Most bowhunters eventually want to mount elk, deer, bears or turkeys they’ve arrowed. And why wouldn’t they? They’re beautiful creatures. Plus, mounting wild game, aka taxidermy, is a great way to preserve bowhunting memories. But don’t limit your mounted memories to deer and turkeys.
Chip Hayes, owner of Wildlife by Chip Taxidermy in Tullahoma, Tennessee, thinks all animals can make beautiful mounts. And Dean Matthews, owner of Dean’s Taxidermy in Pine Hall, North Carolina, agrees. “Your options on mounting animals are endless,” he said.
Matthews suggests mounting any animal you proudly and legally arrowed, no matter its size or species. Check state wildlife regulations for more information on season dates and legal species.
“Whether it’s your first bow-kill, the harvest of a lifetime, an animal you’ve chased for years, or an animal you pursued with a friend or family member, if it embodies a special memory, it should be preserved for a lifetime,” Matthews said.
Don’t compare yourself with others. Matthews said an animal’s beauty is in the eye of each bowhunter. If you want to mount a squirrel, mount that squirrel! It might seem an odd mount to some people, but that makes it more rare and unique. Do what makes you happy.
Once you explore the possibilities, take advantage of them! Hunting outside the norm is fun, exciting and challenging! Plus, you’ll often be amazed by an animal’s coat, color and behaviors, which make really cool mounts.
Matthews said bobcats, raccoons, red foxes and fox squirrels make beautiful mounts. He also likes mounting large mammals such as bears, lynxes, wolves and cougars. He said if you’re lucky enough to arrow one, it can be the highlight of any trophy room.
Animals with spots, stripes or unusual patterns in their coats, or unique color phases, make beautiful mounts. And if you’re also a trapper, don’t overlook single-color animals like beavers and otters. Taxidermists can put these creatures in realistic scenes that look lifelike.
Hayes said his favorite mounts depict encounters between two species in the wild, often in prey-predator situations.
“Turkeys and deer mounted with a fox, bobcat, opossum, squirrel, raccoon or even a butterfly can be unique,” Hayes said. “I once mounted a day-old fawn with a chipmunk, and a turkey on the roost with an opossum. I love to customize taxidermy to be truly one-of-a-kind.”
Hayes also likes to alter standard taxidermy forms into unique poses. “Wildlife that are usually thought of as mean or ugly can make unique and cool mounts if they’re positioned in a playful or vulnerable pose,” he said.
Whether you hunt near home for familiar game or pursue other species in faraway states, all mounts can look special in your home. These treasures can spark conversations with hunting and nonhunting friends, and help them appreciate hunting. For example, an elk or alligator makes a unique mount in most Midwestern homes because elk live mostly in Western states and alligators live in Southern swamps. Their presence in your home can expand interest in distant places and bowhunting itself.
No matter what you hunt and preserve, it’s important to find a quality taxidermist.
“Take your time and do your homework when looking for a taxidermist,” Matthews said. “Don’t settle on the cheapest or fastest guy. If you worked hard to harvest an animal, you don’t want to be disappointed in the result. Quality is important if you want a mount to last a lifetime.”
For more information, read Bowhunting 360’s article “How to Find a Quality Taxidermist.”