A local hunter brought a gorgeous white pheasant over a couple of months ago which he’d harvested on a hunt in Pennsylvania. Until I held it in my hands I’d never even seen a white pheasant but I didn’t let him in on that. Not just yet, anyway.
It’s a reminder to me how majestic this species of bird is though, and to think I’d never even seen one of these creatures until embarking on my journey into the world of taxidermy! Pheasants might just be the world’s most underrated birds. A fun little anecdote:
My cursory online research tells me that white pheasants are quite uncommon in America and now I don’t feel so green for not having seen one before. To mount it was an honor; and the meat it provided my little felines nourished them quite well.
I set up a hanging environment of white birch and some Spanish moss, neither of which I’m guessing coexist with this breed of bird but I don’t care because it compliments the pheasant, who is the star of the show.
Along with the possibly inaccurate setting, I made another executive decision to mount it with an open mouth, as though it were calling.
There’s a little rearview shot for you, to show the feet.
My client came by yesterday to pick up this piece, and I’m fairly certain he was pleased. In my experience, hunters don’t tend to emote the way my other clients do (squealing, crying, flowery heartfelt emails the next day, etc) so I just have to take their word for it when they say they like their mount. I know I would be happy with this beauty hanging in my home.
Today is Fasnacht Day, a Dutch tradition in which everyone eats donuts. I have never heard of this but my instructor brought a box in and insisted we eat. The origins of this tradition have something to do with emptying the pantries of all things dough-related before Lent begins (while in Philly and everywhere else it’s Mardis Gras and we’re busy boozing it up) but these days it’s kind of a fund-raiser thing for the local schools. Regardless, I was happy to contribute to my expanding waist line with some delicious fried dough.
I got started on my second buck trophy mount; this one is in an aggressive pose whereas the first one was a semi-sneak. I found the aggressive to be a little bit more tricky in terms of claying up the face but all in all I’d say I did a fair job.
Before getting the hide on the form, I had to sew up some holes. In Pennsylvania, hunters are required to tag their deer on the ear and many of them cut through quite haphazardly which results in more work for the taxidermists. I’m learning more about the love-hate and obviously symbiotic relationship between the killers and the stuffers.
Another thing common in deer is ticks. I found several while fleshing out the initial “green” (raw) hide, but was quite surprised to still find more even after it had been tanned! They were dead, of course, but are often still quite alive when on a green-hide. Lyme disease is something taxidermists have to be on the lookout for, but Mr. B tells me that no one he knows has ever gotten it. Oddly enough, I know at least three people with it and all of them live in the city.
Here’s the hide on the form. I think they all look like Eeyore the sad donkey at this point, before the face is set.
One of the details in setting the face is the tear ducts. They must be opened up and then properly set into a groove which the taxidermist has carved into the form.
I went home that afternoon and took a nice walk around the hills behind the cabin. One of the boys stuck around to watch over Mr. M, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner together. We had a fantastic conversation about allowing oneself to deserve good things in life. “Eliminate that which does not serve you,” were his closing words.