Sean West has been an active taxidermist since 2003. He opened Captured Expressions in 2006 in Hayden, Idaho. In 2014 the business moved to Post Falls where he currently resides.
Why do the little things matter? Because the end result is a collective interpretation of what an artist sees. Miss just one or two details and that mount is now sliding down the scale of quality. Let me explain. There are 3 main attributes that all taxidermy trophies should have, correct anatomy, symmetry and cleanliness.
Anatomy is the foundation for a quality mount but is the most over looked by trophy collectors and taxidermist. Hunters remember what the antlers or horns look like but rarely remember where all the hair patterns were located, size of the ear butts or how the nostrils were shaped. This is where the importance of continuing education and the drive for detail comes into play for the taxidermist. We rely on competitions and seminars to teach us what we may have missed in the past. Being able to interpret reference and duplicate it by positioning the hide in the correct locations will help bring out those hair patterns often over looked. If the taxidermist is off on one hair pattern it snowballs to the other patterns and degrades the look of the trophy. Nostril shape, lip line length, shape of the eyes and ear butts are just a few details you may want to know when judging the trophies on your wall or choosing a taxidermist. There is an actual muscle structure to ear butts. It’s not just a wad of clay crammed up against the back of an antler or horn.
Symmetry can be the most obvious detail even to the untrained eye. We as trophy collectors can look at a mount and see when one side of the animal is different than the other. We have all seen that one mount where the brisket is pulled to one side, exposing the leg pit hair up onto the shoulder, or an ear butt is pressed up tight to the antler base and the other ear butt is several inches behind it’s mark. There are those not so noticeable details that we tend to overlook but when you get a few of them off the whole mount just looks wrong. It’s a taxidermist job to inspect the forms for symmetry and make the corrections before the skin is slid on. What I am talking about are details like, nostril wings. Often one is higher than the other which can open up the nostril larger than the other side. Or the muscle around the eye orbit can be more exaggerated than the other. The animals that really show the importance of symmetry are predators. Bears, canines and cats all have their eyes on the front of the head and it is much easier for the trophy collector to notice symmetry or the lack of. Eyes and ears of a predator is what gives them the expression that the taxidermist is trying to portray, yet those are the details that taxidermist have the most difficult time with. It doesn’t take much to throw the mount off when one ear is just a bit lower or further back than the other one. Or when the flow of the upper eye lid is off and one covers a part of the pupil while the other leaves it completely exposed. Life-size mounts add even more challenges, from paw size to hair pattern placement from one side to the other.
The last subject is pretty obvious why it has an effect on the outcome of the trophy.
Yet cleanliness is missed by taxidermist and trophy collectors all the time. I am referring to details like epoxy and paints that are left on the acrylic eyes. It may be minute but it takes away from the life-like look we want our mounts to have. Wild hairs that stick out due to stitches will naturally draw your eyes to it. Even if it has a world record rack. Eye lashes, brow and chin whiskers are not pressed back on a live animal so your trophies shouldn’t either.
All taxidermy is not created equally and just because a taxidermist has been doing it for 20 years does not mean he’s good at it. Take your time and look for yourself at the work done. Don’t go there because your buddy is satisfied with the work. See it for yourself, get educated. Remember, The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweet taste of a low price is forgotten.
Captured Expression Taxidermy does live African and North American taxidermy demonstrations at sporting good stores so check back often for dates and times.
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