The economy and taxidermy

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The Economy & Taxidermy —

How changing economic times effect taxidermists.
Very little has been written on how the economy effects taxidermists.  The truth is , taxidermy has had a good run economically over the last 40 years. Growing up in the taxidermy business and owning a second generation studio that has been operational for over 40 years gives me a unique perspective on the Industry. While the US and World economies were on cyclical roller coasters, taxidermy stayed relatively strong. That changed when 2007 hit….but I will touch on that more later in the article.
Lets start by trying to put a finger on the size of the taxidermy economy. This would include taxidermy supply companies, tanneries, shippers etc, and of course the money taken in by taxidermists. While I haven’t been able to find an exact economic number , it is in the billions of dollars every year. Looking past rogue taxidermists and the other assorted novelties the media likes to portray taxidermists as, there are thousands of serious taxidermy studios across the country operating like any other business. Taxidermy supply companies have sales in the millions and the larger ones have distribution centers across the country. Millions of mammals, fish,birds, and reptiles are mounted every year by people who count on the income. These include everything from $ 200 bluegill mounts for a kids first fish to $300,000 game rooms full of exotic game and elaborate habitat displays. The fact is the taxidermy industry is a diverse and unique economic engine that plays an integral part in the overall hunting and fishing economy.
The 70’s ushered in a new era in taxidermy. For the first time, mass produced foam forms became available and the process of taxidermy became more standardized and in some respects easier. More taxidermists took up the trade, and more sportsman found taxidermy in their price range. While the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s had recessions, taxidermy remained flat or grew right through them. Hunting & fishing proved to be something few sportsmen were willing to give up, and if they harvested the trophy of a lifetime, money was found to preserve the memory.
The great recession that began in 2007 was a different story for taxidermists.The home equity fueled spending finally ran out, and taxidermy operations of all sizes felt the economic hit. We saw that first hand in our sub contract taxidermy business . Many shops struggled to get clients to pick up mounts, and many reported numbers of new mounts dropping off. We did not see many shops go out of business, but many had to diversify their operations and rein in spending. 2007 was a necessary reset for the economy. Unfortunately, sometimes hitting that reset button can hurt. If there is a take away lesson from 2007, it is to operate your business a little on the recessionary side ( the side of cautious growth and spending). The studios that didn’t make it through overspent and over borrowed and fell hard when the flow of cash stopped.
In conclusion, recessions of all sizes effect taxidermists. The extent depends on the severity of the recession, but taxidermy does seem to be somewhat recession proof. History tells us that. Complacency is the death sentence of  business, Failing to prepare for changing economic times will spell trouble for any business.
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Aaron Stehling is a second-generation full time taxidermist from Jefferson, WI. He is co-owner, with his brother Austin, of Stehling’s Taxidermy, LLC, a studio that specializes in wholesale/sub contract work that has been in operation for over 40 years. Stehling’s Taxidermy also offers a turkey head freeze dry service. You can learn more about his services at www.stehlingstaxidermy.com or check out their online video training web site, www.taxidermyinsider.com. Aaron is also the administrator on www.taxidermytalk.com forums. He is a regular contributing author for Taxidermy Today Magazine.You can contact him at 920.674.3724 or email a.n.stehling@gmail.com.

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