In my many years of being a taxidermist, I was always entertained by the variety of customers that seemed to show up at my shop. Most are good, down-to-earth people, but there were plenty of zany characters as well. The one thing they all had in common was to wonder how many hours I spent working on each animal.
I did not openly broadcast my hours-per-project charges because I did not want strangers knowing exactly how much I made. Have you ever wondered how many hours a taxidermist spends completing a mount? I will tell you.
Deer mounts are the bread and butter of the taxidermy world. The reason why is that they make enough profit to make it worth the time and they are not difficult to complete. They are not super technical and a good taxidermist can get them done quickly. When I was new to taxidermy, it took me about 20 hours total to complete a deer shoulder mount. This included everything from skinning it off the body to handing it to the customer.
Later, I got my deer shoulder mount times down to about 12 hour’s total. At one time, I charged $750.00 for each mount. I needed to make $50.00 per hour to pay for supplies, shipping, utilities, insurance, wear and tear on equipment, and whatever other overhead costs that were needed. It might sound like a lot of money, but it is expensive and somewhat risky running your own business where you can easily cut a tendon, or worse, if not careful.
Black bear rugs were another profitable specimen, but Midwestern taxidermists don’t get too many of those to mount. I usually had around 17-21 hours in a bear rug.
Elk shoulder mounts were my favorite mount to do, but they took a lot of time. I would charge around $1000 for small elk and up to $2000 for large bulls. Again, I always tried to maintain that $50.00 per hour rate, or better.
My least favorite animals to mount were the small ones that made no profit but as a taxidermy shop, I had to do them to keep a flow of customers coming in. Waterfowl, turkeys and predator shoulder mounts were the worst projects for me. I lost money on all of those.
The bonus mounts that I was always glad to get in were large, life-size mounts like deer and bears. A life-size deer took me about 25-30 hours and it was around the same for a life-size bear.
Taxidermy is not cheap, no matter which end of it you are on.