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Competition Tip: Flash or No Flash

July 14, 2011  |  James Parrish

I have been competing in taxidermy competitions for many years now. I have seen many great mounts over the years at those competitions. I have also seen quite a few that were horrible. Many of those horrible mounts had great habitat or base work, but the animal itself was poorly mounted. So, which is more important, a flashy habitat or an anatomically accurate mount? The answer depends on who is asking.


For beginners, I always recommend a K.I.S.S. approach….or Keep It Simple Stupid (not that you’re stupid, but we all tend to over complicate things). When you are starting out in competitions, I suggest keeping the base work or habitat work to a minimum. Focus all your attention on getting the animal as anatomically accurate 

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as you possibly can. After all, your first goal of competition should be to LEARN how to mount an animal correctly. My first blue ribbon in a professional level competition was earned with a simple bluebill duck mount. The duck was mounted laying on a rock I purchased from McKenzie Taxidermy Supply. I added a few cast barnacles to the rock and that was it. That mount won a blue ribbon and the Taxidermy Today Woody Award at the Surry Taxidermy Mini-Course in 2007. There was nothing flashy about that mount except that it was very accurate anatomically. Here’s a picture of that mount.


For seasoned competitors who have the skills and knowledge to mount a specimen correctly, “flash” certainly adds to the mount. Having a well done base or habitat can have an impact on the judge’s score, though it is technically not supposed to. When you have the total package of a great base and accurate animal, you then set yourself up to win big with awards like Judge’s Best of Show, People’s Choice, WASCO Award, etc.

If you’ve never competed, I certainly suggest giving it a try. Go into it with your best work and an open mind. You will learn more that you ever thought possible. Don’t take the judge’s critique personally, rather look at it as him or her helping you to improve your skills.


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