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Montana taxidermy convention sends global attendees home with world class education

Posted at 8:04 PM, Mar 17, 2024

BILLINGS — The Montana Taxidermists Association (MTA) Convention and Competition was held at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, beginning on Thursday and closing out on Saturday.

“If its a show piece, it takes me about three weeks just to get everything mounted and make sure everything’s correct," said Krysten Keele, a 19-year-old taxidermy apprentice and competitor.

The event hosted entries from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Canada.

“That is art that’s over there, but it also can be used in so many different ways, to tell a story (and) it can be used in science and preservation of learning more about the species," said Ryan Schmaltz, an education specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP).

Some, like Dave Larson, the MTA's president, said taxidermy can be used in a humanistic manner, like the preservation of memories.

“My dad had shot this mule deer, and we lost him three years ago, and this buck is one of his, and so, it’s in memory of him," said Mike Carle, a competitor whose work won several awards, including Best Adult Novice.

Others said their pieces are tributes to the lives their pieces lived in nature.

“I think (taxidermy is) a way to be able to respect an animal and bring honor into the death that they had," said Ben Simmons, who displayed a taxidermied wolf.

Organizers said above ribbons, plaques, and accolades, the best thing any participant can take home is a world class education in taxidermy.

“Taxidermy has evolved drastically in the last 20 years. You can see, the quality in here is what used to be in museums is now at a commercial level," said Matthew Smith, a competition judge from Texas.