New taxidermist expecting the ‘big ones’

Barwick resident Tony Richards is hoping for fur, fins, feathers, and horns to cross his path over the next few months as he picks up the pace in his new business “Sturgeon Creek Taxidermy.”
Richards, 25, who is currently running his taxidermy operation out of his parents’ home on Hele Road (one mile west of Barwick), graduated in early March from Penn School Taxidermy in Calgary.
He had spent three 40-hour weeks there learning the trade of game preservation.
An avid outdoorsman with a background in guiding and hunting, Richards felt the taxidermy business was pretty much where he belonged.
And even though he expects it to be profitable, that wasn’t a determining factor when making his career choice.
“Every taxidermist I know of is a year behind. It’s a busy trade and it’s one that isn’t seasonal,” he said Friday morning.
“But I’m not in it for the dollars. I just love [taxidermy],” he smiled. Richards was at the Red Dog Inn last week to take down his taxidermy display, which he had set up for the mini trade show the night before in conjunction with Rainy River Future Development Corp.’s annual “Being in Business” celebration.
Richards’ exhibit currently includes the seven animals he preserved as part of the “hands on” portion of the taxidermy course — a coyote, mink, fish, standing pheasant, flying pheasant, and two deer heads.
He and other students who took the course were taught how to skin and preserve the hides on artificial forms, including how to mold wings, feathers, and ears to give the animals a life-like appearance.
Richards said the deer antlers were supplied separate from the heads and had to undergo some reconditioning by the students before they could be mounted.
“The horns were pure white when I got them. They were 10-15 years old and were very weathered from the sun,” he noted.
With the walleye opener just around the corner, Richards is expecting to be busy making “keepers” out of some of them. “I’ll probably be doing fish the most,” he said. “This district is big on fish.”
And while it’s fairly normal for people to bring him frozen game, Richards urged customers who pre-freeze their catch to pay special attention to protecting it from potential freezer burn.
“The fresher it is, the better chance there’ll be to have something worthwhile,” he stressed.
Some of Richards’ taxidermy work is now on display at the Ontario Tourist Information Centre by the bridge here.