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Illinois hunting and fishing

Mike Giger’s bobcat mount was awarded best fur-bearing mammal by the Illinois Trappers Association. Photos by Chris Young.

After accident, man becomes top-notch taxidermist

March 16, 2012 at 12:38 PM

The State Journal-Register

In just a few short years, Mike Giger went from successful deer hunter to award-winning taxidermist.

Giger, who lives near Mechanicsburg, won top awards for two of his creations at the Illinois Taxidermists Association’s recent convention in Decatur.

His white-tailed deer mount earned a first-place ribbon in the professional category and first place in its category.

Illinois hunting and fishing

A mount of a bobcat — its foot resting on part of an old cultivator — also won first place and was recognized as best fur-bearing mammal.

Giger says he specializes in mammals, including North American and African wildlife.

It took a crippling accident to set Giger on his new career path. He was seriously injured when he crashed his all-terrain-vehicle.

“I had an accident in 2007 and the doctors didn’t think I was going to walk again,” he says. “I spent three weeks in the hospital and a year in therapy.”

Giger calls the accident a blessing in disguise.

“I had been in construction my whole adult life,” he says. “Due to the accident and my age it was suggested I find another line of work.”

Giger says his success at the convention surprised him.

“I had a really good instructor and mentor, David Emken of Yates City,” he says.

Emken has been a taxidermist for 40 years.

Giger says with Emken’s instruction and help from the Illinois Taxidermists Association, he has learned how to create mounts that are realistic and lifelike.

“I believe the biggest thing is to know your anatomy, and study all your reference materials,” he says. “The Internet makes it easier.”

In the pre-Internet days, taxidermists kept files of photos and magazine clippings for reference.

“I study anatomy of what muscle groups do what,” Giger says. “You have to think about what you want the animal to do at that moment.”

Mounts are supposed to tell a story and represent a moment in time. Giger calls his company Still Moments Taxidermy.

His award-winning white-tailed deer mount even includes small scrapes on the animal’s face, as if he crashed through the brush just moments before.

“In the professional division, the people who are doing the judging are some of the best in the world,” he says. “So they are coming here and it has to be realistic. They look for every little detail — stuff you wouldn’t even think of looking for, they look for.”

Today, taxidermists order forms that provide the basic shape of the animal. Giger says those forms are only a starting point.

For realism, they have to be modified.

“You take measurements of your animal, and then you get into the catalogs and get as close as you can get,” he says. “Then you will have to manipulate the form.”

The neck may need to be shortened or the head tilted.

“No predator looks down its nose, so you tip the head,” he says. “Those are just the little things I do. I try to put it back the way exactly the way it was in real life.”

Having found some success in just his third year as a professional, Giger says he is looking to the future.

“Hopefully, I can grow the business,” he says. “As with any business owner, you want to grow your business. Maybe in a few years I can have enough business that I can have a few employees and a full-time shop.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

Still Moments Taxidermy

Where: 2300 Roby Road, Mechanicsburg, IL 62545
Contact: 364-9121

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