When you walk into a tavern in a small fishing town, you generally see bad taxidermy.
At most gun, archery or tackle retailers you’ll see good taxidermy.
Matt Kapraun works to be a step above all of those.
A lifelong Harvard resident, the 32-year old Kapraun has been a taxidermist for ten years. Kapraun graduated with a degree in geology from Augustana but the job outlook was limited. Someone mentioned taxidermy to him and it appealed to his fondness for museum-quality exhibitions and the desire to own his own business. He attended a general taxidermy school and was on his way.
His first project was a deer head.
“It wasn’t very good,” Kapraun said. “I ended up having to re-do it.”
Since then, he has done countless birds, fish and animals, from domestics to exotics and all species in between.
Kapraun admits to not being very artistic through his school years.
“My artistic specialty was always stick figures,” he said.
Now, Kapraun’s work has a growing reputation. To be a top taxidermist is to be a top artist. A fish mount is painted from tip to tail fin, using brushes, powders and airbrush techniques.
On a bird or game, the feathers or fur has to be arranged properly, the hair patterns perfect.
“For animals, I like to mount them is a natural habitat setting,” Kapraun said. “Getting the habitat to be correct is almost harder than doing the animal itself. I am going to be doing a couple of mounts from New Zealand. The habitat there is totally unique and I’ve never created anything like it before. It will be a challenge. The best mounts are the most lifelike.”
At the Rosemont outdoor show a couple years back, Kapraun had a large booth filled with his work. When people turned the corner to find Matt’s mounts staring at them, he heard plenty of positive feedback.
The main piece was an adult lioness with its prey, a baby warthog, hanging from its mouth.
His work has been featured on the cover of “Taxidermy Today” magazine and he has been commissioned to do mounts of two world record fish, a huge brown trout from Wisconsin and a striper from Arkansas.