Breathing new life into a dead animal is the secret to good taxidermy, said Richard Reeves, a Houston wildlife artist with more than 30 years of experience.
The Texas Taxidermy Association filled the Killeen Civic and Conference Center this weekend with natural scenes of whitetail deer, water fowl, desert cats and exotic wildlife, for its 2013 convention and competition.
Reeves served as president of TTA for six years in the 1990s and has taken home many ribbons for his pieces, including his 1986 People’s Choice Award for his work, “Baby Sika Deer.”
He said he began taxidermy when he was 28 because he loved nature.
“The object is to preserve an animal and put it as close to life as possible,” Reeves said.
“You’ll look across the showroom and there are a lot of pieces that look like they’re going to move on ya.”
Taxidermist suppliers estimate there are around 1,500 amateur and professional taxidermists in Texas.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 whitetail deer are shot each year in Texas, which means there are not enough taxidermists to go around, Reeves said.
In the past 30 years at his Houston shop, Reeves Taxidermy, Reeves completed around 10,000 whitetail deer shoulder mounts alone.
“That’s not counting duck, fish and other water fowl,” Reeves said.
When faced with critics of the hunting industry, Reeves argues that hunting in many cases helps provide a much-needed control on the population.
“We don’t need to hunt for food on the table, but 99 percent of the meat gets eaten by those hunters,” Reeves said. “It is heavily regulated. We don’t want to kill out the species.”
Reeves also said that over the past 10 years, as the demand for taxidermy has increased, wildlife artists have expanded their talents to incorporate elaborate pedestals with rocks, mesquite logs and engraved sculptures.
Roy Holdridge, vice president of TTA and chairman of the competition room, said the 2013 competition showcases pedestals with artistic whims not seen in years past.
“On top of the taxidermy end of it, there is a lot of artistry involved in this,” Holdridge said. “There’s several pieces here that are really exceptional.”