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A natural calling: Lakeside’s own “area freeze-dry specialist?

DCN Correspondent

He runs his hands over the burnt-orange colored leather, cutting away pieces to fit around the rough base of the defenders.

Scratching away the remaining plaster with sandpaper, the mold of the mount is ready to be covered.

Mounting deer antlers is something that comes naturally to Randy Bowe, owner of Bowe Taxidermy in Lakeside and member of the National Taxidermy Association. His large,callused hands meet the roughness of the deer’s antlers while he polishes the tips of the ten pointer.

“I became interested in taxidermy at the age of 12, when I got my first wood-duck mount for Christmas,? says Bowe.

Tools hang on every inch of the walls in his workshop. Coffee cans labeled “fish tails? line a wall, while racks of antlers are hung orderly on shelves. The staple gun he uses to tack the leather on the mount sounds through the quiet basement.

Randy Bowe opened his taxidermy business in the same house in 1980, after taking classes in Jamesville, Wis. He and his wife lived in the house for a while, until his wife wanted to move.

“She said she didn’t want to get knocks on the doors in the early mornings,? says Bowe, chuckling.

The cow bell he has dangling above his work bench sounds, which tells him that a customer came through the door. Walking up the sturdy stairs, his 6’7? husky stance barely makes it under the ceiling. His low, warming voice chimes from upstairs as he helps a customer.

Upstairs the showroom proudly displays shoulder mounts of deer, with their dark eyes greeting customers when they walk through. Fish in clear displays are silently floating on wood bases.

Competition ribbons, mostly blue, decorate the mounts.

“I used to do a lot of competitions in the '80s, but stopped competing because of travel time and I wanted to give most of my time to my customers,? says Bowe.

Walking back downstairs to the workshop, the painting room sits silently in the corner. Lacquered paints and airbrush tools sit scattered on the single workbench. Fish hang next to the window, waiting to be decorated with their true colors.

“I study many pictures and I’ve seen enough fish in my life to be able to represent their natural colors,? says Bowe.

Bowe grabs the almost finished mount and cuts away unneeded pieces. The white dust from the sanding collects on the yellow-colored Far Side comics that are tacked on wood beams on the ceiling. The phone rings and he answers it with a smile that was hiding under his woodsman beard.

“Bowe’s Taxidermy,? Bowe says proudly.

In the 1980s, Bowe was only one of three taxidermists in the Duluth area. Nowadays, there are over a dozen, but he still remains busy.

“Deer season is coming to a close and that is where I get 90 percent of my business from,? says Bowe.
With the low economy this year, taxidermists are on the lower end of the totem pole because people want to save money.

“The harvest has been down this year and with the economy being low, there are more hunters that are trying to learn themselves,? says Bowe, who said that he went from 80 to 90 mounts in previous years to 40 to 45 this season.

He holds the mount in his arms like a child while he staples on the last part of the leather. With a look of approval, he proudly sets the finished product on a table that has a colorful tail of a turkey. He brags about the upcoming weekend when he will be hunting on his land he owns up the shore.

“I go hunting, while my wife goes sale shop hunting,? he says while giving a giant grin.