Two brothers from the tiny community of Carmen, Idaho, just north of Salmon, have become world famous in taxidermy circles.
After brothers Benjamin and Brandon Fahnholz first entered mounts in the Montana Taxidermist Association convention in Billings in March, Brandon won best of show with his mount of a life-size cougar.
That success led them to enter the 2019 World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships held every two years in Springfield, Missouri, April 30 through May 4. Called the “Olympics of taxidermy,” gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded winners in various categories. Up for grabs were thousands in cash prizes and the promotional value a win would have for their business, Life-Like Taxidermy.
Benjamin Fahnholz won first place for his pronghorn antelope mount, and Brandon Fahnholz won second for his life-size mount of a snarling cougar at the world championships.
“If you ever get a world title then you can do anything you want,” said mom Brenda Fahnholz. “No one can really tell you you’re not the best of the best. But we are.”
Competitors came from all 50 states and 22 countries around the world. There were more than 550 entries in several divisions. Most appear so lifelike that it’s as if a creature was suddenly frozen in time.
The Fahnholzes believe they are the first from Idaho to bring home a world competition medal. The competition was started in 1983 by the trade publication Breakthrough.
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Brenda Fahnholz said she and her husband started their taxidermy business in 1985. When her sons were still small boys she helped with the skinning and prep work, “everything but the mounting.” Now she takes care of the books and taxes and leaves the fancy stuff to the boys.
She said creating world-winning mounts takes more than getting all the technical details right.
“With this competition, in order to win you have to have all of that anatomy right,” she said. “They finish inside the ears, the nose, everything is like it could start breathing — it’s totally lifelike. And then they also have to display it in a manner that would be lifelike — that is artsy. So it’s not something that looks stuffed hanging on the wall.”
Despite living in the hinterlands, the Fahnholz family business is in demand.
“Right now we are about a year and a half out (filling orders),” Brenda Fahnholz said. “We work Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. We make a living doing taxidermy.”
Because the family enjoys the outdoors, they guard against working overtime. The family hunts, fishes, rafts and hikes with their llamas to high mountain lakes.
“Any activity that involves the outdoors, we pretty much try to do it,” she said.