Many beginning taxidermists find it easiest to start working with a taxidermy kit. Kits have the advantage of containing all or most of the supplies needed to create a finished piece, often for a lower cost than purchasing all of the items separately. They also come in various types, depending on the application.
Deer and other horned and hoofed animals have a whole variety of kits to themselves. There are types to preserve deer hooves (or even make them into a variety of décor items), rumps, antlers, and the head and shoulders of the animal. For a true beginner, it’s probably best to start small. Most of these kits contain a variety of solutions and instruction guides, to teach novice taxidermists all of the steps of animal mounting, from skinning the deer, cleaning the skin, preserving the hide, to finally stretching it over the proper mannequin.
Kits also exist for mounting whole animals in a variety of sizes, usually using polyurethane models sculpted by wildlife artists. Once the taxidermist has followed the kit’s guides to cleaning and preserving the hide, it can then be stretched over the model, leaving the taxidermist with a lifelike mount that won’t end up degrading over time like old stuffed animals used to. Many of these kits also include highly detailed glass eyes, which contribute to the mount’s realistic look.
For true beginners who don’t feel up to the challenge of skinning an animal and tanning a whole hide just yet, there are some skull preserving kits that give a very polished-looking end product, without all of the effort or skill needed to mount an entire animal. These are generally very easy to use, and consist of a solution to clean the skull of bits of flesh and soft tissue, and a sealant to protect the skull from damage due to time and sunlight exposure.
Lastly, there are specific kits for other, non-mammalian animals. Bird taxidermy is very popular, particularly among duck and goose hunters, but the particular consistency of bird skin and feathers requires different products and procedures than mounting a mammal. Birds have their own polyurethane mannequins, as well, which allow them to be mounted in a sitting, standing, or flying position. Kits also exist for preserving fish or reptilian specimens, though these are often viewed as being much more challenging than animals or birds, since the composition of their skin makes preservation and mounting much more tricky.
Though taxidermy is a highly evolved visual art form, beginners can take advantage of others’ experience by starting out using taxidermy kits. These can help teach novice taxidermists about the necessary steps, skills, and chemicals required to turn out a high-quality mount, making it possible for even a complete beginner to create a beautiful finished piece on their first try.