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Scott M

Taxidermy: It can be the stuff of household debate

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by Chris Niskanen, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Like many outdoorsmen, I have a fondness for taxidermy. It started back in 1985, in college, when I hefted an 8-pound walleye over the gunwale of my canoe and decided, quite impetuously, to spend a little of my student loan money on having it stuffed.

As they say, I have never looked back.

An 8-point buck followed, and then a magnificent moose with 48-inch-wide antlers that came after a rainy, eight-day hunt in the Boundary Waters. Over the years, I've added a bull elk, another nice whitetail and a pair of canvasbacks, wings frozen in midflight. Sometimes I look at those birds and I can smell the cattails and hear the whistling of wings.

If this sounds like a confession, it is. The cabin frau is putting her foot down. I've not been told to enter a 12-step program, (or 12-point program?), but hints have been dropped. There is too much taxidermy in the house, she says. She can watch TV and simultaneously look into the glassy eyes of an elk and a whitetail buck, which for many of us is perfectly normal, but others prefer fine home decor to involve matching colors, not matching antlers.

Looking back, the dead badger was probably my undoing.

Coming home from Best Buy in Woodbury last summer, I noticed a perfectly intact badger lying dead in the road near Lake Elmo Regional Park. Some can't resist stopping for something as intriguing as a dead badger, and I did. So did a family in a Suburban. A lanky teenage boy from the Suburban and I met in the media of the highway to examine the badger, whose only visible wounds were a broken claw.

"Cool," he said.

"Really cool," I replied.

"I don't think my mom will let us take it home," he said with a sigh.

"Let's ask," I said.

I ambled over to the driver's side of the Suburban, and a woman with sunglasses propped on her head rolled down the window.

"Is that a badger?" she said in wonderment. "I've never seen one up close."

"Looks like it was hit by a car this morning."

"Awfully sad, isn't it," she said. "I hate to see it lying there in the road like that."

Strangers don't often have conversations like this, but I suppose it's always good manners to offer a dead badger to the other motorist.

"You know, we were thinking seriously about taking it," she said brightly. "My husband is a hunter. Do you want it?"

"Yes."

So the badger came home with me. Before the cabin frau had a chance to see it, I had devised a plan to have it mounted and put in my 5-year-old daughter's room. At home, there was surprising enthusiasm for the plan. When the taxidermist called last winter, we brought home a stuffed badger attached to a wooden board made to look like a sand prairie, a natural badger habitat.

Per my request, the taxidermist gave the badger a friendly, quizzical look on its furry face.

We named it Francis, after the badger character in a series of well-known children's books.

Francis has become my family's best conversation piece. Visitors marvel at his knife-like claws (it turned out Francis was a young male badger), his thick fur and stout body. My daughter has become so attached to Francis that she refuses to have it displayed anyplace except on top of her chest of drawers.

Her Barbies have been known to take rides on Francis. This morning, Francis was dressed in a sunbonnet and sunglasses. During nights of bad dreams, my daughter has made Francis her imaginary protector. I have often said she, with her pet badger, is destined to be the most popular girl at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

My observation is taxidermy is a subjective thing. To get it through the door, it needs a good story, a hook (as we say in the newspaper business). Any old dead deer won't do, and so I'm looking for a new home for a couple of deer heads that don't make the cut.

Either that or I have to make up a better story to save their sorry hides.

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I can totally relate, And I'm doing taxidermy. She doesn't want the house to look like a zoo. Well, maybe, I can get the 48 hour rule to work. confused Or that fish is what's his names?

Sorry babe you have the wildest animal living here. grin

Maybe show us your zoo?

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Three years ago we ended up with a 1/2 body mount of a black bear in our office for a couple years. My bosses brother shot it and had the mount made without checking with the department of war first. He brought it home and it never made it out of the garage.

Last year the brother got a divorce and the bear went home.

Moral of the story: check first so you don't have to give big expensive mounts to your brother.

DD

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Arhh! My wife prefers that I keep my mounts in the basement living room. I respect that, and actually, I kind of like having my own area. My basement has the outdoor theme with a gun cabinet with coyote rugs draped on, 2 deer, 1 walleye, 1 northern, 1 smallie, pheasant, more deer antlers, outdoor paintings etc..

NOTHING BOTHERS ME WORSE than when a man has good stuff to hang on the wall and his wife forbids it!!! I have an uncle that has a few nice whitetails, 1 pronghorn, and a nice mule deer IN HIS CLOSET!!

He claims his wife would divorce him if he tried to hang them in his basement.... I say that is a great idea then!

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