FLORENCE, Mont. – With general big game hunting season wrapping up last weekend taxidermists are busy.
Florence taxidermist Shirley Hopkins has a good work load ahead of her. She owns A Memory Saved Taxidermy.
Using dental instruments she was cleaning the teeth of a white-tailed deer a hunter brought her.
She said most hunters she talks to want European skull mounts. That’s the bleached or unbleached skull and antlers of an elk or deer.
“They take up less space on the wall,” said Hopkins. “And they are a lot cheaper.”
But Hopkins also does shoulder mounts and rugs.
“I’ve gotten in two elk skins, a cow hide and a sheep hide,” the customer wants tanned, she said.
In the middle of her shop stands the form of a life-sized black bear. She will begin work on it after the hide is tanned.
The bear was taken near Florence. She said most of her work is with local and Montana hunters.
Hopkins has been working in taxidermy for nine years. But she’s had a life-long fascination with it.
It began, she said, when she was in second grade and visited the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
“I remember looking at all the animals that were taxidermied,” she said, “and I thought it was a really neat thing to have a fully preserved animal for history.”
She pointed to the skull of a white-tailed deer on her work table, calling it the biggest “highlight” of this years’s hunting season.
It was shot by a military veteran.
“It’s a Wounded Warrior deer that I got in last week,” she said. “It was a deer hunt donated by Montana Wounded Warriors.”
The group takes wounded veterans on all-expense-paid hunting trips.
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