By Tammy Sapp
When she's not freelance writing or taking care of business at the taxidermy school or studio, Anne Vinnola enjoys some quality time with woman's best friend.
Today Anne Vinnola is a freelance writer from Canon City, Colorado who specializes in taxidermy topics; however, it wasn't always that way. When her husband announced 20 years ago he wanted to be a taxidermist, Anne wanted to stuff him!
"He had a union construction job when he told me he wanted to become a taxidermist. I thought he had lost his mind. To me, taxidermy was this dusty stuff that sat around in someone's attic or basement," Anne said.
However, Jerry and Anne's success in running the Colorado Institute of Taxidermy Training
and the Big Timber South Taxidermy Studio caused her to have a major change of heart.
"Jerry has taught students throughout the world. He has an uncanny ability in his artwork and is a good teacher. He's interested in teaching his students how to see anatomy and colors. A lot of taxidermists go by a paint schedule, and it's all done the same way even though, for example, rainbow trout will look different in the spring than they do in the fall. Instead, we make your trophy look like when you brought it to us."
Anne wasn't always an avid hunter, either.
"I was dragged into hunting kicking and screaming," Anne joked. "My dad was a hunter, but it never occurred to me that I could go. It just wasn't something girls did. My husband asked me to go but I didn't want to sit at hunt camp with some stinky men for six days. Besides, I had little kids. It just wasn't practical."
While Anne went bird hunting with her husband from time to time, she became a serious hunter about four years ago when she realized she was missing out on something wonderful.
"It really hit me when my oldest daughter came home from her first successful hunt, and I wasn't there to see it and experience it with her. So I took lessons from my husband. And I've been having a great time ever since then."
In addition to learning about taxidermy and hunting, her interests also ushered in a new career. Anne took up freelance writing five years ago after raising the couple's four children. She now blogs and writes full time for several magazines and Web sites, covering issues ranging from women hunters, field care and taxidermy.
Anne's work in the taxidermy business has made her aware many hunters and anglers don't know how to choose a taxidermist. As a result, people end up disappointed the animal looks more like Frankenstein than their trophy of a lifetime. So, she offers the following tips to help you find the right taxidermist.
Anne's Tips for Choosing a Taxidermist
- Know who you'll take your critter to before you go hunting or fishing. Have their address and phone number handy so you can make appropriate delivery arrangements should you get lucky and kill or catch something you want mounted.
- Develop a field care plan in advance in case you have a successful outing. Consult with your taxidermist beforehand to make sure you understand any special needs he or she might have.
- Never choose a taxidermist over the phone. If you can, visit their studio to see what they can do.
"Check to see if their work is anatomically correct and in a natural position. You know if the eyes are crooked or the beak isn't the right color," Anne said. "Make sure the whole animal is finished, even the backside of the mount. If you took a whole fish to the taxidermist, you should get the whole thing back, finished. Also, look for things like nail holes in the lip that indicate shoddy workmanship."
- Don't just price shop, Anne advised. "If you get the cheapest guy in town, you'll probably get what you paid for."
- Get references from others who had work done by that taxidermist. Dig around at online taxidermy forums for more information.
- Determine whether the taxidermist you're considering is respectful of you and your animal. Anne shared an anecdote that really hit home about how important respect is.
"And older man came into our shop one day with a 3 ½-inch fish and asked if we could mount it for him, and we said, 'sure.' He said when he asked others to do it, they laughed at him because the fish was so small. But they didn't understand that it was his grandson who caught the fish. And it was his first - and last - fishing trip with his grandson because he had cancer."
- Ask taxidermists if they guarantee their work.
"If the customer takes the work home and the skin pulls apart or something else happens that's the fault of the taxidermist, they should stand behind their work and fix the problem."
If you follow these tips, you'll be ready to preserve your once-in-a-lifetime moment in a way that will make it a welcome addition to your home or office decor.
You can catch up with more great advice from Anne by visiting her blog at www.skinnymoose.com/annevinnola