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For taxidermists, deer season brings work

By JANELLE PATTERSON

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

MARIETTA, Ohio — With deer hunting archery season closing Sunday, deer bagging numbers are down due to the warm fall and winter but the popularity of the primitive sport has increased.

T.J. Schweitzer, 27, of Whipple, Ohio, prepares a buck that was bagged this year for mounting.
(Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“It seems there is a better quality, just not as many of them out there,” said Devon Polk, 25, of Whipple. “I shot a 10-point this year but later than I’ve ever killed them before and as a whole, the weather may be a factor in that.”

Polk said with gun season and muzzleloader season in the middle of archery season the movement of trophy deer through local woods and private lands may also be hampered but the lack of numbers hasn’t hindered the size of successful kills.

“In Ohio there are so many guys out in the woods during gun season that it pushes the deer around and can be loud,” said Todd Schweitzer, 54, of Whipple. “That noise and increase in bodies is pushing more and more people to hunt with a bow.”

Schweitzer and his son T.J., 27, of Whipple, work locally as taxidermists and have seen a good season for mounting despite the warmer weather.

“Bow hunting has gotten way more popular than gun hunting because it’s just more you, the deer and nature with no distractions,” said T.J.

The pair said that leading up to gun season this year, archery season was setting a record pace for their business.

“We’ve done over 100 deer this season on top of West Virginia bobcats, coyotes, fish and birds,” said Todd. “And even though Ohio didn’t have a great gun season, just across the river they did.”

With southeast Ohio the prime location for trophy deer, the draw from hunters outside the area is great.

“We see a lot of visitors from Cincinnati, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma,” said Todd. “There’s a group that leases 600 acres near here and for two years in a row we’ve also donated to the Wounded Warriors in Action group who brought in three deer each season for us to mount.”

The biggest deer they’ve stuffed this season was a 171-inch, 15-point buck, but they’re already looking to next season with a friend in search of one much larger after finding a 32-point shed with a rough score of 233 inches.

“Normally if a deer grows a nice set of antlers and you’ve found that shed, next year it will be even bigger,” said Todd. “Hunters find shed all the time and it keeps them revved up for next year.”

Jim Lindner, 77, of Athens, said even though he hasn’t bagged a deer this season, getting to spend time out in nature was still worth the effort.

“I plan on going again before Sunday comes, and it looks like it might be colder for that,” said the life-long hunter. “I was born with it in my blood, my mother and father both did it, my son hunts and his youngest son is probably the best hunter of us all.”

The camaraderie and family ties to the sport are why the Schweitzers continue the trade of taxidermy.

“For a lot of people it’s a family thing and I like to have them come in and hang out and share stories,” said Todd. “We’ve done several mounts for 8-to-9-year-old boys and even for women who have brought in some big ones.”

With a three-to-nine month turnaround time to stuff and mount the head of a trophy buck, the father-son duo have also gotten into horn replication for scoring enthusiasts and even those looking for wildlife decor.

“We classify ourselves as artists and we think the replication will open some doors for us,” said Todd.

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