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Taxidermy: A lifetime trade you take anywhere

  • A Pennsylvania black bear hovering over a killed fawn is featured in the display room of Bill Allen's Pocono Institute of Taxidermy.
    A Pennsylvania black bear hovering over a killed fawn is featured in the display room of Bill Allen's Pocono Institute of Taxidermy.
Published February 26. 2011 09:00AM

Interested in learning the taxidermy business? If you're an outdoorsy person that is looking to start your own business, look no farther than White Haven to Bill Allen's Pocono Institute of Taxidermy.

In 12 weeks, Allen not only teaches how to mount four types of birds, six species of fish, two game heads, one small and one medium mammal, and complete one rug, but he will show students how to develop and market their taxidermy business in 15 weeks.

Allen opened his school in 1987.

"Since then, we have trained thousands of taxidermy students all over the country including Colorado and Montana, and from foreign countries like Taiwan and Britain," Allen said. "We like helping people get started in their new career."

Allen learned to hunt from his father as a 9-year-old growing up in Jeddo. When he was 12, his dad passed away, leaving behind a family of nine. Sizing up his interests and looking for a way to earn money, Allen signed up for a correspondence course in taxidermy through the Northwestern School of Taxidermy.

"It was $10 at the time-a dollar a month," said Allen. "I could hardly afford that.

"I was trying to learn out of a book," he continued. "It was very hard. They sent a pamphlet ... I still have them. I got done with one, then they sent another one. My friends encouraged me to continue."

Allen's neighbors hunted and trapped where I lived. After gaining experience mounting his own specimens, he began mountings for neighbors. In 1969, he received a Pennsylvania Taxidermy license.

In 1977, he founded the Pennsylvania Taxidermy Association, now the largest organized group of its kind in the U.S. He was president for four years, and then became vice president of the National Taxidermy Association.

The Pocono Institute Of Taxidermy is licensed by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education - Board of Private Trade Schools, by the Dept. of Agriculture, and by the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service for migratory birds.

On the shelves of the school are works in progress of White-tailed deer, Ring-necked pheasant, Rainbow trout, and Red fox. Allen also has receives African game sent to him by local hunters returning from a hunting safari.

Items in progress include Musk Ox, Water buck, Cape Buffalo, and Impala. The animals are taken by hunters vacationing in Africa where they are skinned, debugged, cured, and sent to the U.S. to be mounted.

Much of the demand for taxidermy services comes from the cities.

"There's a lot of business in New York," said Ralph D'Albis from Brooklyn, a hunter and a student at the school. "In New York, many people that go on hunting trips and there's a lot of money. There's no taxidermy in my area. If I do good work, I can take all that business."

Another student, Brett Viglione from Stroudsburg, was cleaning a coyote pelt he is making into a wall hanging rug.

"I wanted to start my own business," Viglione said. "Taxidermy was something I've always been interested in. With the economy the way it's been, I thought it would be good to get into a specified trade. I hunt and I fish so I've had stuff done through the years by other taxidermists. It was always a craft that I was interested in. I decided to act on it."

Taxidermists are trained to recreate what the living animal looked like, but that is not always possible.

"For instance," Allen said, "a lady brought in a bird she wants mounted. All she brings is the feathers in a bag. It can't be mounted because there's no bird."

Are you a candidate for taxidermy school? If you enjoy the outdoors, like to hunt and fish, and you want to earn extra money or become an independent professional, Allen said in today's environment, it's something to look into.

"It's a trade to last a lifetime and you can take it anywhere," he said.

For information, see:, or call (570) 443-9166.

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