Master taxidermist serves local hunters
By BRITTANY FHOLER
As hunting season begins this fall, the taxidermy business tends to pick up more with hunters bringing in their kills to be stuffed or turned into a rug or pelt.
Fleeman Taxidermy offers both services at its 1,500-square-foot workshop located at 556 Thomas St in Copperas Cove, off North F.M. 116.
Owner Randy Fleeman is a Master Taxidermist and has been running the business for 15 years.
Fleeman said he learned about the process through a childhood friend in South Carolina and became interested in finding out more. Fleeman added that he has always liked hunting and fishing which go hand in hand with taxidermy. When he retired from the military, he decided to open his own shop.
Fleeman said a major reason behind his decision to go into the taxidermy business was because he could not find anyone who would do a mount for a reasonable price.
“We decided when we opened up this shop in the last couple of years, we were going to do a better job at servicing our customers pricewise, and that’s exactly what we do,” Fleeman said.
The business’ motto is “You snuff it, we stuff it.” Fleeman stays busy throughout the year but is busier during the fall hunting season.
“We are busy year-round, and we want to keep it that way,” Fleeman said. “We could actually use a lot more work coming through the door during the off-season and that would definitely help a lot more.”
In addition to the taxidermy services, Fleeman Taxidermy offers temporary storage for hunters and will skin the animal if needed before the customer takes the animal to a processing plant. Fleeman also offers tanning services for animal hides and making rugs and pelts. He does all tanning in house, he added.
“We try to stay below everybody else’s prices, because we want to offer people a chance to not only be one of our customers but also not spend twice the amount of money that they need to spend that they don’t want to spend on a mount,” Fleeman said.
From the beginning, when an animal comes in, it is tagged and bagged and is then skinned and put in a salt process for 24 to 48 hours. It is then cleaned and put through a tanning solution, which takes another 24 to 48 hours. After the tanning process, the item is either stretched to be turned into a rug or mounted onto a form to be hung on the wall.
The entire process can take from a week to two weeks to be completed. Once it is mounted, it can take another two to three weeks to dry.
“We try to get these animals out as quick as we can to customers,” Fleeman said. “I don’t like my customers waiting forever.”
Fleeman said the most popular animal he and his son, Nick, have worked on is a white-tailed deer, but they also do lots of bobcats and foxes.
The most unusual animal he has worked on was a porcupine. “Most people don’t see those in order to shoot them or take them out, so it’s very rare that you see one,” Fleeman said.
Another unusual animal that Fleeman has stuffed is a skunk, which requires being submerged under water while being skinned to avoid being sprayed.
They also have done exotic animals, like the Oryx, which is a type of antelope.
“We do just about anything that comes across the table,” Fleeman said.
Fleeman said his favorite part about his job is the resulting smile on a customer’s face.
Recently, Fleeman did work on a 1954 World Record mule deer that a customer’s grandfather shot.
“That’s the best part about it is when a customer comes in and they don’t just say that it looks nice, they say, ‘Wow, that looks nice,’” Fleeman said. “That’s the best part about it.”
Fleeman Taxidermy has been asked by the Copperas Cove Wal-Mart to put together a display for the store’s sports/hunting section, he said. He hopes to put together something that goes beyond just a deer mount.
Fleeman Taxidermy is located at 556 Thomas St in Copperas Cove. Their business hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but customers should call ahead at 254-368-3432 or 254-368-3429. Fleeman’s website is www.fleemantaxidermy.com.