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eric voigt

I just wanted to know what you thought about the possibility that "trophy hunting" limits the potential for "trophy" genes to be inherited and leads to lesser elk, deer or whatever? See you in class. Eric

Mark R.

Yes, a mount without the whole cape is often considered "okay" by non-hunters whereas a typical head mount is not. It's interesting to talk with non-hunters on this. If you ask museum goers their opinions of the stuffed animals in the exhibits, I bet you'd find that the vast majority have no problem with this and in fact they don't think much on who killed the animal and why. The reason it's there in the exhibit is to inform and teach, to evoke life and habitat in a specifc place.

Take some of those museum goers to a hunter's house loaded with various head mounts of animals, and most are now appalled. First, the thought that "one person" did all this killing is a bit much to fathom, and second, the question of just why the hunter went to such lengths to preserve and mount them in his/her home seems unanswerable in moral terms. When hunters with homes full of mounts talk about these mounts representing a memory, not of the kill but of the place, the season, the whole experience of the hunt, few non-hunters can understand this. I myself have a hard time with it when done to extremes; it's similar to a hunter that is constantly taking pictures in order to "remember" the experience once back home. Some spend too much time not actually immersing themselves fully in the experience to begin with. There is a distinct difference in using parts of the animal (clothing, antler door handles, antler gun rack etc) and displaying them, as well.

It would be one thing to have a room full of mounts that only the hunter saw, and here's the glitch in the whole thing. How many hunters with mounts would store them away in a room that others weren't allowed to visit? Very few I'd think. So it would appear that head mounts in many ways are a form of braggadocio, look what I did, look at what I accomplished, look at what a good hunter I am. Ego ego ego.

A mount with "life" in it, one with glass eyes, evokes that life, and as such when it is found in a hunter's home by non-hunters evokes sadness and empathy for the animal. A european mount does not; a whitened skull with antlers evokes death and not life. A whitened bear skull the same thing. Hence, I think, the acceptance of it by non-hunters over the other lifelike mounts.

Carl Ramm

My father was a taxidermist, I have some experience in it, and habitat dioramas when done right are my favorite form of art. Nonetheless, I almost never like the taxidermy I see in homes, stores, and offices. I agree with what Mark said but would add a few more things.

Leaving aside european mounts, most taxidermy I see outside of museums are displayed either too casually or in such a manner that they are unmistakably about ego. That's true of fine art as well, of course. In both cases it there's a kind of disrespect, but I think it natural that we are bothered more by disrespect (implied or otherwise) toward a living or once-living animal. I think that the issues of empathy that Mark mentioned come very much into play here, and not without reason.

Also, taxidermy is a very unforgiving medium. The realism inherent in using actual hide and feathers, hair, etc. is jarring if it is not matched by equal realism in the parts that require human skill to recreate. So, relatively minor imperfections that might not mar fine art will destroy taxidermy. This is only compounded by the fact that, unlike fine artists, most taxidermists are ignorant of the longevity of their materials and seldom even think along such lines. So, even relatively well done commercial work frequently looks kind of tawdry after a few years.

While most people don't think explicitly about it, I think they sense poor taxidermy to be pathetic and disrespectful. Regarding the work of professionals, I agree with them.

By the way, people have bad reactions to poor museum taxidermy too, when they see it. Who can blame them?

There are some "private" taxidermists doing fine work for individuals, but even then how much of it gets displayed in a tasteful and respectual manner, or even properfly cared for?

So, if the average person ever sees respectually created and displayed taxidermy, it's probably in a museum. I think this is another reason why they tend to react the way they do. As for "european mounts", besides avoiding the problems with empathy already mentioned, they are much simpler to do, and display, well.

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