As a lifelong hunter, Bob Reinier had made his fair share of trips to the taxidermist. But it wasn't until he saw an advertisement for taxidermy school that he ever considered joining the profession.
Fifteen years later, Reinier, owner of B & L Quality Taxi-dermy in Steamboat Springs, has no regrets with his career change, though often his work means less time for personal hunting and more time tending to the hunts of his customers.
"Taxidermy does take away from your own hunting," Reinier said. "It's easier as years go by, but you do get envious of the stuff some people bring in. I make do with hunting here and there."
Of course, here and there includes several trips to Africa, where he and his wife, Fran, have bagged a variety of exotic animals, including zebras, blue wildebeests, impalas and greater kudus.
The mounts of those animals and others decorate the walls of Reinier's shop, where he and his son, Leland, work year-round tending to customer needs.
Taxidermy, the art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals, is a high-demand business in Northwest Colorado, where hunters flock from around the world every year to take their shots at bagging trophy animals such as elk and deer.
"There's enough work to keep me busy all year," Reinier said.
A typical mount takes between six and nine months to complete, Reinier said. After a hunter brings in his or her kill and decides how he or she wants it mounted, the skin, or hide, must be properly prepared. Most hides take about a month to dry, after which they're sent to a tannery.
The tanned hide, upon its return to Reinier's shop, is then ready to be mounted. Using forms, Reinier positions the hide in the manner desired by the customer.
The hide is then sewed back together and the finishing touches added. The mount then must be given additional time to thoroughly dry.
Like any profession, taxidermists hone and perfect their talents over time and with experience, Reinier said.
"I consider it an art," he said. "There's a debate over whether it's an art of just putting things together. I say it's an art."
B & L Quality Taxidermy, like other area taxidermists, offers a wide variety of services for its customers. While shoulder mounts remain the most popular choice of customers, options such as European mounts, horn mounts, full mounts and rugs provide several alternatives.
European mounts, also known as skull mounts, are the mounting of a skull to a wall plate.
Full body mounts are common for bears, mountain lions and a host of small predators, Reinier said. Often, a full mount includes incorporating a habitat scene such as logs, plants, rocks or a combination of the three.
Rugs are particularly popular for bears and mountain lions.
Many taxidermists also mount fish and make novelty items such as gun racks with animal hooves. n