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Local Resident Finds Unique Business Niche

Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Photography Provided

Fox Ridge TaxidermyAs a boy, Kevin Yutzy roamed the woods and fields around his Nappanee-area home. He was studying the animals and learning skills that he would later apply to his business. He is now a taxidermist with a shop on the outskirts of Bourbon.

“All the time I was out in the woods,” he recalls.

Kevin and his wife Karen married five years ago. They have two young children, Ava, 2, and Kaiden, about 3 months. He is now using the skills gleaned on those early nature walks to preserve animals large and small as trophies for area hunters. It is a business he is hoping to grow.

He was licensed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in 2018. The license allows Kevin to have animal remains in his possession. This applies to wildlife protected by Indiana law, and he can have them even during closed hunting seasons.

Taxidermy has been around for a long time. It is defined as the process of preserving animal skin as well as feathers, fur or scales. Considered an art form related to sculpture, the goal is often to create a final piece that looks like a living animal. While some people are squeamish about the thought of preserving animals, taxidermy has practical uses for scientists, museum curators and wildlife educators.

Fox Ridge Taxidermy is set up in an outbuilding on the Kevin’s Chestnut Road home in Marshall County. He works on taxidermy projects on a part-time basis, but is hoping to do it full time to support his family. Inside the shop are mounted antlers and a few current projects, such as a deer head in progress.

Kevin started learning the techniques by practicing his skills on some of his own animals, including smaller ones like squirrels. That practice has turned into application, and he has preserved deer, elk, raccoon, fox, bear, coyote, beaver, otter and mink, among other species for his customers.

Fox Ridge Taxidermy

Kevin is also currently working on elevating his bird taxidermy skills. Fish is also an eventual goal, although there are others in the profession that specialize.

“Some animals are easier than others,” he explains.

People choose to use taxidermy services for a variety of reasons. Heads, antlers, and even hides from game animals like deer and elk are prized by hunters. An animal with an unusual trait, such as an albino or a larger-than-average specimen, also has appeal, Kevin says. Then there are the occasional pet owners who want to have a physical remembrance of their pets.

“If it’s a trophy or a pet, people want to keep it as a memory,” he says.

Taxidermy is not simply stuffing an animal. It is a multi-step process that can take time. From cleaning and tanning the skin using a chemical process, to finding the right foam form for the body and setting the artificial eyes, natural or artificial nose, and real antlers, the goal is to make the animal resemble the living creature. Careful processing in the beginning ensures that the hide is sanitized and free of bacteria, which can make the hair fall out.

“It takes patience and talent to make something look realistic,” Karen says.

Fox Ridge Taxidermy’s customers are family, friends and those who have been referred to him by others, including other taxidermists. Kevin does not have a lot of competition in Marshall and Elkhart counties. Other taxidermists who also serve as mentors are located east and south of Fox Ridge’s location. These taxidermists have been doing it longer, and are available to discuss processing procedures when Kevin has an unusual project.

Fox Ridge Taxidermy

His busiest seasons are fall and winter. Mounting a five-point buck, or any animal, is not an overnight task. Kevin’s customers can expect a wait of several months to a year, as he works through the process and finishes up projects in the shop.

Fox Ridge Taxidermy is located at 7363 Chestnut Road in Bourbon. Potential customers can call 574-342-0418 to make an appointment.

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