Taxidermy has been in Tom Weatherson’s blood since he was a young man starting some 30 years ago, when he lived in Kerman, west of Fresno. His father, who was a hunter and also a taxidermist, was his primary influence and teacher.
By the time he turned 18 he mounted his first deer, he said. Soon he was mounting deer and other animals for friends, improving his skills and establishing himself as an expert taxidermist.
Weatherson, a resident of Chester for nearly 24 years, said he’s had a number of jobs before working as a fulltime taxidermist, including as a meat cutter, and later worked 18 years for the Collins Pine Co. in the carpentry shop and then as a mill wright or mechanic.
“It got to the point three years ago that I decided to do taxidermy as my regular vocation,” he said, calling his business Almanor Taxidermy. “It’s been an ongoing learning process over the years,” he added, “finding different ways to tan animal skins and learning new techniques.”
Weatherson is a 22-year member of the California Association of Taxidermy, and participates in the association’s annual competition where he not only competes, but also attends seminars to see how the masters work. “So you learn from the best,” he added.
Over several years of competition, Weatherson has himself attained a master level in the game head and bird division.
Weatherson said his deep understanding of animal anatomy makes him also highly proficient with elk, deer, coyotes, fox, antelope, bobcat, big horn sheep and many other life-size game animals and fish.
Weatherson said his sons Cole and Travis have also been following in his footsteps, learning the trade of taxidermy in dad’s workshop. He even teaches seminars on occasion on behalf of the California Association of Taxidermy to student taxidermists in Chico.
An archery-hunter himself, most of the animals he works on come from hunters who bring him game from different parts of California, both from far-flung areas of the state and locally, plus such distant lands as New Zealand, Argentina and occasionally exotic animal species shipped from Africa, for example.
Weatherson has won a rack of awards, which he has hanging in his workshop, including several from the California Association of Taxidermy Annual Convention, the Judge’s Choice and Best of Show awards from the taxidermy magazine Breakthrough, the 2017 Taxidermist of the Year from the Western States Taxidermy Championships, and many other awards spanning the years.
Currently, some of his work can be seen on display at Plumas Bank in Chester and at Mountain Custom Framing & Gifts in Old Town Chester next to the Elks Lodge on Main Street.
Weatherson said he gets an enormous amount of satisfaction as a taxidermist, adding that he’s always upgrading his knowledge. “This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”
Weatherson’s Almanor Taxidermy business is not a retail operation, but hunters who are considering mounting their game and want the services of a taxidermist can contact him by calling 816-0197, or [email protected] and arrange an appointment to visit his taxidermy workshop in Chester. Fishermen can have their catches reproduced as well.
You can see more information about his business and awards on Facebook under Almanor Taxidermy.