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Landmark News Service
As a little girl, Alicia Love wanted to be an artist; then she aspired to be a veterinarian.
As a grown-up, Love combined the two pursuits. Now she’s an award-winning taxidermist.
She took home some top honors from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Grand National Taxidermy Contest and has won blue ribbons for previous work.
Not many women enter the Wild Turkey Federation contest, Special Events Coordinator Karen Cavender said.
People often express surprise when they hear a woman performs what some consider the messy job of animal preservation and display, Love said.
The Glendale woman – who opened Bluegrass Bucks & Birds Taxidermy two years ago – started hunting after she married her husband.
“I wasn’t going to stay home while he went hunting all the time,” she said.
She arms herself with a compound bow, rifle or shotgun. Turkey season, her favorite, begins next month.
That’s the animal that won her the most awards during the recent taxidermy event.
Judges at competitions look for a variety of details, from feather placement to unwanted skin wrinkles.
“Everything matters,” Love said.
Love fits the animal’s skin around a polyurethane foam mold. She also paints turkey legs and heads, which she sends off to be freeze dried, and then re-attaches them with Bondo.
Freeze drying removes colors from specimens. Love uses red, white and blue paint for the skin on the heads. That replicates how the birds appear in springtime.
“I put a lot of time into them,” she said.
Love has heard of someone putting 1,600 hours into preparing a deer mount.
At last month’s Wild Turkey Federation contest in Nashville, Love won Best of Show, Competitors’ Choice and Best Strutting awards in the Wild Turkey Professional Division.
She also won Best Closed Mouth Deer in the White-tailed Deer Professional Division.
Cavender said 25 taxidermists competed with 50 entries.
The National Wild Turkey Federation is a nonprofit organization that works to conserve the birds and preserve “hunting heritage,” according to its Web site.