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Florida Outdoors

Article Index

Alligator Hunting: A One of a Kind Experience -
by Kris Thoemke

Why They Call it Hunting Instead of Killing -
by Kris Thoemke

Florida's Other Crab - by Kris Thoemke

The Waiting Game - by Kris Thoemke

Mounted Memories - by Kris Thoemke

Eco-Touring in Collier County - by Kris Thoemke

Beyond the Largemouth Bass - by Kris Thoemke

Tying One On -- Some thoughts on how to get started tying your own flies -- by Kris Thoemke

The Big Cypress: Adventures in a Vast Wilderness
-- Kris Thoemke spends the day exploring the Big Cypress National Preserve with Preserve biologist Debra Jansen

A Basic Guide to Saltwater Fly Fishing in Southwest Florida -- by Don Phillips

Four Strokes on the Water -- The sound of the future for marine outboards is likely to be much quieter --
by Kris Thoemke

Birding Big Cypress Swamp and the 10,000 Islands --
by natural history writer and photographer Jeff Ripple

Recycling Your Fish -- by Kris Thoemke

Peace, Paddle and Hunt -- by Kris Thoemke

 fish, camp, golf Florida outdoors

Mounted Memories
by Kris Thoemke

So you've caught the monster snook or dropped that twelve point buck of your dreams. Or maybe it's your kid's first big bass or turkey. The occasion, perhaps best measured by the stories it will generate in the years to come, is a milestone and you don't want to forget the event.

What's the answer to immortalizing the moment? Pictures don't do the accomplishment justice. Not even a videotape is sufficient. The answer to your problem is in the "T" listings of the phone book. T for taxidermist

No one know more about making memories for hunters and anglers than Bucky Flowers, owner of Skins and Scales Taxidermy in Naples. For the last 20 years Flowers has mounted thousands of fish and animals representing hundreds of different fish and animal species from around the world.

Crowded onto the walls and on the floor in his display room are deer, turkeys, a black bear, antelope and gazelles, a porcupine, numerous birds, a leopard, specimens representing most of the local salt and fresh water fish, and a variety of other animals. "People are welcome to stop by and look," Flowers said.

While you might think that the persons who have animals mounted are trying to boast, Flowers says that's real far from the truth. "People want these mounts for the memories they bring, not to say, hey look how great I am. It's not an ego trip."

To prove his point Flowers noted that, "it's not always the biggest and best fish or animals that people bring in. I see a lot of firsts. A hunter's first deer or turkey or an anglers first tarpon are common requests. So too are the common fish around here that are "firsts" caught by visitors. A lot of them aren't real big fish either."

The process of making a skin mount, one of two types methods commonly used today, has its origins in the early 1900s. It involves skinning the specimen, preserving the skin, making an artificial form of the animal to fit the exact size and shape of the skin, putting the skin on the form and then painting the mount as necessary to make it look as real as possible.

In Flowers' shop there are hundreds of fish and animals in various stages of the process. "It normally takes us about six months to do a mount," Flowers said. Part of the reason it takes so long is due to his backlog of work.

"However, the main reason you can't get a mount in a few days," he claims, "is the process must be spread out over several months in order to do a proper job. The skin must be properly prepared and tanned if you want the mount to last. That takes time"

The drawback to a skin mount, according to some, is that you must kill the animal in order to make the mount. There are a large number of people who want a mount but also don't want to kill the animal. While there are no options when it comes to deer, turkeys, and other birds and mammals, anglers can make the choice to catch and release and have a mount.

Taxidermists can use a mold to make a fiberglass replica of an angler's fish. The mount can be made to match the size and the coloring of the fish. All the angler needs to do is provide the taxidermist with the length and girth of the fish. To get the color pattern correct, Flowers maintains a photo album of reference pictures. All the angler has to do is point to the picture that looked closest to his or her fish.

If you want to provide a picture so that the taxidermist can produce exactly what you caught, take a picture of the fish. "We always use a photo if the angler provides it," Flowers says. "The problem is the picture isn't much usually helpful because it was taken hours after catching the fish. The best pictures are ones taken just after the fish comes out of the water and while it's still alive.

It's a personal choice as to whether you want your fish hanging on the wall to be the fish you caught or a replica of what you caught. "Unless a skin mount and a fiberglass mount are side by side flowers says it's difficult to tell which type you have" according to Flowers.

One factor which may determine your choice is your decision on where to display the fish. If you want this mount to hang outside, like around your pool deck, you want a fiberglass replica. It will stand up to being outside but a skin mount won't.

The cost of a quality mount gives some prospective clients sticker shock. The average cost for a bass is $125 and salt water fish is $250. For deer and turkeys, prices begin at $250. "Don't let the cost of the mount be the determining factor," Flowers emphasizes.

"Think about what it cost to get this specimen. You may have spent $3000 a year for a hunting lease over the last five years to get a big buck or $20,000 to buy a boat and five years of weekends trying to catch that special fish. When you look at the cost in these terms, the money paid to the taxidermist is only a small part of what it cost to get the animal."

Flowers recommends talking to a taxidermist before you go on an outing if you're planning to have a mount made. "If you come into my shop, I'll tell you how to prep the skin. What is done in the field really effects the final appearance of the mount."

Advance planning is essential if you're taking a trip out of the country. Bringing animals or parts of them back into the country can be tricky. Beside US Customs, you may have to deal with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Agriculture. Contacting a taxidermist in advance can make this process much easier.

Once you receive your trophy, it should last a lifetime. All you have to remember is to keep it out of direct sunlight, avoid extreme temperature changes and, when it gets dirty, wipe it clean with a damp rag.

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