CAPTION: When Scott Holman was 19, he parlayed his interest in hunting and fishing into a job at Fir, Feather & Fin Taxidermy. And while he didn’t plan on it becoming a career, that’s precisely what happened. For almost 30 years, Scott Holman Taxidermy has been creating mementos of meaningful moments for a loyal clientele. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
My husband is a hunter and I have no problem with folks who hunt for meat, which he does. And I love venison. But if people hunt just for trophies, that sort of bothers me a bit. That aside, what was it about preserving the exterior shell of an animal that spoke to you — that was sort of interesting?
Back when I was 19, I just thought it was a kind of cool thing to do. But you know what? Now, it’s a memory for the guys. I don’t look at the stuff that I have and go, ‘Man — that’s a big deer that I killed.’ I don’t think of that at all. And don’t think most guys do either.
So having the heads on the wall, or the antlers or what have you, isn’t some sort of macho-man syndrome, then.
Not at all. I think of the hunt that I was on, and the camaraderie. Because I bow hunt, the challenge of it is a big thing for me. And that’s what I remember for the few animals that I’ve got — I don’t kill very many. But that’s what it’s about for me. And I think for a lot of guys, it’s the same. It’s a memory.
You hunt and fish, but you don’t throw the meat away, right?
You know, I don’t eat a lot of wild meat. I’ve got enough of it under my fingernails at the end of the day that I don’t really enjoy it. But I do have a list of guys who’ll take it, that’s for sure. And I don’t waste any of it — that’s very important to me.
What particularly do you like to hunt?
I’ve hunted just about anything I can afford to — I hunt deer, I hunt bears, antelope. I like hunting in Alberta every year. I’ve gone to Africa. If I had more money, that’s all I’d do.
And what is it about it that speaks to you?
It’s being out there. It’s not the kill — to me it’s not, for sure. It’s the adventure. Going to Africa is quite an adventure.
What did you hunt in Africa?
In Africa, you can hunt just about everything. And you don’t get very much — well, I didn’t — we were bow hunting. But it’s the challenge and the adventure and that kind of thing.
I’ve hunted right from when probably I was younger than I should have been hunting. That’s all I’ve ever done. My wife says I’m obsessed with it, so I guess I am. And I haven’t lost the fizz to do it — a lot of guys grow out of it, but so far, I haven’t.
The taxidermy end of it — doing it all day, every day, is there a downside to it? Or at the end of the process, do you just see the result of all your hard work?
I like getting things done — I like the finished product. I’m very picky. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid that shot his first deer or a guy who went out and shot a Cape Buffalo that cost him $25,000 or something — I really don’t know what it’s worth. But that deer head is as important to that kid as that Cape Buffalo is to that guy. So you’ve got to do both of them right.
I don’t know if you would you use the word ‘artist’ or ‘craftsperson’ to describe what you do, but I’d suggest there’s an element of art to it.
There is. I guess when you’re skinning out something and fleshing it, and doing the dirty stuff, it’s not very artistic. But the end result is definitely artistic, and you have to be a craftsman for sure.
Is taxidermy a dying art? Oh gad — that’s a terrible pun — unintentional, I promise!
I think it is, really. Because it’s hard to make a living at it. It’s not real high on people’s lists to spend money on it. I know a lot more people would get things mounted if it wasn’t so expensive to do it. But it takes me hours and hours and hours, and my groceries and my gas cost the same as everybody else’s. I’m glad that my kids aren’t involved with it, because I just don’t think there’s a huge, huge future in it.
But for now, is it exciting on a daily basis for you to do this? Or only when you get toward the end of the process?
I’ve done thousands of deer heads, so it’s a bit more exciting for me to do polar bears and African animals and Australian stuff, because they’re different and it’s a little more of a challenge for me. I did a lot of polar bears last year, and it’s almost a shame, some of those animals, because they are so majestic and beautiful. But you know what? I’m not going to tell an Inuit hunter that he shouldn’t have shot a polar bear and sold it so that he can go and buy his groceries. That’s how he makes his living — this is how I make my living.
What do you like best about your job?
I still like finishing items and having something different to work on. I enjoy the exotics. I’m getting a shipment of stuff from New Zealand right now, so I’m kind of looking forward to that. I’ve got lots of African stuff right now to do.
I’m wondering if it’s still kind of a dicey profession. I mean, there are probably three categories — a group that likes to hunt, a group that’s sort of ambivalent, and those who are anti-hunting, who presumably, then, would be against what you do. How do you handle the latter bunch? When people in social circumstances ask what you do, is there a mixed response? Do you ever feel you have to be on the defensive?
Well, number one, I don’t have a social life, so in my social circles, I don’t deal with that. But really, the animal’s already been harvested. I’m just making more use out of it — making the world go around a little bit more than it would have if the hunter had thrown those antlers in the trees.
You talked about taxidermy creating memories for people, but is it also, in a way, paying homage to the creatures that were? It may just be the skin and the fur, but if a piece lives on in a museum, or in somebody’s home, it provides access to — it’s a connection with — wild animals that many of us wouldn’t have otherwise?
I do think that kids need to be exposed to this a lot more than they are. Most city kids — maybe not so much in Brandon — but in other cities, they never get to see wildlife at all. And if this is one of the only ways they get to see it — this or in a museum — I think it’s great.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 31, 2012