Question for experienced kudu hunters...

Tundra Tiger

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First, I'm not looking for a recommendation for a taxidermist; it's either going to be a buddy of mine here in Alaska or the guy doing the dipping and packing over there. There is not an option #3.

Originally my plan was to have a buddy here in Alaska do it. I still think that might make me the happiest, but will add a lot of time. The guy in Africa... I saw his studio and work. I'd be happy enough with his quality. I don't need a competition piece; I just need/want solid commercial work, and I believe he does that. I am planning on two shoulder mounts - a kudu and a wildebeest.

While I was happy enough with what I saw of his shoulder mounts, the only thing that nagged at me a bit were the horns: they looked too dark. In fact they looked close to black. I have seen the same on other shoulder mounts (not all) in doing a Google search. To my eye (looking at it as a fish taxidermist) it looks like a case of overpainting in using an airbrush. Yet, when I look at photos of live kudu, and compare to the two I shot, I don't see black. I see varying degrees of darker brown or gray.

For those of you have a lot of experience with kudu, and see horns a lot, is black something common? Or am I right, that the horns have more subtlety than that? I am thinking maybe I could ask him to mount them, but to forego any painting of the horns, and if I think some touch up is needed I could do it myself. Do horns lose color, to a degree that painting is necessary? All of my experience has been with antlered critters, not horned.

I would add I have the same slight concern for my other horned species.

Using him would save some cost and a reasonable amount of time.

Thanks in advance for any insights you might provide.
 

shootist~

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Good questions.

The other issue is freight. A freight quote last spring for 3 shoulder and 3 Euro Shield mounts was around $5k. Hoping things improve soon. Airfreight for 3 dip and pack, including a Kudu was closer to $1k, IIRC.
 

Tundra Tiger

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Oof... That is good to know Shootist. I had not considered that angle; I still need to arrange shipping. I had figured to use someone one this site, That may change my direction right there.
 

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The importers on this site are importers and not shippers. They might be able to recommend a shipper but I don't know if they are in the shipping business.
 

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My experience is limited to 2 Kudu taken on 2 separate trips. In both cases I had the hide and horns shipped to a great local taxidermist here in St. Louis. When the crate with the horns arrived, they were a lot darker than they were when I last saw them. I asked about it and it appears that they were "oiled" before they left Africa. What with....I don't know.

I've also looked at in-country taxidermy vs having the hides and horns shipped stateside. In the past it was a wash. The total cost was the same. Cheaper taxidermy over there, but much higher shipping costs. Higher shipping rates today have probably made it cheaper to do the work in the States.
 

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I’ve had 1 set of kudu horns out of 6 that I thought could be mounted with limited touch up. The horn is a lot less dense than antlers in North America which I think makes damage/changes easier. They scrub it during dip and pack to remove any dirt. The coloration and texture of the horn is usually a little different than the day you shot it. I’ve never thought it was oiled but more than a few times I was surprised at the condition they arrived back to the USA in. I’ve always been ok with black when taxidermy paints/oils them, but you’re right that it’s not completely accurate to the day you shot them.
 

Denvir Tire

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Splitting Image in Port Elizabeth recommends using WD40 to freshen up horns....
I've tried at home with Kudu, Gemsbok, Impala, and Blue Wildebeest, it looks ok but darker than than you might like. I suspect that the horns are treated somehow before shipping??
Good luck with the freight, it's insultingly high at the moment
 

Tundra Tiger

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I'm going to hold with my original dip and pack decision. It seems my horns very likely will look a little different irrespective of what I choose to have done. I have a lot of experience with an airbrush (fish taxidermist) so in the end, I'm confident they'll look how I want them to look.

Thanks to all who responded; I am grateful.
 

shootist~

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I plan to take it on the chin, freight wise, and use Life-Form Taxidermy in SA. (I've seen their work, covering several Safaris, btw.)

But as noted, some of the freight will be offset by the in-country taxi costs.
And there is no middle man (dip and pack service) which will offset a little more - and remove another potential for screw-ups.

So you guys get busy and fill up some planes to drive down those costs! ;)
 

wesheltonj

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The horns are brown. A lot of taxidermist paint them black. I don’t know why. If the SA guy paints them black, move on.

With today’s freight costs, I would recommend dip and pack. However, I would also have recommended that even with normal freight costs.
 

Tundra Tiger

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Wesheltonj, I have already notified him that I wish to go the dip and pack route.

As a fish taxidermist, I trust my eyes a lot. I've looked over hundreds of photos of live kudu, in addition to the ones I shot. I just don't see any that really look black or almost black. And I've seen more than a few shoulder mounts, in my research, that have horns that are unmistakably black.

Thanks to those of you who reinforced what I was thinking about this. Because I am new to kudu/African game, I wanted to hear from others.
 

Spearhead

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Like others, it is very noticeable and concerning for those that it matters to, and I’m one of “those” guys it matters. I like alive looking taxidermy as well as a absolute resemblance of when the animals was harvested.
I called my taxidermist who I have used since November of 1984. He and his son had hunted PG 4 years ago and opened his crate to find oiled horns that were very dark.
He said it does help slightly with the fragility during shipping but by no means prevents all bumps from cracking or possibly splitting dried horns.
(I’m long winded, my apologies, I’m from the south ;) ) what he did with his kudu and black wildebeest is soak horns in Dawn liquid and water, then once mounted , tilted the head while on his mounting pedestal thing he uses and applies dried dirt of appropriate color to bring it back to life so to speak. He does hit it with matte lacquer to hold dirt dust in place like hairspray. I picked up 2 Alligators last summer from him that were mounted and got to see the results. Now I’m not worried about that part.
 

Tundra Tiger

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Spearhead... that is good to know. Thanks!
 

Sarg

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Well I help out at a Taxidermist here in NZ, I did most of the trophy prep at the many camps I worked in or ran & in South Africa I help out at the shed & do all my own stuff so have seen this from all angles .

It starts from the trophy prep in camp, how much they boil the crap out of you horns & skull, whether the water is cleaned out after 10 heads in front of yours & fulls/stains the horns with oils & body fat, then stored poorly in super hot shed & then move over rough roads to expediter/taxidermist none of this helps

Also like Deer antlers the scrub & thorns in the hunt area can effect the colour of the horns to a degree

But most are a shade of brown with ivory points & high lights on edges .
 

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First, I'm not looking for a recommendation for a taxidermist; it's either going to be a buddy of mine here in Alaska or the guy doing the dipping and packing over there. There is not an option #3.

Originally my plan was to have a buddy here in Alaska do it. I still think that might make me the happiest, but will add a lot of time. The guy in Africa... I saw his studio and work. I'd be happy enough with his quality. I don't need a competition piece; I just need/want solid commercial work, and I believe he does that. I am planning on two shoulder mounts - a kudu and a wildebeest.

While I was happy enough with what I saw of his shoulder mounts, the only thing that nagged at me a bit were the horns: they looked too dark. In fact they looked close to black. I have seen the same on other shoulder mounts (not all) in doing a Google search. To my eye (looking at it as a fish taxidermist) it looks like a case of overpainting in using an airbrush. Yet, when I look at photos of live kudu, and compare to the two I shot, I don't see black. I see varying degrees of darker brown or gray.

For those of you have a lot of experience with kudu, and see horns a lot, is black something common? Or am I right, that the horns have more subtlety than that? I am thinking maybe I could ask him to mount them, but to forego any painting of the horns, and if I think some touch up is needed I could do it myself. Do horns lose color, to a degree that painting is necessary? All of my experience has been with antlered critters, not horned.

I would add I have the same slight concern for my other horned species.

Using him would save some cost and a reasonable amount of time.

Thanks in advance for any insights you might provide.
Probably not relevant but I noticed deer antler colours differed greatly from area to area. Where I hunted in the central North Island NZ the antlers were black and was told it was because of the minerals in their food. In the South Island, the stag antlers were a middle brown. Perhaps the same applies to Africa. Ask a PH if horns/antlers are black around Volcanic areas.
 

SABENA1

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First, I'm not looking for a recommendation for a taxidermist; it's either going to be a buddy of mine here in Alaska or the guy doing the dipping and packing over there. There is not an option #3.

Originally my plan was to have a buddy here in Alaska do it. I still think that might make me the happiest, but will add a lot of time. The guy in Africa... I saw his studio and work. I'd be happy enough with his quality. I don't need a competition piece; I just need/want solid commercial work, and I believe he does that. I am planning on two shoulder mounts - a kudu and a wildebeest.

While I was happy enough with what I saw of his shoulder mounts, the only thing that nagged at me a bit were the horns: they looked too dark. In fact they looked close to black. I have seen the same on other shoulder mounts (not all) in doing a Google search. To my eye (looking at it as a fish taxidermist) it looks like a case of overpainting in using an airbrush. Yet, when I look at photos of live kudu, and compare to the two I shot, I don't see black. I see varying degrees of darker brown or gray.

For those of you have a lot of experience with kudu, and see horns a lot, is black something common? Or am I right, that the horns have more subtlety than that? I am thinking maybe I could ask him to mount them, but to forego any painting of the horns, and if I think some touch up is needed I could do it myself. Do horns lose color, to a degree that painting is necessary? All of my experience has been with antlered critters, not horned.

I would add I have the same slight concern for my other horned species.

Using him would save some cost and a reasonable amount of time.

Thanks in advance for any insights you might provide.
Hi Tundra Tiger,
I had the same problem with my first Kudu, the Euro mount came back with pitch-black horns.
My second hunt with Khomas Highland resulted in magnificent Kudu and Eland.
When the dipped trophies came in from Namibia I treathed the horns myself.
I gave them a good rubbing with a hard nylon brush and applied linseedoil to the horns.
That turned out beautifull, you see the variations of brown/black as they are when alive!
Brgds,
Marc
 

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Im sitting here staring at the kudu shoulder mount on our wall.. the horns are a brown-grey tone... nowhere near black..

While I dont have near the experience of the PH's or SA/Namibia/Zim, etc residents that frequent AH, I have had the privilege of seeing hundreds of kudu in the wild over the years.. and cant recall any of them ever having dark horns that would be approaching black in color..

We're leaving a week from tomorrow for another SA hunt.. two of the hunters in the party have kudu on their "list".. Im going to guess we're all going to be looking at a whole lot of kudu while we're in country.. Im going to bet none of them have dark horns..

Whichever taxidermist you choose (we have always used taxidermists in Africa.. and have one in particular that we have been extremely happy with (bulls eye taxidermy in Limpopo.. so that is who we will be using again on this trip).. It should be as easy as just shooting them an email or making a phone call and telling them very specifically what you do or do not want.. If you'll let them know "I do not want dark horns on my kudu.. I would like them kept their natural color" I think any reasonable taxidermist will accomidate you..

The only time I have been disappointed in the work done by any of the 3 SA taxidermists we have used was when I didnt give them specific enough guidance on a few things.. for example, on our first trip over we just told them we wanted our euro mounts on a wooden board/shield.. while the mounts themselves looked excellent.. the shields they were mounted on were pretty low rent, poorly executed, cheap wood, junk..

Lesson learned.. every trip after we have been very, very specific about what we want done, how we want it done, etc... and have yet to be disappointed with anything since..
 

Tundra Tiger

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Cervus, Sabena, and Dave... Thanks a bunch; that's all terrific information. At this point, I had been limited to Google searches: live kudu, kudu shoulder mounts, kudu Euro mounts. Maybe my searches aren't really indicative, but of the photos of mounted animals, there's a fair amount I looked at - well over half I would guess - that are a monotone black. Photos of live kudu haven't yielded such results. Also, photos I took on my trip, same thing: they are shades of brown and gray. I would add I've visited some websites and taxidermists who go the black route on kudu tend to have black or dark horns on other mounts: wildebeest, impala, etc; Because I am not terribly experienced with African game, I just assumed there are places where that does happen with horns on live animals.

Dave, that would have been my plan: specific instructions. But I decided to bring everything back and we'll sort it out here. In the end that'll work out best. My taxidermist buddy, I know I can suggest things to him and I'll be fine. And dealing with the skulls... I had always had plans to create my own displays for Euros. It's funny you mentioned the economy panels. When I thought I might have the taxidermist over there do the work, I told him to prep my skulls like for European mounting, but don't worry about the panels. He said without the panels the U.S. would view them not as finished taxidermy products and they'd have to crate and ship separately.
 

TTundra

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Great thread from @buck wild on this subject and how to recondition horns that come back over boiled, oiled, etc. Im sure any US taxidermist would already do so, but great info to have:

 

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