Monday, March 5, 2012

"Stuffed"...with memories

Webster's Definition of taxidermy-Taxi-der-my: The art of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of animals...

My definition of taxidermy...


     I recently had a conversation, a debate really, about why hunters and fisherman have their "trophy" stuffed...The opposition took the stance that it was nothing more than the outdoorsmen stroking his own ego and getting some sort of sick pleasure from having dead animals hanging on his wall...I stopped and thought about it for a minute and from an outsider's point of view, taxidermy might seem that way. Especially with the attitude of a lot of today's "celebrity" hunters and fisherman and all the talk about shooters, hawgs, biggun's, and inches of antler...


     But for me, and I'd guess many other sportsmen, it's so much more than having antlers adorning a wall...Each time I look at the animals that I've taken, I'm transported back to the hunt. The sights and smells. The weather, the rain, the sun...the cold, the frost...all of it. It might have been 25 years ago, but the perfectly symetrical basket racked 8 pointer forever staring back at me takes me back to my junior year of high school and the nervousness of a 17 year old's shot and the short tracking job and shared experiences with lifelong friends...The thickness of the neck and the gray of the coat and the heavy mass of the antlers of another 8 pointer remind me of an early November hunt years ago when my recurve struck home and my first true large buck was laid to rest...A glance at the beautiful white and cream colored hide, the flowing beams and long points of a caribou bull and I'm back on the tundra, cold, shivering and windswept, but more alive than I've ever been...The coarse, thick black hair, the long broken tusks of a wild boar and I can hear the baying of the hounds and the popping of the hog's teeth and still see my cedar arrow burying deep in his side as he bursts from cover with the dogs hot on his trail...The gnarled up, long tines of a huge buck looking back at me from the wall and I see Drew and I sitting along side one another as he squeezes the trigger on the buck of a  lifetime. I can still feel the excitement he felt in that moment...The small, thin forkhorn antlers of a sleek little four pointer and I smile as I think of Olivia shooting her first deer and the pride she felt as we checked her prize in...and on and on...


     You see, it's memories...they're reminders of parts of my life. Symbols of the respect I have for the animals I chase. The mounts I have keep those memories fresh, no matter how long ago. Good memories...they provide something real, something long after the meat is gone, long after the photos have faded. Tangible...there whenever I want to run back to the past...I can pull my hand through the hair, over the antlers, along the tines and everything comes rushing back. Every shot, vivid... every arrow released, each draw of my longbow or recurve...When I'm old and gray and can no longer be in the autumn woods, I'll still have my adventures each time my mounts and I glance back and forth at one another...that is taxidermy...it's preservation but the preservation I'm talking about has nothing to do with hides or antlers...