First Buck

I remember my first deer like it was yesterday, and that was nearly 60 years ago.  It was a September evening and I was in my blind on the edge of the American River Canyon.  I had seen nothing for days when suddenly a three-point buck came out of the live oak into the opening.  All of my preparation came to bear as I put the peep sight of my .30-06 behind his shoulder.  At the shot, he bolted over the hill.

Trembling, I followed; concerned that I might have missed only to be rewarded as the sun was going down, seeing his antlers above the grass.  It was euphoria!  It is with the understanding of how important that first kill is for a young person that Animal Artistry has decided to offer a free shoulder mount for each young person’s first deer (up to age 16).  If I could have had that buck mounted back then, it would be my prized possession, representing a rite of passage.  We are in hopes that by giving these young people a shoulder mount it will encourage them to pursue a lifestyle of hunting and outdoor activity (something that is disappearing fast).

There will be certain restrictions to this offer but the principle is that we want to support young people who get off the couch, put their social media away for at least a moment and experience the great outdoors.

Hunters with no end game…

Hunters love to hunt – we get it! In many cases, it is an obsession – we get it! Every facet of a hunt is planned, looked forward to, and savored – we get it! However, when the hunt is over, there is a huge vacancy regarding what to do with the trophies and this we don’t get.  Considering the time and money that goes into a big game hunting trip, it is remarkable top me that there is no end game regarding the final status of the trophy.

What happens by default is many of the animals are left unmounted, cut down to European mounts, or mounted and then stuffed into some opening with no real thought regarding the presentation.  The irony is that instead of a hunter pausing and planning for an end game – a trophy room – they compulsively book the next hunt, and in many cases next several hunts!  I believe there is some kind of mental denial that says,  “the important thing is I shoot the animal and someplace, somehow, someway, I will find a place to display it.”  Of course, that seldom happens.  In some cases there simply isn’t room; but in most cases there is a barrier that says, “I don’t want to spend this much money or cross into this great unknown.”

The truth is the building for a trophy room is one of the most inexpensive that can be imagined.  It should be nothing more than a shell.  Virtually no architectural features are necessary so that the interior of the building can be designed and the space can be maximized to its fullest for the introduction of future trophies.  Those who have crossed this bridge find their hunting so much more rewarding in that even before they leave they know where their trophies will be displayed.  I have clients who have significant trophies in storage units that have been there for years on the supposition that, “one day I am going to build that trophy room…”  Yet there they will be at the next convention lining up to book an additional hunt.

To me it is a tragic loss of a significant part of the hunt, by not having a place to stand back and view it properly.  There is no limit to the creative options available; such as warehouses, airplane hangers, detached garages, former workshops, even old barns! Metal buildings in particular may serve wonderfully as trophy rooms.  After thirty years of dedication to the industry I will continue to advise every client who comes through the door to deeply consider their end game, and never be the hunter who forgets the majesty of the hunt.

Custom vs. Classic

Lion #56 – Custom

There are two types of taxidermy produced today. The vast majority is commercial.  That is to say the taxidermist orders a commercial mannequin from a catalog.  Some of these mannequins are well shaped with good anatomy – others not so much.  In either case, once that mannequin is in the hands of the taxidermist, it becomes the foundation of the mount.  The eyes are set, the horns attach, and the skin is applied and sutured.  This is done with varying amounts of craftmanship.  It is pretty straightforward.

Lion #57 – Classic

The other option is custom mounts.  Here the mannequin is altered substantially if not completely independently sculptured for both the size of the skin and the unique gesture of the animal.  This requires a great deal more time, knowledge, and ability.  Less than 10% of animals are custom mounted.  They are more expensive because of the time required but the difference is significant.

Mule Deer #20 – Classic

What Animal Artistry has chosen to do is utilize the best of both.  Starting with the best commercial mannequin, we find ways to improve it – making a minor change to achieve a subtle gesture and a unique look.  We are able to do this because of the experience of our staff and it does not reflect an additional cost.  We call these the classics.

Mule Deer #40 – Custom

On the other hand, we also create complete custom mounts – animals that are in motion, sometimes reacting to one another, bounding, even airborne.  These extreme custom gestures require an understanding of anatomy as well as engineering since we have to weld support rods to sustain the mount.  We realize that for most people, the full custom option is not practical being too costly (between 20%-50% more) and in many cases creating a display that is too big. Therefore, we spend the majority of our time on the classics – giving them unique gestures and subtle looks at a standard price.

Brown Bear #25 – Classic

Here you get both – we’re on top of the game!

Brown Bear #23 – Custom

The Hunter Artist

The first humans were hunter-gatherers and their first expression 40,000 years ago was art.  This cave art celebrates both the animal and the hunt. Other primitive cultures expressed the same in petroglyphs and totems.  In fact, the ancient hunter so respected the beauty of the animal that he took his namesake and decorated his dwellings as well as himself with hides, feathers, and claws.  It was a sincere desire to take the beauty and strength of the animal kingdom to himself.  The art of taxidermy seeks the same, and together  we are a part of this ancient longing.

Mike Boyce has been a hunter since childhood.  Having traveled from the Arctic to Africa he has gained immeasurable stories and knowledge.  Throughout those experiences, he was captivated by the beauty of big game animals and sought a way to express what he felt.  Thirty years ago, he founded Animal Artistry, a company that is built on “the art of the animal.”  We all regard animals as so much more than trophies, they are art.

We humans were the first hunters and the first artists and at Animal Artistry we continue this ancient history.

This is but the first post of many to come for our site; Mike will use this space to speak to you personally on the topics of hunting, artistry, taxidermy, and more.  Thanks for reading, be sure to like us on Facebook!