By Tammy Jordan
BVD 

Preservation perseverance

For more than three decades, JR's Taxidermy of Lincoln has kept hunting memories alive for customers

 

February 12, 2020

Roger Dey

The showroom at JR's Taxidermy shows of a wide variety of mounts, from elk, deer, and moose to a wolf and a mountain lion.

If you've been in Lincoln for any length of time, you've probably met Jay Roberson of JR's Taxidermy. What you may not know is that he's been providing taxidermy services to Lincoln and beyond for nearly 34 years.

Roberson first came to Lincoln when he was only five-years-old. Originally from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Roberson spent a lot of time here as a child. He attended school here in the third grade and during his senior year in high school, was able to spend the entire hunting season here.

"Every time I visited, I didn't want to leave." Roberson recalls, and in 1988, he moved his family here and made the stay permanent.

Roberson's taxidermy career began in 1987, although he says he's always had an interest in it. He remembers doing taxidermy through the mail as a kid and says he still has those books today. He also has fond memories of being about 14 or 15 years old when his dad took him to a local taxidermist where they mounted a crow together.


"That's what really got my hands into it and where I became more interested in taxidermy," he said.

When Roberson was in taxidermy school, he did more fish and birds and says that most people getting into taxidermy start with the smaller animals and work their way to the bigger things. He no longer does fish and birds, and now specializes in larger animals.

One area of taxidermy Roberson doesn't work in are people's pets.

"It's not that I mind doing them, but it's different than working on wildlife.  Hunters who have a mount done are looking for an anatomically correct piece, whereas a pet owner had lived with the pet for some period of time and is looking for more of a memory piece. They expect the pet to look the same as when it was alive, and he doesn't want to disappoint them.

By and large, Roberson works on deer more than anything. This year, however, he received a crate from New Zealand and Africa containing goat, red stag, tahr, chamois, fallow deer and wallaby.

One of his biggest projects was a 1000-pound bear that required a hoist to move the form to complete it. He recalls one of the coolest things he's worked on was a shoulder mount of giraffe, which measured about nine feet from the shoulder to the top of the head. "It was pretty big," he said, and mentioned that he's got another one to do this year.


Most people don't realize all the steps it takes to create a mount. When Roberson receives an item, it's raw and needs to be salted and trimmed before it can be sent to the tannery.  The tannery process takes four to five months. When he receives it back, the hide still needs to be thinned and prepped, while the form needs to be prepared with antlers. Then, the piece can be mounted, which entails several hours of hand-sewing. The final steps are to putty and paint before the mount is complete.

But, it doesn't end there. Roberson also builds the crates, packages and then ships the final product off to the customer. In some taxidermist businesses, there are people s to complete each of those steps, but Roberson handles all the steps himself, and he likes it that way.

First and foremost Roberson credits his success in the taxidermy business to his wife, Lisa.

"She's always allowed me to do what I needed to do and always had a job that paid the bills and provided medical insurance so that I could," he said. "I know that without her I would never be where I am today, and it's been that way from the very beginning. all the way through my career."

Roberson considers himself very lucky to be able to do what he loves and appreciates those who have supported him throughout the years. In the 34 years he's been in business he's seen an increase in his work volume, and says it's been through mostly word of mouth. He now has generational customers, where he's done work for grandfathers, fathers and sons.


"It's pretty satisfying to know that my work carries on through generations," he said.

His gallery shows many of his works from his career, including those he's won competitions with. One of his most memorable awards came when he got into the Master's Category with his work and received the Award of Excellence.

Roger Dey

A nearly-finished mule deer mount hangs in Roberson's work area.

 

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