It wasn't by grand design, lifelong dream or fate. No, Shawn Bloomfield's career choice stemmed from simple economics, or the lack of them.
He was 14, it was bow season and he had just bagged his first deer. He wanted the buck mounted but couldn't afford the $200 to pay a taxidermist, so he did the next best thing - he combined what his father taught him about tanning hides and the talent he inherited from his artist mother with a little mail order help.
"I ordered a kit, a squirrel-mounting kit from Van Dyke's [Taxidermy Supply], and I haven't stopped since," he said.
PHOTO BY JOHN MONTGOMERY
Shawn Bloomfield displays some of his work at his showroom in Bloomville.
Through trial and error - he chose the self-taught method over paying up to $13,000 to attend a special school - the 1997 Wynford graduate turned that money-saving endeavor into a moneymaker, opening Bloomfield's Taxidermy 12 years ago and operating it out of rural Bloomville home.
Though definitely something he enjoys, Bloomfield said he made the same error about it that many others do when they think of taxidermy - that it's a seasonal, come-and-go kind of career.
The truth, he said he soon learned, was just the opposite for full-timers.
While hunting seasons are seasonal, they lead to plenty of work.
Deer seasons, for example, often lead to customers bringing 150 projects to his shop. It's not so bad during the early part of archery season, when customers can expect a turnaround time of two to three months. But when gun season hits, the deer come in faster while the turnaround time slows to three to four months.
Bloomfield said it's common for him and his full-time worker to skin and prep 20 deer in a day for three weeks straight.
Then there's waterfowl, which also brings in federal regulations, along with turkey, fish, bear, raccoon, big game animals, all sorts of birds, and even pets. If it walks, crawls, flies or otherwise moves, it can be preserved in a variety of ways - full or partial body mounts, hide tanning and freeze drying.
And if that's not enough, Bloomfield's shop also takes care of tanning jobs for 20 to 30 other taxidermists, handling more deer, along with steers, buffalo, elk, etc.
Toss in 11-hour workdays and it's anything but a make-your-own schedule job.
"I thought it would be great, I would take whatever day off I wanted and I can go fishing or whatever. I've got two boats; I've got one up on Lake Erie and one here and I can't hardly ever get on them. I'm out here," Bloomfield said.
Even "here" can be work.
His shop is actually three buildings. One houses the main office and showroom, one is used for tanning and another houses the machines for freeze drying, fleshing, screening and tumbling skins.
He plans to construct one large building to house everything. In fact, that's been on the drawing board for a while, but the constant workload has made it all but impossi