Taxidermist shares why he does this "stuff"

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COLUMBIA - Curt Shahan has been in the taxidermy business for more 25 years. 

It started as a hobby and then turned into a full-time job. 

"I always enjoyed hunting and fishing and the outdoors, so this occupation kind of fit into that," he said.

Sometimes Shahan gets some interesting requests. 

"I’ve done an 8-foot boa constrictor, life-size albino deer, we do African pieces, nothing too weird," Shahan said. "I’ve done an iguana for some lady, so some odd stuff like that." 

But in mid-Missouri, Shahan said the majority of his clients want deer mounted. 

"That's our bread and butter," Shahan said. "It makes up pretty much 90 percent of what we do."

The taxidermist said he's probably stuffed at least five or six thousand deer throughout his career, and each one can take quite a while to complete.

"A deer mount, actually any mount, is done in steps, so I don’t do it all at once," Shahan said. "Probably the completion time on a deer is going to be probably 10 hours total, but in several different steps. an hour here, an hour there."

Shahan said most people get animals stuffed to preserve a trophy or to remember a good memory.

"Maybe it was the last year that they ever shot with their grand dad, or maybe the first deer that was shot with their kid."

There's one thing Shahan said he won't stuff, and that's a pet. 

"Pets are kind of a different game all around because you’re dealing with an item that doesn’t have any forms available," Shahan said. "So you’ve either got to freeze dry them or carcass cast them and make the form, and its just time consuming."

Shahan works alone a majority of the time, but he says he doesn't mind the solitude.

"It's pretty good, we don’t have anybody talk back to us," Shahan said.

But there are times when business is dead, so to speak, and things get maybe a little too quiet.

Shahan said, "Sometimes we have to talk to the animals, but not too often."