MPW.71 / 2019 The Taxidermist by Jesse Winter
Photographer
Jesse Winter Vancouver, Canada
Team Eppridge

Story Summary

Lifelong Boonville resident Gary Sharp spent decades as a school teacher and track coach. He retired in 2003.

“I lost the fire,” he says. “It was time.”

As his passion for teaching waned, he found a new one in taxidermy. But there’s a hitch – Gary doesn’t hunt.

“Putting the animal on the ground isn’t what’s important,” he says. “I just love animals.”

Instead of hunting, he’s been bringing them back to life for more than 20 years. What started as a hobby has become an all-consuming job. He has a freezer full of skins for his own personal projects that he can never quite get to finishing, he says. Gary shares his knowledge of the craft with a wide network of other taxidermists across the state.

“I’ve never met a taxidermist who wasn’t willing to share what they know,” he said.

Gary figures he’s done probably 800 to 900 white tail deer since he first started stuffing animals. He’s done everything from a weasel to a rhinoceros, he says.

After 15 years of this second career, Sharp is planning his second retirement. He and his wife want to go traveling. They think maybe to the Yukon.

“The farther north you go, the bigger the animals get,” he says.