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Monday, June 22, 2009

Profile: Broderick Head, taxidermist

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Whether it’s a bird, a deer or even a warthog, Atlanta’s Broderick Head has seen — and stuffed — them all. A licensed taxidermist for over 32 years, Head has a passion for animals that shows in both his professional work and personal life, where he provides rehabilitation to orphaned animals.

What has been your favorite animal to work on?

Elk. They are a really majestic animal. Whenever I see them I just think, "Wow, what an impressive animal."

What has been your least favorite animal?

Birds. It takes a lot to do them, to get the feathers in the right place. I do everything, but I prefer not to do birds.

What do people ask for the most?

I get a lot of requests to do pets, but I’ve only done about one or two in 32 years. People want a certain expression on their face or an exact match to eye color, and it’s just too much time.

What do you enjoy the most about your career?

Once I get through with the mount, I kind of stand back and look at my work. I’m able to get the animal back to as close as it looked alive and that gives me a sense of pride.

What is the process for each job?

Well, let’s say for example you had a deer. It would have to be skinned down to the base of its skull, so that the skin and the horns would remain. Then you would salt it; the salt works as a preservative and pulls out all the moisture. Once you did that, you would send it to a commercial tannery, which they take about 45 days to send it back to you. Once you get the animal back, you order a foam form of the animal. In the past they used paper, but foam is a better material. Once you have the foam form, you stretch the skin over the form and then you put in glass eyes and do small additions, like painting the lips and such. Then you pin it and use some glue and once everything dries you remove the pins and you’re finished.

Describe a typical day at work.

I have everything I’m going to mount for the day or week laid out on the table in front of me, and then I usually work on one type of animal for a few weeks. Most weeks we do about four to five deer.

Who is your average client?

I mostly work with fisherman and hunters. Everyday people aren’t looking for a taxidermist, but I wish they were. That would be great for business.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

Do you have any pets?

Yes, I have two cats. I also do rehabilitation for orphaned animals. Right now I have squirrels, rabbits, possums and I just got a baby raccoon. This woman found him out in the road and brought him to me. A lot of times, people around town will find these animals out in the wilderness and then bring them to me, and I take them in and once they seem healthy enough I take them over to the animal shelter.

Would you say that taxidermy is a widely practiced profession?

No, not compared to doctors and lawyers and jobs like that. Probably in the whole state of Georgia there are no more than 1,000 taxidermists. It’s just not that easy a profession to stick with; you have to have natural talent for it, like any painter or artist. But it’s also not that bad of a business. Usually we don’t deal with blood and guts. That’s all been removed by the time we get the animal.

Do you compete in taxidermy competitions?

Yes, I won the world competition several years ago for a warthog.

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