By Joe Southern
John Guidry is in the business of giving things life after death.
The former machine shop operator is a taxidermist who is in high demand in the Sealy area and whose work permeates the community.
“These guys go on hunting trips and create those memories. I re-create those memories for them,” he said.
Working out of a new, rustic-looking facility at 4039 FM 1094, Guidry is an artist and craftsman who spends his days sculpting lifelike masterpieces out of wildlife.
“Taxidermy is not for everybody,” he said. “You have to be a little discreet about your business and what you do.”
For those who desire his services, they are drawn to him because of quality work he does and the realism he puts into each mount.
“He does very good work for me,” said Kevin Krampitz who is one of Guidry’s best and longest customers.
“He’s done probably 25-30 heads for me at least,” said Krampitz, who has been taking his hunting trophies to Guidry since the early 1990s.
When asked what he does with all the mounts, Krampitz said, “I have a very understanding wife.”
So does Guidry. The job is demanding and time-consuming. He can easily lose himself in a project well into the evening. The nature of the job requires he work weekends so he can meet with clients.
“She’s used to it,” he said of his wife, Jamie.
When Guidry took the business full-time about five or six years ago, she came onboard as his bookkeeper.
“I couldn’t have done this without her,” he said.
In addition to the books, she helps with the tedious paperwork the state requires of taxidermists. That gives Guidry more freedom to do the actual work. There is no shortage of work.
“Last year I did 463 projects,” he said.
That included 140 shoulder mounts and 85 skull mounts. Shoulder mounts are basically the head and neck of the deer, elk or other animal with horns or antlers. The lion’s share of his work are deer mounts, though he gets a lot of goats and an assortment of cats, birds and other game.
Guidry is self-taught. He received his first instruction from a mail-order book advertised in the back of a comic book.
“I still have the first mount I ever did,” he said. “I use it to put my feet on the ground to show me where I came from.”
While working at Cameron Iron Works he began doing taxidermy on the side as a hobby. As he got better, his business steadily grew. He started in 1993 and just a few years ago felt he reached the point where he could quit his day job and make a living off his hobby.
“The business is growing about where I want it to be. I’m not the biggest … I want to be considered one of the best,” he said.
Guidry prides himself of the realism of his mounts. He is particularly focused on the eyes.
“I try to make the animal look like he’s looking at something,” he said.
He said he works on the definition around the eyes to make them appear as real as possible.
“I actually sculpt around the eyes before I mount the deer,” he said.
“John’s very creative and that’s the key word – very creative,” said B.R. Koehler, another of Guidry’s clients. “He makes them look alive.”
Koehler took a 10-point buck on a bow hunt in 2011. The trophy is on display in Guidry’s shop.
“He did a very good job on this one,” Koehler said.
Guidry said the key is for hunters to properly skin and preserve the animal in the field. Too often the specimen is ruined before it arrives. When he does take one in, he skins it and removes the antlers. The hide is shipped to a commercial tannery. It and the antlers are mounted on a Styrofoam mannequin, sculpted, groomed and detailed for delivery.
Although it only takes a couple days for Guidry to do the actual work, it can take 12 months or more before a mount is ready for delivery. That is how far backlogged he is and it is not unusual for that to happen in the taxidermy industry. The demand often far exceeds service.
“I can get a months worth of work coming in every week in November,” he said.
Some of the work is shipped out to specialists, such as skull cleaning and fish mounts. He said many taxidermists are becoming specialists, often dealing with specific species or animal groups. Guidry’s passion is whitetail deer, though he works on most mammals and birds.
“I see something different in every one I do,” he said.
He said he really enjoys working with children. One of the few charitable jobs he does is creating skull mounts for children with heart problems who hunt with a group called Hunt With Heart.
Guidry enjoys seeing something positive happen in the lives of children facing life and death issues. As with all his clients, he tries to make each mount special.
“I want everyone to feel they’re getting something unique,” he said.
For more information about Guidry’s business, visit www.taxidermybyjohn.com.