A Letter to Dennis Rinehart:
I recently set up a taxidermy display. People were very impressed on how life-like my mounts were and said they would bring their mounts to me. A lot of them did. Since I have opened my studio, I have gotten in 23 deer heads, 11 ducks, 7 fish, and 4 assorted rug mounts.
The methods and techniques you taught me have put me at a high level of quality and efficiency, far above my competition.
To be honest with you, I didn't expect to start off at such a rate; this is far above what you and I had discussed as possibilities. But using several of your advertising ideas, getting into two shows, and just plain hard work, it sure has paid off.
Thank you for the opportunity to train under you.
P.S. Just received Best of Show Award with a Deerhead mount!
January 2, 2006
Hi Dennis & All,
Thought I would get a letter off to you and let you know how things are going here. I spent the Summer working on my Studio and Displays for the Shop. I also attended the National Taxidermy Competition in Sioux Falls SD in July. I took a Bob Cat that I mounted during the Summer. I was very pleased to receive a ribbon.
I opened my new Studio “Dutch Creek Taxidermy” in Mid September, just before the Wisconsin Bow Hunting Season Opener. I started with a Grand Opening which was announced in the local newspaper. I was a little disappointed with the number in attendance. Two days later the same local paper interviewed me for a half-page article which appeared in the “Outdoor Extra” Section on Sunday October 2nd. It was really a boost for the business. I have been going non-stop since.
The Wisconsin gun Deer Season in November was really an Eye Opener. To date I have received more Business than I could ever have imagined:
5 - Black Bear
This Letter as you can see is being written the First of January. I have been open only a little over 3-months.
Thanks to all of you for the great education I received while attending school. And also for all the help you’ve given me since, in answering all my questions. I really am enjoying my new business. I have enclosed some pictures for you.
Taxidermy, Pursuing A Dream by Rick Swain
Walking into the American Institute of Taxidermy , I was greeted by a raccoon peeking out of a knot hole mounted on the wall. As I turned into the student housing area I noticed a fisher standing on two legs, cleaning a fish, and then a white deer standing at the back of the room. Every wall and available floor space was filled with mounts. On the long drive from Upland, Indiana to Boulder Junction, Wisconsin I had set high expectations on what would happen during my six week training course. In this moment I knew my expectations would be met. I had been thinking about learning the art of taxidermy for about 15 years. I am an avid trapper, hunter and fisherman and mounts have always interested me. I thought it would be a fun way to make extra money on the side.
This dream came closer when my brother, Matt Swain, attended the AIT last June, 1999. He attended the game head class, which lasted one week. The quality of the deer head he mounted that week surpassed any of the mounts he had on his wall. I was very impressed. On March 3rd of this year he entered three mounts in a competition sponsored by the Indiana Taxidermy Association. His White tail Doe and White tail Buck, placed second in the amateur division. The Caribou placed 1st place, and scored more points than the professional competitors.
Earlier this year life took an unexpected turn. The plant I worked at for the past eleven years closed. I realized this life change came with a blessing. I now had the time to pursue my interest in Taxidermy and gave Dennis Rinehart, the owner of AIT a call. When I told him about my situation, he suggested I poke around and see if there was any funding available for retraining displaced workers. Because AIT is an accredited school, and I had loss work due to a plant closing I discovered I was eligible for financial aid from NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement Funds. I signed up for a full six week course.
The first three weeks were dedicated to mounting fish. There were 6 other people in the class. The class was held in a large clean work area, with separate work stations for each student. I entered this portion of the training with some confidence, I knew I could skin a fish, and put it on a mannequin. But I was concerned about the painting. I did not think I had an artistic bone in my body. I soon found that all I had to do was listen to Dennis, take good notes, and follow his lead. He has found a very effective way to pass on his 30 years of experience to his students. Todd Wegner, Denniss teaching assistant, is also there to help us. He has benefited from six years of intensive training from Dennis. All the students benefited from his presence in the classroom.
Each student mounted 10 fish. After this class, I now know that I can paint a fish, there is no doubt in my mind. Even though these were the first fish we have mounted in our lives, they were so good, they would put any mount I have seen on a wall to shame.
Then next week was dedicated to game heads. There were ten people in this class and we all mounted deer. After seeing Matts work I knew going in what to expect and I was not disappointed. Our mounts turned out great. One of the benefits of learning with ten other people, is experiencing the variety of game. In this class there were three world class bucks mounted.
The fifth week focused on small mammal mounts. I thought this would be the hardest class for me. In the past most small animal mounts Ive seen do not look very realistic. Once again, Dennis lead to success. I was surprised at how good they turned out. There were seven people in this class and a variety of mammals represented; bobcat, coyote, fox, squirrel, beaver, and a full bear mount. The bear mount was the most impressive.
The final week of class was dedicated to birds. There were 6 people in class working on ducks, geese, pheasants and grouse. Because birds and fish are what interests me the most, I entered this class with some measure of confidence. I soon found out birds are not as easy as I thought. But they are actually more fun than fish because there are so many positions you can put them in. And once again I was very pleased with the outcome.
When I first came I was nervous about living with other people, strangers, for six weeks. I soon found out we were all nervous about that. It worked out well. They were all good people with similar interests. The housing itself is like a home away from home. There is full kitchen facilities available to the students. Ron Brooten, one of my classmates, turned out to be a great cook. Meal time became nicknamed, Cooking with Ron. He delivered a fish fry that I will never forget.
The location of the school is in the heart of the north woods. The lake behind the school is great for fishing. Its a beautiful area with lots of sites to see. With my training completed, I am now developing my new business, Walnut Creek Taxidermy. If you happen to be near Upland Indiana stop by. I can guarantee you my mount will excel any you see on your wall. I am confident of this because of the quality training I got at AIT.
American Institute of
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Boulder Junction, WI 54512
(715) 385-9146 or 1-800-853-9146
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