Taxidermy competition in Craig draws a variety of game


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

Conservation Awards

Safari Club International: Cape Buffalo — Tom Weickum

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation No. 77: Mark Zimmerman

Mule Deer Foundation No. 148: Andrew Mundo

Original Art

First place No. 53: Metal Dragon — Alan Cooley

Collective Artist

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

Competitors Award

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 Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or