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Passion for outdoors spurs local man toward career in taxidermy

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jake Fahrenbruch works on a pheasant at his taxidermy shop he has opened in McCook. One of his favorite animals to display is the pheasant, he said, because of the multitude of colors in their feathers. Below, Fahrenbruch wraps cotton batting around a rod for a pheasant leg.
(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska - With a scalpel, needle and thread - and lots of patience -- Jake Fahrenbruch has taken his love of wildlife indoors.

Growing up hunting and fishing, Fahrenbruch learned to appreciate nature up close and personal and his affinity for this led him to launch his new business, Jake's Trophy Taxidermy.

Outdoors, "it's just you and nature," he explained. "You don't have to think about anything else."

(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
Fahrenbruch graduated from McCook High School in 2011 and worked for about a year and half for a local taxidermist. He also attended school in Montana for additional skills.

The goal of taxidermy is to re-create each animal as it would appear in nature, he said. Each animal is fitted onto a realist "form," or mannikin, that incorporates every detail, including tendons and muscles. Then, he makes sure each animal is portrayed as realistically as possible, according to what the client wants.

For fish, this means making sure colors appear iridescent, as if gliding through water. Or a pheasant in mid-flight, or a bobcat crouching in wait.

Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette
It's meticulous, time-consuming work - "People don't realize how many colors are on a largemouth bass, each one is different," he said -- but the end result is worth it to Fahrenbruch.

"You get to see the best features of an animal, like all the colors on a pheasant, something you can't always see outside," he said.

With today's new technology and materials, many taxidermists are considered artists. Nate Francis, president of the Nebraska State Taxidermists Association, said making an animal as life-like as possible is no easy task.

"It's got to be anatomically correct, with the muscles and the structure in the exact place," Francis said. Since becoming a taxidermist, Francis, also a hunter, said he has gained a new appreciation of animals and now notices every little detail, such as the way a deer folds its ear, so he can re-create that in his work.

Taxidermy is not only about preserving the animal, but also the memories that go with it, he added, as family members remember that first hunting trip or big catch.

And business is booming. Francis estimated there are about 200 taxidermists in Nebraska, just one part of the nearly recession-proof hunting industry in the state. In 2001, the economic impact of all hunting activities in Nebraska came to a total of $232,387,841, according to a study funded by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. From lodging to retail sales and permits, hunting is big business.

Since opening in September, Farhenbruch said he's already been pretty busy, thanks to word of mouth.

But better than that, Farhenbruch is doing what he loves.

"This has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember," he said. "I couldn't see myself doing anything else."

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