Taxidermists preserve the skins of wildlife that hunters and fishermen catch, by placing them over body molds and posing them in realistic ways. Some taxidermists also use plastic to recreate fish that fishermen catch, snap a picture with and release back into the water. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal taxidermy permit is required to mount any game for profit. Additionally, many states require taxidermists to hold state permits.
Learn the Trade
There are no educational requirements to be a taxidermist, but skill and precision are necessities. Gather any information you can on the subject to learn the basics and practice with game you legally hunt or catch. Some taxidermists learn by attending specialized schools, which teach everything from local game laws to shop equipment to display methods. Experienced taxidermists typically teach these classes to make sure that students understand the business side of the occupation as well.
Get the Permit
To get a federal permit, get an application through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. Applications are available based on the law or treaty associated with the business in which you plan to partake, so you may need to fill out more than one. For example, the application under The Migration Bird Treaty Act only covers birds, while The Marine Mammal Protection Act form covers marine life. Complete the application, which specifies the address to whom to send it, and expect to wait as long as 60 to 90 days.
Check Your State
States that mandate taxidermists to have state-issued permits or licenses may require candidates to wait for their federal permit before applying. The application process is similar to the federal process, but this varies by state. Detailed instructions are usually available through the state’s Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Wildlife website. For example, Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife directs candidates to their district or regional offices to retrieve license applications.
Create Your Business
While you wait for your permits to come in the mail, figure out the details of your business. Use the U.S. Small Business Administration website for tips on creating a name and registering your business. As soon as you’re registered, get your name out there and generate a customer base. Hand out business cards and network with guides or local hunting and fishing organizations. CNN notes that the best way to build your reputation in taxidermy is to be dependable, create appealing products and finish jobs quickly.
Maintain the Credentials
In addition to keeping your customers happy, you must follow certain requirements to maintain your taxidermist permits. Typically, permits expire every year, and renewal forms are automatically mailed to taxidermists. However, permit-holders are also required to keep records of their work for a minimum of three years. Records must include details on the type of wildlife mounted, the location it was caught, the name of the customer and the hunter’s tag number.