Best of Category — Novice Division
Bird No. 3: Cinnamon Teal Duck — Tim Cooley
Gamehead No. 4: Mule Deer — Mike Myer
Best of Category — Professional Division
Bird No. 89: Canvasback — Drew Widetich
Fish No. 66: Brown Trout — James Salazar
Reproduction No. 72: Rainbow Trout — Derek Harryman
Gamehead No. 102: Big Horn — Jan Finley
Antlered/horned No. 101: Scoters Sea Ducks — Sam Cahoy
Best of Category — Master Division
Bird No. 14: Wood Duck — Grant Willborn
Fish No. 69: Cutthroat Trout — Kevin Birznieks
Reproduction No. 95: Crappie Fish — Ray Bicknell
Gamehead No. 31: Eland — Tome Weickum
Small life size No. 22: Red Fox — Josh Gustad
Large life size No. 134: Mountain Goat — Tracy Jacobsen
Group No. 70: Kokanee Salmon — Kevin Birznieks
Safari Club International: Cape Buffalo — Tom Weickum
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation No. 77: Mark Zimmerman
Mule Deer Foundation No. 148: Andrew Mundo
First place No. 53: Metal Dragon — Alan Cooley
Third place No. 65: Ringneck Pheasants — Snyder’s Taxidermy
Second place No. 108: Mountain Lion — Ungerman and Reiner
First place No. 42: Stone Sheep — GB Taxidermy
Third place: Grant Willborn
Second place: Tracy Jacobsen
First place: Tom Weickum
Colorado State Taxidermy Competition judges
Marcus Detring — Master and professional gameheads and life size
Scott Humble — Birds, fish and novice mammals
It’s the first time in four years that the Colorado State Taxidermy Championships have taken place in Craig, giving local taxidermists a prime opportunity to show off their game.
Mountain lions, black bears, elk, deer, ducks and sheep were only a few of the animals on display Saturday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, where roughly 175 people gathered to evaluate the quality of each taxidermist's work.
Competitors traveled from Wyoming, Utah and Montana to compete against Colorado taxidermists.
Animals from across the globe were mounted for the audience and judges to see, but the room mainly was filled with elk, deer and mountain lions.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” said Don Laib, of Craig. “It’s a real talent. This stuff is incredible. How do they transfer it here? It’s so lifelike.”
Many of the mountain lions on display looked as if they were going to come alive and grab those who passed by.
Exotic animals from Africa, such as a zebra and two cape buffalo, stood tall in the middle of the room. Foxes, fish and even a skunk gave audience members an eyeful — each of which was up for first-, second- or third-place ribbons in a variety of categories.
“This is a great opportunity to get a variety of different species on display,” said Gayle Zimmerman, who chaired the event. “It’s neat to see the competition. It’s the biggest show Colorado has ever had.”
It cost roughly $8,000 to put on the event that featured 150 different animals. The money helped pay for the space, the awards and a certain portion went to pay the two judges who facilitated the prizes.
Taxidermy judge Marcus Detring went from animal to animal, explaining to competitors what they did well and what they could’ve done better.
“He’s really helpful. Hopefully I can apply what he says to my next pieces and make them better,” said Willie Ungerman. “That’s why we come — to learn.”
Ungerman traveled from Huntington, Utah, to display three of his pieces, including a mountain lion that he killed with a bow near his home. Excitement filled his eyes as he explained the hunting process. He used three hound dogs to track down the kill.
“You can track a lion for 10 minutes, or you can track a lion for 10 hours,” he said, noting that it took him 20 minutes to track the 180-pound lion that he killed. “I was way proud.”
Hunters who want to preserve their game through taxidermy must keep in mind how many times they shoot an animal, Ungerman said.
“The least amount of shots means the least amount of holes you have to fix,” he said.
Mark Zimmerman, who owns Bullseye Taxidermy in Craig and is Gayle Zimmerman’s husband, had several pieces on display.
“I think this is great,” he said. “Some of my best friends I’ve met through taxidermy competitions. Most of the time, it’s pretty friendly competition, but I want to beat them.”
Judge Detring explained to several competitors what they should think about when mounting their animals, outlining that craftsmanship, general anatomy — both skeletal and muscular — and correct skin placement is what he judges.
“There are correct and incorrect places for the skin to lay,” he said, highlighting that it’s also important where the competitors place the animal’s muscles.
All in all, it was a successful day for the taxidermists, he said.
Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or firstname.lastname@example.org.