Taxidermy - Africa or Back Home?

Discussion in 'Taxidermy' started by Hank2211, May 31, 2010.

  1. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

    Jan 12, 2010
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    Member of:
    SCI, DU, Pheasants Forever
    Canada, United States, Zimbabwe, South Africa (Eastern Cape; Northern Cape; North West Province, Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo), Namibia, Cameroon, Benin, Ethiopia, Argentina
    The issue is this: should you have your taxidermy done in Africa or back home?

    I know that this thread could be in the "After the Hunt" category, since it deals with what happens after you've finshed hunting. Equally, it could be in the "Before the Hunt" category, since you likely should make the decision in advance of the hunt. But it's important enough that I think it should be here, with all of the general hunting discussions. And one thing is certain - if you're in a hunting camp with others, ask the question around the campfire and you'll probably get a range of different views, all strongly held.

    Some people have told me the decision is easy, a conclusion which in my experience is usually based on factor 1, below. For many of us though, it's not so easy. In making the decision, I'd suggest people should consider the followinig factors:

    1. Cost. I suggest there's no argument on this one. Taxidermy, like most things (except maybe ammo) is cheaper in Africa than in North America. You will save money by having the work done there. And if that was all there was to it, there'd be no discussion, and I wouldn't be writing this note. But like most things in life, it's not so simple.

    In considering cost, you should be aware that mounted trophies (almost) always take up more room and certainly weigh more than unmounted ones. That means you will pay more for shipping. And in these days of airlines trying to make as much as they can from just about every avenue available, the cost difference may be substantial. This of course depends in part on what you're having mounted.

    2. Skill. Some would say that African taxidermists are better at mounting African trophies because they see more of them, both alive and in their shops. Others would argue that North American taxidermists do better work overall, for a variety of reasons. This is where the arguments get interesting.

    Let me be clear about one thing. I have no doubt that there are great taxidermists in both Africa and North America. That's not the point. The issue is whether the work done by African taxidermists is better overall than that done by North American taxidermists, overall. And here, I'd say in my experience, the answer is no.

    I suggest if you look at the work in an average African taxidermist's, and compare it to the work found in an average North American taxidermist's, you'd find that those in the North American shop are "better', overall.

    I expect this difference has something to do with the availability of materials and tools, and may even extend to training. Whatever the reason, it's been my experience that my North American mounted trophies look better than my African mounted trophies. But I have only my (limited) experience to go on here.

    3. Hands. This relates to the number of hands through which your trophies will pass, depending on the decision you make. If you decide to have the work done in Africa, the trophies will generally go from the skinning shed to the taxidermists, likely passing through a storeroom owned by the outfitter in Africa. They may then spend a year or more until they are finished and sent to the shipper.

    This step is eliminated if you have the trophies sent to North America directly. Here the trophies will go from the hunting camp to the dip and pack company, and then to the shipper.

    In my experience, the longer that the trophies are away from you, the more there is that can go wrong.

    4. Proximity. Recognize as well that if the taxidermy is done in Africa, it may be two years from the time of your hunt until the trophies show up. If there's a problem with what you receive, it's likely there's not much you can do about it so long after the fact. If the trophies are sent to North America for the work, it may be 4-6 months before you see the bits and pieces, and if something doesn't match or isn't yours, it's much easier to address it sooner rather than later.

    Equally, if you don't like something, or there's a problem, it's easier to fix it if the person who did the original work is in the same time zone. Based on posts to this site, it seems that more than a few people bring trophies mounted outside of North America to a local taxidermist for help.

    Problems don't arise that often - most outfitters and taxidermist do good work and recognize that they will be judged on after hunt trophy care as much as during the hunt, but problems do arise - you just have to read the posts on this site. I've only experienced one problem - I got a baboon skull where the upper and lower jaw didn't match. Not a big deal, since the baboon wasn't the highlght of the hunt, but likely the result of some sloppiness at the taxidermists. However, I shot a record book sable recently, and there were others who were looking enviously at the trophy. I figured best to have him home sooner rather than later.

    It may sound like I'm pitching in favor of North American taxidermists. I'm not in that business myself, and I have no interest in anyone who is. I'm just someone who has hunted Africa a few times and had his taxidermy done in both places.

    I know many African taxidermists are doing great work in circumstances that are often very difficult. Maybe my perspective would be different if I'd experienced a different taxidermist in North America or in Africa. But all I have to go on is my experince, and I'm trying to address an issue that I hadn't really thought through before my first African hunt.

  2. owenowen

    owenowen AH Veteran

    Mar 8, 2009
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    South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia

    Good post. I think this all depends on the hunter. I know for a fact most of my European hunters use "dip and pack " because they like there animals done in the European manner and its cheaper for them. However for some USA and some CA clients they say SA is cheaper....all depends on your connections you have back home ...and if you dont mind waiting 1 year to receive your goods. ? The SA taxidermist i know best was schooled in the USA so he uses their standards but we have various ones to choose from. We normally take our clients to different taxidermists that we use over here and they can see their work to judge for themselves who they want to use.
    Last edited: May 31, 2010
  3. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

    Jan 20, 2009
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    Member of:
    Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
    Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
    I liked all your arguements. I would have to say North American taxidermist are the best. And it all depends on how much money you have to spend on taxidermy. For me the animal doesn't have to look 100% real if it saves me a lot of money. A lot of taxidermy costs are similiar. But the great taxidermists will cost 20-50% more. I would spend the money if it was sable, leopard, lion, etc. But most of the plains game...I wouldn't.

    As far as shipping...go ocean freight....for the most part, it's cheaper....for me a lot cheaper.

    I think if you are going to have your stuff done in North America...have a excellent dip and pack company do the work...don't cut corners. If your taxidermists has good skulls and skins to work with, the end product will turn out so much better. I know a few taxidermist in the U.S., that could put a life mount together, that looks scary real.

    I have had all my taxidermy done in Africa, but I didn't want to pay the dip and pack fee, and I wasn't willing to pay for a quality taxidermist.....hunting costs are high enough for me already.

    I think taking really good pictures is important...I love looking at my pictures.
  4. Blaserman

    Blaserman AH Senior Member

    Apr 21, 2009
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    Member of:
    North Amercian Hunting Club , SCI Life Menber National , NRA Life Member
    Africa , Canada, Mexico
    Taxidermy here or Africa

    Last time i went I used a Taxidermy there , but I had one catch My bush buck did not have the same markings as the one I shot . I matched the picture to my mount and the marking are very diffrent. I like the mounts but this time i am having them done here.
    First reason If I am lucky enough to take as many animals that I want there will be 10-15 animals.
    Second I can take my time and do one or more when the money is available.
    Third most will be life sized and don't want to transport them here.
    Fourth even though there are good Taxidermist there, I have a very good one here that is experienced at African animals and is willing to work with me one each animal.
  5. Merry B

    Merry B AH Member

    Sep 15, 2009
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    Hello- excellent post!!!
    As I work in the business of importing trophies, I can heartily agree with all of your points. One thing that hunters need to be a little more informed about is the costs involved in having your trophies shipped back into the US- it is NOT cheap! Please be prepared to be outraged at airfreight costs. We always recommend sending trophies by air- as you were saying, the less handling, the better. Plus, less chance of your trophies getting moldy- no climate control on ocean freight liners...Also, as to your point of African or US taxidermists doing the mounting- if you have any problems with your taxidermist's work, you will have an easier time resolving here rather that trying to work with someone on the other side of the world. One more thing, your freight costs, either by air or ocean, will be based on actual weight or demential weight, whichever is greater (of course LOL) Fully finished trophies are much bigger than unfinished.

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