By Mark Boshnack
A Cherry Valley man was among the top winners at a recent state competition, doing something he loves.
Curtis VanDerwerker, owner of Belvedere Mountain Taxidermy in Cherry Valley, won three blue ribbons for entries in a competition held by United Taxidermists of New York during the group’s convention held April 9-12 at the Holiday Inn in Auburn.
“I did a lot better than I expected,” 27-year-old VanDerwerker said. He won for two white-tailed deer pedestal mounts and a life-sized grey fox. VanDerwerker harvested the two deer himself, and was given the fox by a local trapper, he said.
VanDerwerker said he has been competing for three years, but has never earned such high honors.
United Taxidermists director Jerry St. Pierre said there were 107 pieces entered, and about half were in the professional category, in which VanDerwerker won his blue ribbons.
St. Pierre said VanDerwerker did a good job, earning a high score on a scale that compares the mounted animals to the real thing. The competition is also open to youths and amateurs, in separate classes.
“I didn’t expect to do so well,” VanDerwerker commented, saying that it was "very rewarding" to see the 100-plus hours he had put into the three pieces recognized with the awards.
VanDerwerker said he plans to advance to the master category for the next competition — a goal he said will require hard work and possibly some additional training.
While he enjoys the competition, it’s also good education for improving his talents, he said, noting that “You are judged by former world champions.”
VanDerwerker started in the profession about four years ago. Another taxidermist in the area offered to teach him, and he did it part-time while working in hospital maintenance, he said.
He started full-time two years ago. “Not many people get to do something they love as their job," he said.
“It’s become more than just a job. I have always been into hunting,” he said. “This is just the icing on the cake.”