Taxidermy art show this weekend at Meskwaki

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — An early spring/late winter getaway is in store for those willing to check out the 2022 Iowa Taxidermy Show at the conference rooms of the Meskwaki Convention Center in Tama. Public show hours are from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 26. A wide variety of critters will be displayed by artisans from all over Iowa and other Midwest states. Their perfection and attention to detail are impressive as they strive to always improve an animal mount for their clients. As you view the displays, you may vote for your choice of ‘best of show.’

Taxidermy as an art form takes on intricate steps to eventually create and preserve memories for clients. It could be the first big fish caught by a boy or girl, or a big buck, an elk, moose or goose, taken by mom, dad, grandparent or your little sister.

In any case, each animal, no matter how big or little, is a treasure trove of memories of a special time, a special place, when circumstances came together for that special outdoor adventure. Taxidermists can help preserve those memories.

That is why this Saturday, March 26, a short drive to Tama for us local folks can put our eyes to work feasting upon an entire new display of custom artwork. There will be lots to examine and admire as many taxidermists exhibit their best show and tell samples.

Members of the Iowa Taxidermy Association work to judge and award ribbons for all entries, and those members also offer suggestions and tips of the trade gladly offered so that each member can strive to improve their finished product. That product, if carefully done, is advertising to anyone who will ever see the specimen. A typical question will be: “Who was your taxidermist?” Great work sells itself, and it promotes the business for those artisans who take the time to perfect their works.

Taxidermist trade items end up in private collections, and many taxidermists’ services are employed by specific store outlets — think Cabela’s, Bass Pro and national or state museums of natural history. Even ancient bones unearthed from ages old rock sediment layers can be reassembled to show the articulated skeletons of fossilized critters millions of years old.

From that framework, artisans have attempted with great success to add “flesh” to those bones, enabling science and the public to see for themselves how that animal may have looked like in real life. The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. is just one such place where that type of replication can be viewed.

Our Museum of Natural History is a fantastic place. In Denver, Colo., is their Museum of Natural History that offers many diorama showcase settings of exquisite animal mounts, all accomplished by taxidermists.

Closer to home, the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center has diorama displays of native Iowa wildlife. From an educational point of view, it helps the viewer connect with life forms of our native grasslands, wetlands and forests. A bit of travel can put you face-to-face with other splendid taxidermy artworks at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Mo.

If you go west to Lincoln, Neb., make a special effort to go to the university campus and look for “Elephant Hall,” their nickname for a museum showing ancient life forms that once roamed the landscapes of America. If you are making a trip west sometime, make it a point to stop in at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. It will be well worth your time spent learning new things about the natural history of our earth.


We all should know that bald eagles are a protected species. Possession of even one eagle feather is illegal. Authorities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service frown heavily on anyone who thinks it is okay to “just take one feather” — this is not a good ideal.

So what is a person to do if they want to have a replica bald eagle mount? There is a way to accomplish this deed. Create a fake eagle by using white chicken feathers and brown turkey feathers, all carefully clipped, painted, and placed in a goose body form and replica eagle head.

Who does this? His name is Jim Day. Over a dozen years ago, he wanted to build a bald eagle replica. So with his artistic genius put to the task, he gathered the body molds, replica heads and feet, and began the meticulous task of taking chicken, turkey and goose feathers, trimming, pressing and gluing them in place, each individual feather meticulously set.

When the white feathered head is placed on the turkey feathered simulated eagle body and all painting of beaks, legs and talons is complete, the artificial “bald eagle” looks very much like a real one.


The Ducks Unlimited banquet is one week away on April 2, and it will be held at the Regency Inn Best Western at Highway 14 and Iowa Avenue. Doors open at 5 p.m. for examination of merchandise, to take part in ticket and raffle sales games, and to meet and greet new and old friends. DU is an excellent organization to support because of their long track record of successes for wildlife wetland habitats all across North America.

Wetland landscapes are what waterfowl need for feeding and nesting, and while they are doing their thing, countless smaller critters such as birds, amphibians, reptiles, and furbearers find wetland complexes to be excellent homes for their livelihood. It is a win-win for wildlife and for the public.

A local project that may benefit considerably from DU support is the Mann Wetland Complex south of Albion. Mike Stegmann, Director of the Marshall County Conservation Board (MCCB), noted in the MCCB’s latest newsletter “Seasons” that the opportunity to acquire the land came about, and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) was able to make the purchase.

Now there will be time for the MCCB to use private organization funds, donations from individuals and supporters, and grant monies to repay the INHF in a few years time. Support has already been made by a set of partnerships including Pheasants Forever, Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Friends of Marshall County Conservation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The project lands are directly east of Timmons Grove County Park and adjacent to Highway 330. All of the parcels are on flood plain lands with a notable history of taking in stride periodic flood events from the Iowa River. Floods are temporary, of course.

The temporary wetlands created by flooding are well used by wildlife, and there is one semi-permanent wetland just south of Albion that grows cattails, sedges and emergent pond vegetation well suited to waterfowl and muskrats.

This area has the potential for enhanced wetland work projects. Its future depends upon funding, both for acquisition costs and appropriate development costs. It will be designated as a natural area where public hunting will be allowed.

For details on how you can assist with this wetland complex, do contact Mike Stegmann at 2349 233rd St., Marshalltown, IA, 50158, or call him at 641-752-5490. Thank you in advance for your help on this important project.


Wild turkey hunting seasons are fast approaching. The first opener is April 11-14, followed by season number two of April 15-19, then April 20-26, and April 27-May 15. Resident archery only tags are valid from April 11 to May 15.

Wild turkey populations are in good condition with adequate numbers. Biologists know that hunter success rates range from about 20 to 22 percent. Based on the number of total licenses sold, multiplied by 20 or 22 percent, means that the estimated total turkey harvest is around 11,500 birds.

This is backed up by data from the required hunter confirmation reporting process. Hunting wild turkey is a great time to be outdoors in the spring as the forest and landscape wakes up from a deep long winter sleep. Trees and bushes are budding out, and songbirds are back singing their territorial intentions. Forest wildflowers are starting to blossom while sunlight can still penetrate to the forest floor before full tree leaf out has happened.

Hunting turkeys is a quiet time endeavor where plenty of space between hunters is an easy and ethical thing to accomplish, and if a big old tom turkey responds to one’s calls to get within 30 yards of the gun, or within 20 or even ten feet of the archer, another turkey harvest may take place. It will likely happen at least 11,500 times this spring in Iowa.


“Doubt and failure are surrounded by ‘what if’s’….what if you just ignored them and got to work?”

— Unknown


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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