Justin Jacot is a well-respected member of the Verdigre community, a successful business owner and an award-winning taxidermist.
He is also only 23 years old.
One would be hard pressed to meet someone that has a negative word to say about Jacot. It is evident the moment you meet him that he is a friendly person with an enthusiastic personality. Many of the good words you will hear about him involve the impression he has made on members of the Verdigre community as a new business owner.
As a freshman at Northeast Community College, Jacot was unsure whether college was the correct path for him. That year, he had a deer of his own mounted and when he saw the results, he became intrigued with the idea of taxidermy, the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting animals for display. He began to research taxidermy schools online. Eventually, he found a five-day school based in Winner, S.D. that taught the basics of mounting a deer.
His parents allowed him to use their old shop, a small 18x12 workspace that gave him room to work his hobby. It didn’t take long for that hobby to turn into a career, however.
“I set a goal for 10 mounts my first year,” Jacot recalled. “I ended up doing 43 mounts.”
He started out doing just deer mounts for local residents, using the techniques he learned in his short course earlier that year. Word quickly spread of his talents, and Jacot felt the need to expand his business. He decided to teach himself how to do other mounts, including learning how to mount fish in his second year.
After three years of doing taxidermy part-time after his day job, Jacot decided to make the transition to a full-time businessman.
“It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” Jacot said.
Once he decided to work full-time as a taxidermist and as business began to pick up, he decided it was time to find a larger workspace of his own. He purchased the building next to Misty’s Soakers in Verdigre and quickly moved his equipment and displays to the new location.
“It’s nice to have a nice place in town,” he stated.
He does admit that he was a bit nervous owning his own business at a young age.
“If you got a problem now, it’s your problem,” Jacot said. “People have to trust you."
The Art of Competition
As Jacot began practicing more and more with different mounts, he decided to give competitive taxidermy a try. He competed at the Nebraska Taxidermy Association’s annual show last year for the first time. He enjoyed the experience so much, he decided to return this year for the 32nd annual competition. People from as far as Wisconsin came to the event in Columbus, the association’s largest ever show.
Jacot made his way to Columbus for the competition June 4 weekend, along with three whitetail, one mule deer, one elk and an antelope mount he had recently finished. He returned at the end of the weekend with an award for each mount. All three of his whitetail deer and his antelope mount earned second place ribbons, while both the mule deer and the elk took home first. The elk was also voted the best elk in the whole show.
According to Jacot, judges at taxidermy competitions look for a variety of things in the mounts. Anatomical correctness and correct muscle detailing are among the primary necessities of a good mount. Having no lumps of glue on the animal is important as well. If a taxidermist wants extra points, they can make the mount in a correct habitat for the animal.
Each competitor starts with 100 points and judges take away points for errors as the competition goes on. Entrants into the competition can compete in different divisions based on the animal that is mounted and their skill level, with the pro division being designed for taxidermists, like Jacot, that do the profession for a career. If a mount wins twice in the pro division, it must be entered into the masters division if the taxidermist wants to continue showing it competitively.
The judges are generally taxidermists themselves, and everyone is very helpful, according to Jacot. That doesn’t stop them from wanting to win, however.
“Everybody’s very competitive,” he said. “Everyone just wants to win.”
Continuing to Challenge Himself
Jacot estimated it takes approximately 12 or 13 hours for him to complete a simple whitetail mount. When the customer inquires about having a mount done, Jacot records all the information about the animal and the type of mount requested for future reference. Once he has the animal, he skins and measures every detail of the animal. The hides are then placed in a tanning drum and he orders a styrofoam mannequin with the correct positioning the customer requested to mount the hide back on to. From their, Jacot begins to put the mount together.
“You’re pretty much just reversing the process is all you are doing,” he said.
He estimated that there is approximately 12 inches to 18 inches of stitching on a whitetail deer mount. The antlers and skin are the only things on the mount that are real. Everything else is painted back on by Jacot himself.
The average cost of a mount depends on the size of the mount, according to Jacot. For example, he only charges $12.50 per inch to mount a fish, whereas he has also done a full body mount of a black bear for over $2,500. He enjoys the various projects he receives, as it gives him a chance to try new things.
“There is no real right way to try taxidermy,” Jacot admitted.
While he has accomplished a lot in his young career, Jacot wants to continue to learn new things and grow. He wants to try more fish mounts and different variations of antelope mounts. He also plans to try new competitions and intends to go to South Dakota for a competition next year.
He also admitted that he has challenges, even after becoming so accomplished so quickly. A turkey and a buffalo mount were among the most difficult mounts he did, he said. He rarely receives poor feedback on his work, but when he does it often comes from himself.
“I probably challenge myself the most,” he said.
As a taxidermist, Jacot has to meet all the state requirements and hold permits for all the same things most of his customers are required to have to get their animals. He said game wardens are able to come into his shop and check everything at any time. That is why he keeps record of everything that comes in the door.
While he is still young, Jacot is far from inexperienced. He is very proud of building his business from scratch and getting his own building. He is still going through the growing pains of being a new business owner as he learns to keep up with the bills, but that doesn’t really bother him. He is very appreciative of the support he has received from the community and is excited for the new challenges he intends to present to himself in the future as his business continues to grow.