John Hinde and Steve Lies are busy, but they are about to get even busier. It’s always that way for them in the fall. As the co-owners of Whitetails and Waterfowl Taxidermy, business seems to pick up with the coming of the fall hunting seasons.
As the days get shorter and hunting seasons are in full swing, sportsmen and women often call on the pair to preserve and mount animals which they have harvested. So much so, in fact, that Hinde and Lies (pronounced “Lees”) are just now finishing up clients’ projects from last fall.
Lies says the rural Murphysboro business’s wait time is running about 12 months, but clients don’t seem to mind, as they continue to put their soon-to-be trophies on the list. It’s not uncommon for the company to take on five new projects a day this time of year, he says, adding that he recently took delivery of an entire crate of future projects shipped from Africa. He says personally, he did 209 mounts last year.
“People always like to tell you about the deer they got,” Lies says. “They’re proud and this is a way for them to preserve and display those memories. These are something that they are going to keep forever and they’re going to hand down to their kids.”
At Whitetails and Waterfowl, Hinde handles all of the birds — ducks, geese and the like — and Lies does all of the other animals. Lies says the shop currently does not mount fish. He explains the process for animals such as deer is pretty straightforward.
“Hunters will bring in their deer and pick out a form,” he explains, describing the mannequin-like bodies on which he will stretch the hide. “They tell me what they want; looking up, down, left or right, that sort of thing. Then I send it off to be professionally tanned.”
The tanning process preserves the hide, then Lies will stretch it, sew it up over the form and put on some finishing touches to make the mount appear life-like.
He says he thinks his business partner is more creative.
“John’s more of an artist than I am. He’s a painter and he can just meticulously make those birds look great. When he gets a bird, he poses it himself, using a wire framework for the wings. He can make them flying, banking, almost anything — and he just free forms the whole thing.”
Lies explains that mounting a single duck can take as long as a deer head because of the large amount of detail work.
“He can average about one a day if everything goes well,” he says.
Lies says Hinde first invited him to try his hand at taxidermy more than 20 years ago when Linde was doing some of the work at a Carbondale archery business.
“It just kind of took off for me,” he recalls. “I enjoyed it and I guess I was pretty good at it, because people kept asking me to do it. I was building homes and doing some taxidermy on the side, then we went to Hunting at Fishing Days at John A. Logan College and did a little advertising. The next thing you know, it turned into the biggest full-time job I’ve ever had and I love it.”
Hinde has been doing taxidermy for more than 30 years. Lies has 21 years of experience.
Lies says that he’s mounted everything from bobcats and bear to elk, and even some international species, such as water buffalo.
“It’s always something different,” he says.
And, of course, there are deer. Lots and lots of deer.
“I’ve got a guy coming all the way from Ohio, bringing me three deer to do,” he says. “That’s good, because every year you always get nervous as the number of jobs waiting gets lower. When you start with 200 deer waiting and then it gets down to about 50, you think you’re running out of work, but then the season begins and they start coming in again.”
As such, Lies and Hinde stay busy. Sometimes too busy.
“You know, we like to hunt, too,” Lies says. “We have to try to make time to get out there ourselves.”