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Attention to detail
B&L Taxidermy takes a limited number of animals

For Bryan Hovatter, taxidermy is all about the details.

The subtle position of an ear. The tilt of the head. The direction an eye is gazing.

At B&L Taxidermy and European Mounts, Hovatter, the owner, said he takes a limited number of animals to preserve each season because he wants to do them right and also provide a quick turnaround time for his customers.

“This is like an off-season kind of deal,” Hovatter said, describing the taxidermy, which is what he does in the winter when his other business, Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo, is not as active.

It’s peak season for the Kingwood taxidermy business, though.

“Hunting season coming on, it’s about time we’re going to be getting busy,” he said, glancing at a wall already full of deer mounts and other animals.

Hovatter charges about $350 for a deer head and front shoulder mount, which he said is pretty much average for the area.

The animal is preserved using a dry preserver — similar to Borax, Hovatter said — which takes three days to dry. The preserver pulls the moisture out of the skin and helps harden everything into place so “they’ll last forever.”

While it’s drying, he works to position the animal exactly as the customer wants. Should the head tilt to the left or right? Should it be an aggressive or non-aggressive stance? Which way should the eyes turn? It’s something Hovatter enjoys doing.

“It’s a dying art. There’s not very many people in the area anymore doing taxidermy. To me, it’s an art,” he said.

He also appreciates that he’s creating a trophy or keepsake for a hunter or trapper.

“It’s just something he wants to put on his wall to remember that hunt,” Hovatter said.

He learned the taxidermy trade from Tunnelton resident Lorin Bowmar, who spent hours teaching Hovatter the details.

“I owe everything to him. He’s the one who taught me everything I know,” Hovatter said.
B&L Taxidermy offers regular mounts, as well as European mounts, which are skull-only. Hovatter said he also offers habitats, such as rocks or tree branches, in which you can place the preserved animals.

Bobby Lantz, of Terra Alta, has had a few animals preserved by B&L Taxidermy and European Mounts, and he’s recommended the business to others.

“I think he’s done outstanding work for me,” Lantz said. “His turnaround time is one of the most impressive things.”

Hovatter said all of the preserved animals will be returned to customers by March, because the zoo opens in April.

“He really goes out of the way to make you happy,” Lantz said. “He wants to bring [the animal] back to life.”

“That’s why I say it’s a dying art, it’s because of the quality of the work,” Hovatter said. “You know, you’ve got to put the time into them to get everything right.”

Location: 291 Wagner Lane, Kingwood

Info: Call Bryan, at 304-698-7999, for taxidermy. Call Logan, at 304-698-4271, for European mounts.

Hours: Call for an appointment.