Oak Lake taxidermist creates lifelike trophies

He’s an outdoorsman through and through and to say that Cody Denbow enjoys hunting would be an understatement. Denbow admires the animals that he watches and harvests, so it’s no surprise that he has also built a successful business as a taxidermist.

 

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Cody Denbow Game Heads is the name of his business that sprang out of a hobby he began some 20 years ago. With attention to the form he knows so well, Denbow explains, “I try to rebuild the original deer.”

His taxidermy work recreates the memory of the hunt. “It pays tribute to the animal, it’s a re-creation.” The craft has changed a lot over the years from producing stuffed animals, to today’s life-like mounts.

While still in high school he started working with his own harvested deer.After high school, Denbow decided it was time to get some professional training. “It’s funny I even kept doing it after the first one,” he says. Looking back at that first work, well, a lot has changed since then – his skill and the mount forms are much better.

Denbow took a month-long course at Penn School of Taxidermy in Calgary. He had already done about 10 deer shoulder mounts on his own and knew there was more to learn. At Penn School he worked with deer heads, and small mammals like coyotes as well as birds.

A student of whitetail deer, he patiently observes them year-round, in all phases of their lives, which makes him a successful hunter. Denbow’s expertise with a bow has won him recognition in the sports glossy, Big Game Illustrated just two years ago.

It also provides a firsthand familiarity with the shape and set of the eyes, the flair of the nostrils; he also uses reference photos.

Only the hide is used. Skinning is a precise procedure and then the hide is scraped, salted, washed, tanned (sometimes he sends hides out to be wet-tanned at a tannery) and the form must be prepared.

The polyurethane form must be the right size for the deer at hand. The precise features are re-created through clay sculpting added to the form, or rasping down where needed.

“It’s a sideline hobby, but it can get fairly busy.” He may build 20 heads per year and says he has done work for hunters in the Virden and Birtle area, some featured in Big Buck magazine.

Denbow produces shoulder mounts, or sets antlers on plaques. There is also what is known as a Euro-mount where the skull is cleaned, bleached and sealed - a bare bones trophy.

Denbow says that responsible hunters use the meat from the game they take. Keeping the horns, mounting the headare points of appreciation for that animal.

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