On the Wall

Plenty to do this time of year; put decoys away;  apply for tags, plan future hunts;  fish; honey do’s; remodel plans; fish;  replant the front yard after killing it during the drought; attend MDF fundraising events; fish; and (last but not least) put last fall’s buck on the wall.

My 2016 Doyle muzzle loader buck is back from the taxidermist and after great debate and lengthy discussions with Linda, the great buck is on the wall next to me as I type. IMG_3106 Doyle buck 2017

For a while he was headed to the living room, but as far as I was concerned he had to have the best spot or nothing. Linda said he didn’t rate replacing the kudu which is more colorful and exotic. Therefore the fireplace spot remains with the South African antelope. In my eyes the antelope is beautiful, but not nearly the trophy that the buck is.

The great buck could have hung over the TV in the family room. But another South African antelope (impala) is there and the small antelope is better suited for that spot.

Hung the great buck next to my desk a few minutes ago. Moved him to the most prominent location in my home office and trophy room. He is the buck I’ve been looking for and he will probably be the best buck of my life, but I plan to keep trying to find another like – him for a while.

He is a beautiful buck and obtaining a buck of his stature has always been on my lifetime list. He is wide (27 1/2 inches wide), fairly tall (18 inches high), symmetrical, colorful (very dark with white face) and his hair is very smooth.

My good friend Jerry Lowery deserves credit for doing a great job of field dressing the cape and my taxidermist, Taff Vidalles (Favorite Feathers Taxidermy) turned him into a great shoulder mount.

There is a band on his right antler. It is the band that shows it was in the local big buck contest and it is part of his story. He won the award for best California buck and would have been in the top five in the out-of-state category.

Ironically I’ve hunted in quite a few states while searching for this buck. Here they are: CO, ID, NV, MT, WA, SD and OR. I’ve also hunted mule deer in Canada (AB, BC). It’s ironical that my biggest buck has been killed in California.

When I exclaimed to Linda that the buck was very beautiful, she replied that he was even more beautiful when he was alive.

Yes he was.

But, animals don’t live forever and she would never have seen him.

Skulls

In my opinion, most skulls are very interesting and nice to look at.

Does that make me weird? I don’t think so. Up on the ranch we have a cow skull sitting on a bank next to one of our roads and it’s been there for a few years. I admire it every time I drive down that road.

Our old camp is an open lean-to with several mountain lion kills hanging on the walls. Three deer skulls and the skull of a boar are prominently displayed. As with the cow skull, I can hardly drive by that camp without checking out those skulls even though I’ve seen them a thousand times.

European-mount skulls with antlers or horns, are proudly displayed in many homes and trophy rooms. It’s not just the protrusions that are attractive, a bleached skull is a thing of beauty and the symmetry has a special feel about it.

This wildebeest is my mini water-buffalo.

wildebeast

A smallish pronghorn I killed with my bow a few years ago is a trophy to me, but not worthy of full shoulder mount treatment, so I had it done European.

pronghorn

Bow-killed boar and warthogs are trophies I also display as European mounts. They are nice to my eye.

One of my favorite trophies is a whitetail skull collected by my guide on a South Dakota hunt that took place about 15 years ago. It died during an outbreak of disease that killed most of the whitetail in the region.

whitetail-buck

I purchased the skull from my 19-year-old guide when he decided he needed $50 more than the skull. It was a good deal for each of us.

This skull also tells a story. The buck died along a river and the winter flood buried the skull beneath the gravel of the riverbed. When the water receded, only the right antler was protruding.

My guide spotted the antler while scouting for deer. He was surprised and elated when he pulled the antler from the ground to find that it was attached to the entire skull. You can see that the right antler is bleached white, while the left antler and skull are brown from being underground for a while.

A more recent addition to my skull collection is the skull  of a bird.

scrub-jay-skull

The size and black tip of its bill give away that it is the skull of a scrub jay. I was very happy when I spotted it on the ground while deer hunting. Bird skulls are very fragile.

A Wolf Story

In  about December of 2011, a radio-collared wolf moved into Northern California. It took over four years for a different wolf to reach my home. In between those dates, wolves have settled in California and at least one pair of wolves has raised a litter of wolf pups.

During 2012 through 2014, I became somewhat involved with wolves in different ways. While volunteering for the Mule Deer Foundation, I served on a committee of wolf Stakeholders. I did my best to make my opinions known to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as they created a Wolf Management Plan. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf/Stakeholders)

While hunting in locations where wolves are common (Canada, Alaska but primarily Montana) I gradually became more familiar with wolves in the wild. During Montana hunts in 2013, 14 and 15 I heard wolves howl and eyed tracks almost daily. All the hunters in our camp possessed wolf tags in anticipation of having a shot opportunity.  A few hunters in our camp had sightings of wolves, but no shots were fired.

On those Montana trips I observed mule deer, elk, moose, a big-horn ram, black bear and two grizzly bears – but no wolves. On one occasion a wolf howled very close by. My guide and I expected to see the wolf, but did not. Later we found the tracks of two wolves that had been standing about 150 yards from our position.

Wolves have become a reality in my life, but I have yet to see one alive.

At the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in February of 2014, I attended a Friday afternoon auction where a trapping experience was auctioned. I purchased the trip with a bid of $1,500. The donor was Trent Packham of Groat Creek Outfitters. Trent lives about 60 miles north of  Edmonton, Alberta.

Eventually we scheduled the trip for early January in 2015 and I purchased ticket to Edmonton for January 3rd, 2015. I began building up my wardrobe of cold-weather clothes.

I expected temperatures as low as any I’d ever before experienced, but it was still a shock to my system when Trent called the day before my departure and told me that it was minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Edmonton. I told him I planned to be there the next day.

Then I laid awake that night and envisioned the drive in my rental car in sub-freezing weather through sixty miles of unknown territory. I have to admit that I didn’t want to take that challenge on and in the morning I cancelled my trip.

No regrets, but a couple weeks later, Trent sent me a photo of wolves he had trapped. He said that one of them was the largest wolf he had trapped up to that time. I mulled it over and concluded that maybe I should have a trophy from the trip I did not take.

I called Trent and asked him the price of the cape of that wolf. He came up with a number – $882 USD out the door. Then I asked if he knew a taxidermist who could do a good job of mounting the wolf – life size. He said that Scott Holman was the go-too guy and gave me his contact information:

SCOTT HOLMAN TAXIDERMY
661 24TH ST.
BRANDON, MANITOBA, CANADA
R7B 1X8
204 725 4474
sholman@westman.wave.ca
http://www.holmantaxidermy.com

Now it was quite a trip from Alberta to Manitoba and then to California, but this wolf puts OR7 to shame when it comes to miles traveled. The cost of taxidermy:$2205 USD. Just in case your thinking you might want to do this, here’s the breakdown.

 

Invoice Image (25) cropped

Scott sent me photos of various poses and this is the one I selected.

pose IMG_1840

Scott built the wolf and occasionally checked in. A couple months ago the wolf was finished, but then he had to wait for a CITES permit. Cost of the trip from Manitoba to Livermore: $671.04 USD.

It took about three weeks for the crate to make it through customs in North Dakota and then on to California. The crate arrived last Friday March 19, but it will be a while before I am ready to open it. Here’s a photo of the finish product as taken by Scott Holman.

wolf mountIMG_0091

Can’t hardly wait to open my present, but it may take a while to finish creating his final resting spot.

 

 

 

 

 

Costs of Shipping Your Trophies home from Africa

My South Africa trip ended last July and this week I picked up my final delivery of processed trophies from Golden State Tannery, Inc. located in Turlock. The last two boxes included the back hides from my kudu bull, back hide from my impala ram and complete hide from my black wildebeest.

 

Along with the hides I picked up three warthog skulls. The warthog skulls were the last item to be available. Ironically, there was nothing to be done to the skulls except to have them inspected by the USDA inspector and it took over six months for that to be done.

 

In the meantime my kudu and impala mounts have been completed by Aaron Armstrong of Western Wildlife Taxidermy. He did a very nice job and the two mounts are proudly on display in my family room. Even my wife, Linda, has accepted them.

 

On the trip I shot six animals, three warthogs, a kudu bull, an impala ram and a black wildebeest bull. The trophy fees totaled $2,700.

 

For some animals, like the kudu, the trophy fees are only the beginning. If you are interested in figuring out the elusive cost of processing, shipping, receiving, customs, tanning and taxidermy, here’s my account – for better or worse, exactly as I paid. You’ll probably not find this much detail in othe information provided in advance of trip. I’m sure some advance knowledge would help to reduce some of these costs.

 

Taxidermy                    kudu                                    $1,700.

Western Wildlife           Impala                                      895.

 

Tanning                        kudu                                         126. 

GST, Inc.                     impala  cape                               47.

                                    kudu backhide                            84.50

                                    impala backhide                          25.

                                    black wildebeest  full hide         162.50

 

Brokerage/Customs

Hunter International      Duty                                            2.

                                    Filing Customs             365.

                                    Delivery                                   175.

                                    Airline Storage              70.

 

Processing in SA (Salting, drying, etc.)

 Sitatung Safaris            Kudu                                       90.

                                    Wildebeest                               90.

Impala                                      90.

3 warthogs                             120.

Doc fee                                   250

Crating fee                               160

 

Shipping

Safari Cargo Systems

Johannesburg to SF                                                    760.99

 

Grand total of game processing, taxidermy and shipping:    $5,398.99

 

We did include a few purchased souvenirs in the crates and got the benefit of nearly free shipping for those items that would not fit into our suitcases.

 

On another front, Aaron Armstrong donated a $500 certificate to our Mule Deer Foundation fundraiser. Thanks Aaron.

If your budget is tight, you can save a bunch of money by just mounting skulls European style as I did with the wildebeest. I like it.