SCC taxidermy conference draws national audience

David Broyles

May 14, 2014

DOBSON —Surry Community College is set to host one of the largest taxidermy conferences in the United States, which is also the only educational-based taxidermy conference sponsored by a community college.

The 40th Annual Taxidermy Mini-Course is a three-day competition and trade show scheduled for May 15 -17 at various locations on SCC’s campus in Dobson. The public is invited to view the wildlife art competition entries, which will be on display in the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture & Enology on Friday, May 16 from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host this conference,” said Greg Smith, director of SCC’s Pilot Center. “This event complements Surry Community College’s year-round taxidermy program very well. Many of our students start their own taxidermy businesses after taking our programs.”

According to Smith, the trend in the field has moved past presentation to how realistic and artistically the figures can be reproduced.

“Over the years people have grown to appreciate the art in what we do,” Smith said. “The ones who do this now do entire habitats. They have taken it to another level.” He explained taxidermists have to know about the “nuts and bolts” of chemistry, biology, engineering and mathematics as they routinely have to clean, preserve, detail and make frames to support their lifelike creations.

He said detail work for the competition is intense with some participants using a needle to manipulate individual feathers for the best effect. Smith said he knows of taxidermists who concentrated on the placement of deer whiskers and how to create the effect of condensation on them for a winter scene with the figure.

He said practitioners typically study photos of their subjects and study similar animals (such as livestock) to mimic natural movements with some pieces depicting animals fighting in what is a natural occurrence. Smith said technology also has an effect on the craft, with materials constantly changing.

“You’d think you’ve seen or done it all but every year someone does something different,” said Smith. He noted some individuals techniques and materials can be adopted by a company, turning their idea into a business venture for them. Smith also praised the cooperative spirit of those in the field and said they were “very sharing.”

He said one featured speaker, West Virginian Billy Robertson, plans on showing fellow taxidermists how to work smarter and not harder by using assembly line inspired techniques to boost the bottom line with less labor.

The Taxidermy Mini-Course offers 30 seminars that will be taught by some of the top taxidermists in the country. Topics include special demonstrations on how to create waterfowl, turkey, deer, fish, wild boar, rattlesnake, bobcat and more. Business seminars that explain how to price taxidermy pieces, start a taxidermy business and operate a taxidermy business efficiently will also be featured.

Smith said experienced taxidermists can learn about the latest techniques and products available in the industry, while beginning taxidermists can learn the industry and network with some of the best taxidermists in the country. He said participants come from all over the U.S. to take educational seminars and to compete against other leading taxidermists. Last year, the conference attendance exceeded 300 with 17 states represented. The event is held annually in May the week between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

Surry Community College offers hands-on taxidermy training annually covering deer heads, birds, fish, and life-size mammals in either beginning or advanced classes. All of the latest information and registration for the Taxidermy Mini-Course can be found at or by calling (336) 386-3618.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.