Growing up, See was always watching his great-uncle and admiring the finished work.
Now, See owns and operates Mount’n Critters Taxidermy.
“I’ve also had work done by taxidermists that was never the quality work that I thought it could or should be. I’m not saying anything against any of the other folks in this business; it’s just that from what I was seeing, I felt I could do this and that I could do it at a higher level,” See said.
See grew up and attended school in Valley Head. A 2001 graduate of Tygarts Valley High School, he went on to Davis & Elkins College where he graduated in 2003.
Following graduation, he decided he wanted to learn taxidermy. “I didn’t want to learn it on my own,” he said. “I also wanted to go to a school that encouraged innovative settings for mounts.”
After considering several schools, See entered classes at the Western Pennsylvania School of Taxidermy in Oliveburg, Pa., and graduated in the spring of 2004.
“The only creature that I do not mount is water foul,” See said. “There just isn’t enough demand in this area to justify the additional costs of the federal permits that I would have to get. There are no other permits necessary for taxidermists in West Virginia other than a business license. Anyone could start doing this work without having any formal training at all if they wanted to.”
What type of animal does See enjoy the most?
“Fish are my absolute specialty. I love to do fish,” he said. “If I were to be told that I could only mount one thing for the rest of my life, fish is what it would be. While I love to mount any of the fish species, brown trout are my absolute favorite. To me, they are most colorful. I’ve also been a big fly fisherman all my life and there is just something about the brown trout that captures my attention and imagination. I love them.”
In nearly every corner of See’s home is an example of his work, including fish — of course — and nearly every other game animal found in West Virginia’s forests and bodies of water.
What one does not see, except for one giant Steel Head, is the ordinary side — or flat — mounting of fish. Those on display are frozen in life-like poses including the pursuit of food, hiding near a structure or fighting the angler’s line. One especially intriguing pose has a giant rainbow trout teetering precariously on the rim of the angler’s net so close to freedom yet about to lose to its adversary. There is a bobcat reaching for a ruffled grouse that has just taken flight. A giant golden trout mounted in a way that makes it appear as though it has just broken the surface of the water in pursuit of a meal. A nearly all-white turkey gobbler “struts its stuff” with a blue ribbon at its feet as testament to its authenticity. Bear and antlered deer adorn nearly every wall in various poses of alertness, relaxed grazing or in search of food.
Testimonies to See’s caliber of work and artistic talents are manifested in the numerous ribbons he has won at professional taxidermy competitions in West Virginia.
“My main business focus is on high-end artistic taxidermy. My goal is to produce a mount that is as near to real life as is possible by using the highest quality materials and by paying attention to the smallest detail,” See said.
He said that he is now focusing his efforts on expanding his market area by attending more sports shows.
“The only shows I’ve attended until now is the competition show in Morgantown that is held the last of April each year and the annual show at Stonewall Jackson Resort,” See said. “I’m now preparing to attend other shows such as the one in Charleston that is held in the spring of each year. This will give me the opportunity to show my work to a wider audience, which will help to expand my market. I also hope to hold seminars at some of the shows to help educate sportsmen to the finer details of taxidermy. I also have a Web site that folks may visit that will give them an idea of the quality of my work.”
See offered some advice on how to preserve game that sportsmen might be considering having mounted.
“I tell all my customers that fish waters where they think they might possibly catch something that they would like to mount to carry a trash bag containing the contents of two boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax with them. Once the fish is caught, put it into the bag of Borax immediately. The Borax will kill the fish immediately, and secondly, preserve its colors. Do the old ‘shake and bake’ routine with the fish. After it has been placed in the bag, shake it around making sure that it is completely covered with Borax. This prevents spottiness. Once the specimen has been brought home, it should be frozen immediately with the coating of Borax in place. Specimens may also be frozen in water, but that creates more bulk to deal with.”
According to See, animal skins, if not taken to the taxidermist immediately after skinning, should be rolled tightly and frozen. If a sportsman has a trophy buck, for example, and has doubts as to how it should be skinned to produce the best mount, “they should give me a call before skinning the animal,” he said. “I can fix about any mistake a hunter might make while skinning his trophy, but skinning it properly makes it a lot easier for me and probably a little less expensive for the sportsman.”
For more information, visit See’s Web site at www.mountncritters.com or call 636-1235. See’s shop is located on South Henry Avenue in Elkins.
(The Inter-Mountain/Wayne Sheets)
AN EYE FOR DETAIL — Taxidermist Chad See of Mount’n Critters Taxidermy, applies the finishing touches to a customer’s trophy buck. “I believe that the difference between a run-of-the-mill commercial mount and a ‘high end artistic’ mount is in the attention to the smallest detail,” See said. “While I like doing animals of all kinds, my preference is fish. They present the greatest challenge and are by far my favorite species to work with.” See’s shop is located on South Henry Avenue in Elkins.