I guess you could say I am one of the main people in our organization encouraging taxidermists to charge more for their work. I am constantly hearing members talk about “tough times” or “not making ends meet”. As I wrote this article, researched the material and read other articles on the subject, I nearly decided to give up my taxidermy business. It was depressing.
Throughout my travels to various conventions and competitions, I am constantly amazed that taxidermists in other states are making a good living at this profession. I just got off the phone with a Texas friend of mine that is a red ribbon whitetail taxidermists and he informed me he gets $500.00 a head and does about 150 a year. Now if I am not mistaken, many of you are red ribbon winners, not to mention a few blue ribbon winners and you are charging $175.00 to $385.00 per head. I have competed against this individual numerous times and my work always scores higher. I am not boasting about my work, I am just wondering why I am $115.00 cheaper. Most in Oklahoma will argue this is a poor state and the cost of living is much lower. I will agree to an extent, especially on rental/home ownership. My wife and I are looking to buy a new vehicle with in the next year. She loves the Toyota Highlander. I bet that vehicle cost the same in Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Iowa and so on. Your grocery bill doesn’t increase just because you move to Montana. My wife loves to eat out at Red Lobster. I drop $50.00 whether it is in Norman or Columbia, MO. Sure there are things that warrant different cost of livings, but I am not for sure they are as weighty as we think.
How about the hunter who shot the trophy? More than likely, he or she is driving a new 4x4 pickup, shooting a new rifle scope combination, wearing new camo and scent lock suit, paid good money for a hunting lease, rode a 4-wheeler to the stand, and the stand was top of the line, not a 2x4 in the tree. So the hunter shoots a good trophy whitetail and we the taxidermist feel inclined to give the hunter a discount.
The problem is most taxidermists are artist and not businessmen. Most are extremely friendly and have too big of heart to make too much money. Taxidermy is a business. Taxidermy supports your family. What is more important? Feeding the kids or giving the hunter a break?
I would really like to consider myself a professional. Taxidermy is truly an art form and not every “Tom, Dick, & Harry” can perform it. And of the ones that can perform it, how many can pull high ribbons at conventions. I would like to be paid like a professional. My archery buddy is a plumber in town. He will come unstop your toilet for $42.00 per/hour. I had my garage door worked on the other day. Labor for 1 hour was $45.00. I had my chain saw sharpened; it cost me $35.00 for a half hour labor. Yet, most of us are willing to perform taxidermy for minimum wage. I am fairly used to this, I was an Oklahoma coach for 13 years. I figured it up one football season and I made $0.77 per/hour.
The way I figure it, the only way we will ever demand adequate wages is to better educate ourselves and continue to raise our prices. Now, I am by no means saying, “Everyone raises their prices to $500.00 a whitetail. Face it, some taxidermist are more gifted than others. There will always be outstanding taxidermy work and pitiful taxidermy work. The only way the below average work is going to improve, is to better educate the taxidermist. If you are reading this newsletter, you probably have already figured out the benefits of the OKTA. What I am saying is once your are turning out a good product, raise your prices accordingly. Continue to educate yourself and turn out the best possible product.
Now, the other end of the spectrum. I know a few taxidermists who are charging inflated prices and can mount a third place deer. I believe if you are going to charge the price, the product has to be there. Educate yourself, attend workshops and seminars, and compete to better your work. Find out what your problem areas are and improve them.
Anyway lets look at how much it cost you to mount a whitetail deer. Now, I know, not everyone’s methods are the same and so we will look at the method I am the most familiar with, mine. I encourage you to add or subtract any difference you might have. I will try to include different variables, so you can figure yours.
Whitetail Shoulder Mounts Expenses:
WT Shoulder Form:$34.00 Bondo/Resin/Fiberglass $3.00 Clay and 2 pt epoxy:$2.00
Thread, staples, nails, pins: $1.00
Ear liners if used: $7.00 Tanning (out of shop: $40.00 Tanning (in shop):$10.00
Groom, thinner, brushes,
Windex, mixing cups,
Paper towels,,, $2.00 Hanger & screw $1.00
Not so obvious considerations:
Natural Gas Bill
Building Rental/Mortgage Payment
Customer Relation Cost
Shipping For Supplies
Shipping on equipment
Customer Talk Time
Phone time w/ customer and orders
Tools and tool up keep
Health Care Cost
Educational expense, Breakthrough, Taxidermy Today, Seminars at conventions, workshops.
Office Supply (Forms, Tags, Pens)
Personal Tax Items
Shop furniture, computer, lights,,
Employee expenses, labor, insurance
Repairs and Maintenance
Possible Legal Expenses
I am making a guess, that when it is all said and done a whitetail mount cost you anywhere from $125.00 to $175.00 depending upon your individual situation.
Recently, I spoke to a taxidermy friend and he complains his competition had already taken in 100 whitetails, and was only charging $200. My friend is charging $250 and had taken in 50 whitetails. I told him I had 30 deer and was charging $350. Now lets look at this situation.
100 deer @ $200.00
Average cost per WTD = $150
Taxidermist A clears $50 a whitetail x 100 = 5,000 profit.
50 deer @ $250.00 - $150.00 cost = $100 cleared
$100.00 x 50 = $5,000 profits
30 deer @ $350.00 - $150 cost = $200 cleared
30 x $200 = $6,000 profit
Know look at a breakdown of hours.
Taxidermists A: 100 deer at 8 hours a head = 800 hours
Taxidermists B: 50 deer at 8 hours a head = 400 hours
Taxidermists C: 30 deer at 8 hours a head = 240 hours
Hourly wages are a serious consideration when pricing your work. How much do you want to make per hour. Is there a difference in the types of hourly wages? I say, “yes”. There are the types of hourly wages you earn when you are working an 8-5 job for someone else and it is a constant pay. The other is time here and there on different days and different projects. Kind of a self-employed type hourly wage. Similar to the plumber, garage door repairman, and the guy that fixes and sharpens chainsaw. I place taxidermist with these professionals. It would be nice to say, I go into the shop at 8:00 a.m. punch a time card and punch out at 5:00 and made $25.00 an hour. Forty x $25 an hour for a week. Hhhmmm, $1,000 a week, no matter what week of time of the year. Taxidermy is not this way, unless you are working for a large taxidermy shop. And if you are, I bet you are not pulling $25.00 per hour. Taxidermy is 30 minutes on this project, 2 hours on this one, and 10 minutes on the next. There is spare time in a day, maybe going to get supplies or talking to customers. This reminds me, always figure and extra hour to listen to all the hunting stories your customer is telling you, while you could be running the fleshing machine. I am not for sure this makes any sense, but taxidermy time is different. It has to have a high hourly wage figured in. There are too many variables to only pay yourself minimum wage or even $10 per hour. I figure, I make around $25.00 per hour mounting a whitetail. I make $0.00 talking to Buck on the phone, sweeping the floor, cleaning up my mess, and running to Wal-Mart for supplies.
Now, let me be the first to state, I am no expert on taxidermy business matters. I am not even close. My shop is constantly in a mess and my records are even a bigger mess. I just feel Oklahoma has some of the best taxidermists in the country and there is no reason why they shouldn’t receive the best of incomes for their talents. Hopefully, I haven’t offended any of my taxidermy friends. I am sure each of you will find discrepancies in the facts of this article, and this is fine. I encourage you to sit down and put a pencil to it. I also encourage you to learn more about your subject matter. Not only does this increase quality, but it also increases confidence, which in turn increases profit margins. Taxidermy is more than a love and a hobby. It is a professional business. Besides feeding your artistic mind, it feeds your family. Respect our profession and most of all respect your abilities as a professional.