Talkin' turkey: Birds of a feather learning together

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Rick Morris of Missouri displays his techniques of improving the display of a wild turkey.

CHAPEL HILL - America's recession has had a couple of effects on taxidermists and they appear to be in conflict with each other, according to the president of the Tennessee Taxidermists Association.

Association President Kenny Brancefield of Charleston, Tenn., explained both ends of the spectrum at Henry Horton State Park on Friday when one of the organization's guest speakers was telling members how to improve their trade.

"It's tough," Brancefield said of economic conditions, "because taxidermy is a business of luxury."

Some taxidermists have seen their business activity drop by about half of what they might expect to have under normal economic times, the association president said.

"Those in the business for a while will be able to make it," he said. "They have established customers."

The flip side of the coin is good for the association, but it has consequences.

"Membership is actually growing," Brancefield said, offering an explanation about the group's new members. "They're looking for ways to make money. Times are getting hard. People are entering the business and a lot of folks are joining the association.

"They come to these seminars," he continued. "A lot of this knowledge is guarded. This is a trade. It's not just something you want a lot of people to know."

About 40 people were at the association's conference at the state park just south of Chapel Hill that Friday afternoon. Nearly half were in one of the park's meeting rooms listening to Rick Morris of Missouri explain taxidermist techniques that are much more than just wrapping a form with feathered skins.

"A man would pay a little bit in dues and be years ahead" in how to provide a customer with quality taxidermist services, Brancefield said.

Depending on how attentive an association member might be, Brancefield said, two days of seminars might provide information and skills that might not be acquired during 10 years in the business.

The "bottom line," he said, the association helps members "learn the tricks to be paid the big bucks."

Deer season could be more profitable for members of the Tennessee Taxidermists Association, Brancefield indicated.

The association has been coming to Henry Horton State Park annually - so long that Brancefield couldn't remember exactly how many years it's been: "Six or seven years," he said.

"The park has always been very good about taking care of us, plus there are no outrageous prices.

"And you can bring your family and not worry," he said.