By Will McClure
With hunting season just around the corner, especially the beginning of dove season last weekend, hunters will be looking to take down game that they would be proud to have mounted on their wall. Well, these hunters need look no further than Paint Creek Taxidermy, a small business that began as a hobby for retired fire chief Wyatt Oakley, who has been building his business for the past four years. Oakley began reading about how to create mounts after a fishing trip, and what began as a hobby and something that he “wanted to try” has turned into a business venture.
“A friend and I went fishing five or six years ago and we caught two big, nice bass out of Lake Stamford, but we couldn’t find anybody to mount them. I decided that maybe I could do it so I started reading about it, watched some videos and did it. I went to the Texas Taxidermy Association conference….they have a competition there and I took that first fish and got third place with it,” Oakley said. Surprised with how well he did with the first piece he ever completed, Oakley began to delve more into the business and improve his skills. He purchased his current building on North Swenson to act as a sort of “toy box” which would allow him to continue working on taxidermy along with other projects such as woodworking. However, as his knowledge of taxidermy grew and he gained more experience, his shop morphed into the business as it stands today. Four years after entering the field of taxidermy, Wyatt Oakley has grown his business and has stated that he looks to continue to expand his knowledge and skill to become better over time.
When starting his business, Oakley learned quickly that there was more to taxidermy than many people may think. The process takes up a lot of time and one has to have a lot of patience and skill when working with a mount. Oakley himself stated that there was a lot of “hurry up and wait” moments as some steps, such as tanning a hide, waiting for a mold to finishing hardening or even waiting for a mannequin made out of a high-density Styrofoam to arrive to prepare it for the hide itself. When asked what is more difficult to mount, Oakley stated that smaller animals, such as a squirrel or a rabbit, are harder to work with for different reasons. He also stated bobcats are okay to work with, but are very thin skinned with one wrong move tearing the entire hide and ruining the mount. Although smaller animals can tend to be more difficult along with a lot of intricacies that goes into any mount, Oakley stated that he is always up for the challenge.
“That’s part of the art [of taxidermy] and that’s probably why I like doing it because everything’s different. I like things that are different. I like the challenge of trying to make it look as good as it did when it was alive,” Oakley said. “I learned real quick that you have to be an artist or perhaps have an artistic inclination to make it work.”
With countless ways to present a mount, such as having the illusion of a deer peering around a barbed-wire fence to a bobcat laying on a rock; Oakley puts forth his time and effort to bring perfection to each and every one of his pieces, right down to the last detail. Oakley said that he is his own worst critic, wanting to make sure that every last detail is perfect for the customer.
“I want it to be perfect, and if it’s not perfect, I’ll mess with it and mess with it and mess with it. I can probably pull down a deer mount [that’s been done for months] and look it over again and there’s probably some nitpick details that I’ll work on that I don’t like…I’m not going to put anything out that’s not quality,” Oakley said.
With the many tools of the trade at his disposal, Wyatt Oakley continues to put forth quality work time and time again, anticipating going a lot further in the field of taxidermy and possibly entering into the master’s division when going to competition. Until then, Oakley finds that he has lots to do and is up for any challenge. While many of his customers are local, Oakley has done work for customers in California, South Dakota, and Dallas. His work ranges from pigs, which he says are coming up, deer, European deer, bobcats, rabbits, fish and even a squirrel, showing his versatility when it comes to his work and even wants to do mounts for other animals. Wyatt Oakley is happy to have served Stamford for the last four years and will continue to do so in the near future. He invites anybody to come down to his shop anytime he is there to look at his showroom and even ask questions about the taxidermy process. He has shown to have passion in his work and wants to deliver the best he can do, with the mindset that if he would not put it on his wall, then it is unacceptable. Anyone interested in his service, can call Oakley at 325-201-6499 or come by his shop at 301 N. Swenson. Thank you, Wyatt Oakley, for your hard work and dedication and here is to your continued growth and success!