford to offer super low prices unless they’re prepared to skimp on something, and that’s when you get a mount that looks like it belongs more in a horror movie than your living room.

You can check out some of these mounts in our taxidermy fail list.

2. Know your prices

Avoiding the cheapest offers doesn’t mean you have to go to the most expensive studios. After all, you do have a budget. Expensive taxidermists do not necessarily provide the best service. Oftentimes it has more to do with their own business expenses and location. Shops in upscale areas usually charge more than comparable taxidermists elsewhere, without a noticeable bump in quality. You should be aware of the average price for mounting a certain animal in your area. Don’t be afraid to go on the internet and browse through several shops. Taxidermists often list the average price of their mounts online.

Here is a very rough list of average prices.

SpeciesShoulder MountLife-size Mount
Whitetail$400 to $600$2500 to $3500
Brown bear$1000 to $1500$4000 to $6000
Elk$900 to $1500$4500 to $6500
Bighorn sheep$600 to $800$2500 to $4000

3. Ask questions

The very first question many hunters will ask a taxidermist is how much they charge. While this is a very important question, it usually does not give any indication of that shop’s quality or method. Instead, actually go to the studio and speak with the taxidermist face to face. Ask them how long they have been in the industry, discuss turnaround times, even questions like “how long will my mount last?” or “where will the tanning be performed?”

You can also learn a great deal about the taxidermist, if they act in a professional manner, and even the methods they use. In addition, it gives you a chance to inspect their studio. Is it clean and organized, or cluttered and dirty?

4. Get recommendations from hunters you know

If a friend or family member has a mount that you love, don’t be afraid to ask them where they got it from. Recommendations from hunters you already know are how a lot of people choose taxidermists. In addition to hearing a trusted opinion, you’ll also get the chance to inspect a mount away from the shop. You can ask how well the animal is holding up, if they have been overcharged, or if there are any errors they noticed after bringing the mount home. You might even be able to work in a discount with the taxidermist as well.

5. Don’t be afraid to inspect previous work

When you’re in a shop, do look around and inspect what’s on display. Sure, sometimes the mounts in the shop are of a much superior quality than the one you will receive, but if they’re made by the same taxidermist, it is still a good way to measure their skill. Ask if you can touch them or use a flashlight to check around the eyes. Pay attention to the inside of the ears and nostrils, is everything lifelike or have corners been cut? If you haven’t already, you might also get an idea for a pose here, as the animals on display are often in the poses that the taxidermist is most comfortable with.

Image from Ed Schipul on the flickr Creative Commons

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