For the past three years since the NRA has taken over the Great American Outdoor Show, in the corner of the Hunting Outfitters hall right outside the Small Arena sits a typical, yet larger than life display that grabs the attention of anyone who passes by. You can’t help but stop and admire their work. So we set out to learn more about the austere grandeur of taxidermy and uncovered the story behind a passion project turned into a passion career.
Cherokee mythology states the Kanati is the guardian of the hunt, obligated to preserve the heritage of the outdoors so future generations may understand its value.
To one man, this idea embodied what he wanted his business to represent. Wes Good established Kanati Elite Taxidermy Studio in Myerstown, Pennsylvania 20 years ago from what originally began as a hobby. Soon his business evolved in to something much grander and now he’s able to showcase his talents to a larger audience to help them preserve memories of their outdoor adventures.
It all started when Wes began taking on projects for his friends on the side. His fondness of taxidermy grew at a rapid rate that after a few years he quit his day job to start his own business.
A few friends joined him on the new venture and they began producing traditional taxidermy pieces such as waterfowl and deer mounts. About five years into the business, Wes and his team acquired their first big project - an African lion. This lion was then used to showcase the company’s capabilities through display online and at trade shows.
Today, about 70% of Kanati’s business encompasses exotic international game. Their other services include scenic environments, wildlife reproductions, custom trophy room design and fabrication and hand painted murals. All of which can be found on their website.
The success of the company also lies with the talented members of its staff. With 14 full-time employees encompassing of craftsmen and artists, Wes’ team of skilled individuals make these projects possible.
When recreating a scene from the wilderness it all comes down to design, composition and presentation. Their main goal is to make the animal look alive, then present it in a dramatic way incorporating both movement and motion into the design – all which needs to be meticulously executed.
“You can go on a hunt where the pictures and videos are great, but nothing quite takes you to the level of having that animal done in a very attractive way, with the scenery from the location to carry that adventure on,” Wes says passionately. “The taxidermy portion is the perfect way to continue that adventure.”
Every project that comes through Wes’ shop goes through a specific process. First the team inspects the hides so they can be sent out to a commercial tannery. Once the hide has been tanned, or properly cleaned and treated, they can then begin preparing the skin for the mount.
Once the skins ready, it’s then mounted on a blank canvas mannequin or stock form, where sculpting begins.
After the sculptor is done, the tanned skin is prepared to be glued to form. This takes a lot of precision from the taxidermist having to tweak and moving every inch of the skin so it looks as natural as possible.
The glued skin is set to dry for about two weeks before the artist can apply paint and airbrush to the piece.
Once the game is complete, the team works on adding all the scenic elements to the design, making the creation look like it jumped right out of the wilderness. Scenic structures have varied anywhere from life size grass and stone work to 20 ft. tall mountain replicas, some are so intricate team-members actually have to travel to preform installs.
Their techniques are constantly evolving, striving to push the limits in new ways each day, despite the challenges and that’s what makes the Kanati team so viable.
Kanati prides themselves with a mission to educate individuals about the craftsmanship of taxidermy and providing hunters with a treasured relic to keep the memory of their hunt alive.
To learn more about Kanati Elite Taxidermy Studio visit Kanati Studio online! You can also view their newest creations by following them on Facebook and Instagram!