Northwest Iowa School of Taxidermy is a residential, nine-week program where students learn how to become a taxidermist, including a complete working knowledge of five major areas of commercial as well as competition taxidermy. In addition, students will learn added curriculum such as business practices and pricing, airbrushing, fiberglass reproductions, form alteration, mold making, freeze drying and much more!


1. Fish Taxidermy

Students will learn the Matuska Taxidermy Studio‘s award-winning techniques for flexible fins, open gills, life-like coloration, finish work and bases. All skin mounts are mounted on an anatomically accurate carved styrofoam body. Students are also instructed in molding and casting of fiberglass reproductions.

Fish portion includes:

Specimen handling and care

Skinning and fleshing

Measurements and pattern making

Body fabrication (carved foam) and mounting

Gill and flexible fin treatment

Reconstruction of fleshy areas

Casting and molding reproductions

Habitat construction and design

Airbrush coloration


Students will usually complete 4-8 assorted fish mounts.* Students are encouraged to bring quality specimens or a selection will be provided by the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


2. Bird Taxidermy

Upland game birds and waterfowl will comprise the bird portion of the course. Students will experience the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest and will acquire the knowledge and ability to artistically recreate her winged creatures.

Bird portion includes:

Specimen handling and care

Skinning and fleshing

Body preparation


Feather placement

Airbrush coloration

Habitat arrangement


Students will also be instructed in the proper use of synthetic heads and feet a major breakthrough in accuracy, speed and longevity of the mount. Each student will usually complete 2-3 game birds.* Students may bring their own specimens or they may be purchased from the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


3. Game Heads

Each year thousands of game heads find their way into the hands of taxidermists across the country. Students will learn anatomy, along with Tom Matuska’s mounting methods, which put them far ahead of the competition in speed, realism and durability.

Game head portion includes:

Specimen handling and care


Skinning and fleshing



Complete tanning

Form selection and preparation


Finish work



Each student will usually complete two “deer-sized” game heads during this portion of the course.* Students may bring their own game heads or they may be purchased from the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


4. Life-Size Mammals

From the curiosity in the eyes of the playful raccoon to the cunning look on the face of a stalking cougar, our students will acquire the skill and knowledge to successfully mount the many mammals they will encounter in their business.

Life-size portion includes:

Specimen handling and care


Skinning and fleshing

Hide treatment

Complete tanning

Form selection





Each student will usually mount one medium life-size (such as a bobcat or bear) mammal.* The school can provide students with a large variety of mammals to choose from or they may bring their own. The life-size portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


5. Rugs

Rugs are a very important facet of a taxidermy business. The Matuska Taxidermy Studio processes many beautiful rugs each year including but not limited to raccoon, fox, coyote, wolf, bear, zebra and sheep. All students learn our studio’s techniques to complete the initial taxidermy portion of their rugs and then given the necessary information needed to send their rugs to a professional Ruggery to insure a beautiful, high quality product. (Fur rugs are optional and dependent on the student’s specimen package.)

Rug portion includes:

Specimen handling and care

Skinning and fleshing

Complete tanning

Head mounting

Open mouth technique


Furs that are available to students are the same as those for mammals. The rug portion is approximately 15 hours of training.


*Students wishing to do larger specimens such as turkey, cougar or bear may be limited in other curriculum areas due to time constraints. If another instructor is needed due to the size and complexity of the project, there will be an added expense.



What truly sets our taxidermy school apart from the rest is the comprehensiveness of our taxidermy training program. Beyond learning to make artistic and life-like mounts, our taxidermy school teaches business practices and other essentials that are the foundation of a successful taxidermy career.


A basic understanding of the skeletal design and musculature of the animals that a student will be working with is essential. We will train you in applying veining, accent to muscle detail and give realistic expression to your mounts.


Base-Making Design and Composition

Realistic base work, natural to the animal’s habitat, adds life and interest to a quality mount. Each student will be instructed on how to replicate artificial snow, water, ice, icicles, foliage, rocks, etc. Students will design and construct their own dioramas for their mounts.



Even the most talented taxidermist would have a difficult time making a living without at least a rudimentary education in business. Each student will be advised in proper business practices, beginning with building your business from the ground up and advertising techniques that work. Students will receive instruction on accurately pricing their work by evaluating cost per hour and overhead.


Fiberglass/Graphite Fish Reproduction

Catch and release fishing is the wave of the future. Many taxidermists turn away thousands of dollars of business each year because they lack the knowledge of how to handle these trophies. Students are instructed in casting and reproducing fish from the actual specimen, as well as painting and finishing commercial reproductions. Our studio has reproduced the Iowa state record Flathead Catfish, two Iowa state record Blue Catfish, as well as the Iowa state record Channel Catfish and this knowledge is passed on to our students.


Form Alteration

Form alteration is essential to creative taxidermy. Students will learn time efficient methods to add muscle, or change size, bulk, girth, pose or position.


Freeze Drying

Students will acquire a working knowledge of the freeze dry system and its practicality and applications in today’s taxidermy industry. Major problems, as well as advantages, will be evaluated, including the cost effectiveness in trophy preservation.



State and Federal regulations and how they affect the taxidermist is covered in depth. Students learn Federal Migratory Bird record keeping and tagging in compliance with government regulations.The Northwest Iowa School of Taxidermy will assist the student in completing necessary applications for their state license.


Reference Filing

Collecting and filing photos, sketches, measurements along with related data, including instruction in the proper use of each, is necessary to the construction of quality mounts. This will prove invaluable to the beginning taxidermist as well as the veteran alike. The reputation of the Matuska Taxidermy Studio relies heavily on reference materials. The accuracy of the mounted animal is what produces realistic trophies.



A variety of tanning methods will be discussed, however, most capes and hides mounted by the student will be tanned in our studio using a premium commercial tan. Students are trained in machine fleshing, beam shaving and finish fleshing, all crucial to the tanning procedure.








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