Taxidermist Sets Up Shop in Mack Town

Is your wall missing something? Maybe a giant elk’s head? Or are you looking for a way to immortalize that trophy steelhead you caught last year? Look no further than Gatton Taxidermy, Humboldt County’s only taxidermy shop. Located at 1580 Nursery Rd., the shop specializes in big game shoulder mounts and fish replicas, among other things.
taxidemrist.abalone “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said shop owner Reed Gatton, whose walls are decorated with monstrous abalone shells and a kudu (African antelope) shoulder mount. Before the shop opened, Gatton says there were only a handful of taxidermists working out of their homes. “I saw a niche that needed to be filled,” he said. “There needed to be a shop.”
For Gatton, an avid outdoorsman, taxidermy was a natural line of work to get into. “I’ve been hunting, fishing, and diving since I was a little guy,” he said. He says he started out making fish replicas in his garage after catching some huge steelhead. “I love painting the fish and bringing them to life.”
Gatton learned the craft from his neighbor, and the two eventually decided to open a shop together, Gallo and Gatton Taxidermy. When the neighbor relocated to southern California, Gatton purchased his own licenses and equipment and took over the business. He says the majority of his work is with big game like elk, but he also does deer, snakes, bears, and pretty much anything else people bring in. He is also working on an impressive life-size abalone display that shows what the mollusks look like in their natural setting. There is one thing Gatton doesn’t do, however. “We get that request quite often. We don’t do pets.”
The art of taxidermy has been around for hundreds of years, and was originally used by anthropologists and museums to preserve specimens. Eventually hunters and outdoorsmen began to use the process to display their trophy kills. For Gatton, the process begins by tanning the hide, which can take several months. Next he orders a polyurethane form that closely matches the shape of the animal being preserved. Once he gets the form, Gatton begins the process of shaping it to exactly fit the tanned hide, trimming the form or adding clay as needed. Once the form is shaped it gets roughed, prepped, and then starting with the head, the hide gets sewn onto the form. If there is a rack it gets attached, everything gets a touch-up, and the piece is ready for mounting in your den or man-cave.
“One of the best parts is when they come in to pick it up and they just get pumped,” says Gatton. “They get to relive that hunt or adventure.”
The fish replicas are a little bit different in that they are resin or fiberglass sculptures that don’t contain any animal parts. They can be created based on a photograph, measurements, or from memory. Once the form is shaped, it’s painted to resemble the fish in its natural habitat. This way a fish can be caught and released and you can still get a life-like replica for your wall. Gatton also creates realistic backgrounds or mounts for the replicas, making them true pieces of art.
Gatton move to Humboldt over ten years ago after getting discharged from the Navy. While growing up in Lake County, he visited Trinidad often and knew he wanted to live in the area someday. “Three hours east and you’re in the Trinity Alps, which are amazing,” he said. “We’ve got the ocean in our back yard, and all the rivers in between. It’s really special.”
The abundance of outdoor activities in the area is part of the reason Gatton thinks the business will be successful. “Buck season is coming in August and September. Hopefully I can get the word out by then,” he says. “I’m excited for the next few years”
Gatton Taxidermy can be reached at (707) 599-4282

3 thoughts on “Taxidermist Sets Up Shop in Mack Town

  1. Alice,
    I’m sorry about that comment. I was out of town and unable to do much with the website. There’s a pathetic, uneducated racist nincompoop who likes to leave nasty comments on my site once in awhile. I usually catch them early and delete them, but I was in Puerto Vallarta. – Jack

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