"People have been telling me, 'We need a taxidermist here in town,'" Roberts resident Rick Holm said.
Hunters and fishermen, consider your wish granted. Holm recently opened North West Wisconsin Taxidermy at 157 S. Knowles Ave., New Richmond.
Do not panic when you first walk in and see Guy Fieri sitting behind the desk surrounded by mounts of white-tailed bucks and bass. You did not stumble into the Food Network. Holm just happens to resemble the Food Network star, enough so, that he might be able to snag a job as his stand-in if the taxidermy gig doesn't work out.
Holm previously ran his taxidermy business out of his home in Roberts.
"I've always wanted to run my own business. I do love the outdoors, love to hunt and fish, so I thought, 'What a perfect business to be in.' Ten years ago, I left 3M and went to school for taxidermy," Holm said.
With the decision to make taxidermy his full-time occupation, Holm initially thought he would build in Hammond. But with the new bridge soon to open, he had also been keeping an eye on storefronts in New Richmond. When the space on Knowles Avenue opened up, he knew it was the right move at the right time.
"It's going well. I've met a lot of really nice people. It's a super friendly town. The city made moving in here real easy. People have been coming into this building for many, many years. They tell me it's haunted. I've been hearing a lot of those stories," Holm said.
Holm earned his taxidermy certificate at the American Institute of Taxidermy in Boulder Junction, Wis. The six-week course devoted one week to game heads, one to mammals, one to birds and three to fish. Holm will also be teaching taxidermy out of his new location. He plans to offer a five-week course with the only difference being; only two weeks will be spent on fish. He also intends to include some time talking about how to run a small business.
"Most people think they know how to run a business. They don't realize in this business, you are everything. You deal with customers, manage marketing, handle invoicing and inventory, and you do the mounting. This tends to be a business you work your way into gradually," Holm said.
Previous to moving his business to New Richmond, Holm relied primarily on word-of-mouth to market his business.
"Word-of-mouth is the best. News spreads pretty fast," Holm said.
Word-of-mouth still plays an important role, but with the move, he has added a Facebook page to which he posts photos of his recent mounts and signage to promote his new, high-traffic location.
A lot of young men and women grow up hunting and fishing in the Midwest and wonder about ways to make a living somehow related to that love of the outdoors. Most of us can remember the thrill that came with seeing our first white-tailed buck mount, black bear, or maybe something more exotic like an elk or big cat. The art of taxidermy is responsible for fueling our imaginations.
"Learning taxidermy is not a lot of anatomy. It's more about the basic processes of fleshing, tanning and mounting and learning how to work safely with the specific tools of the trade. My first project in school was a bobcat. My brother's bear was the first thing I mounted once I was out of school. He had it sitting in his freezer. I said, 'Why not let me mount it for you,'" Holm said.
Holm charges a flat fee for most of his work. Fish are figured by the inch. A white tail's a white tail, a bear's a bear, unless there is something unusual like a 600-pound black bear, in which case, Holm had to use a grizzly form and charge more.
Holm's mounted everything from bass to badgers, including boars, caribou and elk, but his specialty is white-tailed deer.
"Specialty depends somewhat on where you live. This is white-tailed country, so I do more white-tailed deer than anything else. I would say that's what I specialize in. I've had some unusual deer. One had an extra antler coming out right in front of his eye. So you do see some odd and interesting things," Holm said.
The weirdest thing Holm gets calls for, pets.
"I get a lot of calls for pets, but that's not something I do," Holm said.
People are often under the impression that having their trophy mounted can take months, if not years. Yes and no.
"A typical whitetail probably takes 10 hours of work, but there's a lot of drying time. Add in other ongoing projects and it's probably going to take about a month from when you start to when you get a hold of the customer and tell him it's ready to go," Holm said.
Holm cautions that it can take even longer, especially for deer, immediately following the season when orders can back up.
One thing that can add unnecessary time and expense to a job is, improperly field dressing your buck.
"You get the guys that shoot these big bucks and for some reason, they think they have to slit the neck, because that's what they were taught when they were kids, cut that windpipe. Now I have to fix all that (damage). If you know you're going to mount something, think ahead," cautioned Holm.
To find out more or inquire about classes, contact Holm at 715-222-4958, by email at: holmrkddwww.facebook.com/Northwest-Wisconsin-Taxidermy.