While walking around the Colorado Taxidermists Association state show in June, Gary Troester had a feeling the mule deer mount he entered in the competition was something special.
Troester's instincts were on target. The owner of All Seasons Taxidermy won the "Best Mule Deer" mount in the association's master division. Troester competed with dozens of entries from taxidermists in six states.
"(The mule deer) was as close to nature as possible," he said. "The judges recognized its muscle structure, nasal cavities and ears as being the closest thing to a real deer."
Troester said his mount scored 95 out of the 100 points possible.
Winning the award was especially important for Troester because it was a deer he culled himself.
"I had harvested it back in 2004," he said. "I just didn't get around to entering it in 2005."
Troester said he has won the second-place spot for his best mule deer entries before, but never best in the state. In previous years, Troester has won awards for his bighorn sheep and elk.
"I have been trying to get a first place for a couple of years," he said. "It was really special for me, especially since it was my own animal."
Troester said people don't understand that taxidermy is an art form.
"There's a lot more to taxidermy than big antlers. Taxidermy is not about some deer head hanging on someone's wall," he said. "We really work to make an animal look as close to nature as we can."
An animal's antlers actually play no part in its judging, Troester said. Instead, judges look at the mount only from the base of the shoulder to the base of the antlers.
Judges take into consideration minute details such as the thickness of a deer's ear, visible veins, musculature and membranes.
Troester said he would be glad to show the mount to anyone interested in seeing it.
"It's on display in my shop," he said. "People are more than welcome to come and see this deer, or any other animal."
All Seasons Taxidermy is at 2354 Lincoln Ave., west of Elk River Road. Troester's usual business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.