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Thank you for your interest in the Northwest Iowa School of Taxidermy. At this time we are not taking any applications for our 2021 classes, as the winter class has been filled and we are not offering any other 2021 classes at this time. Please check our website later in the year for any possible 2022 classes that may be offered.


Tom Matuska


Northwest Iowa School of Taxidermy is a residential, nine-week program where students learn how to become a taxidermist, including a complete working knowledge of five major areas of commercial as well as competition taxidermy. In addition, students will learn added curriculum such as business practices and pricing, airbrushing, fiberglass reproductions, form alteration, mold making, freeze drying and much more!


1. Fish Taxidermy

Students will learn the Matuska Taxidermy Studio‘s award-winning techniques for flexible fins, open gills, life-like coloration, finish work and habitat bases. Students will be instructed in custom carved bodies and commercial purchased manikins as well as the molding and casting of fiberglass reproductions.

Fish portion includes:

  • Specimen handling and care

  • Skinning and fleshing

  • Measurements and pattern making

  • Body fabrication (carved foam) and mounting

  • Gill and flexible fin treatment

  • Reconstruction of fleshy areas

  • Casting and molding reproductions

  • Habitat construction and design

  • Airbrush coloration

  • Marketing

Students will usually complete 4-8 assorted fish mounts.* Students are encouraged to bring quality specimens or a selection will be provided by the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


2. Bird Taxidermy

Upland game birds and waterfowl will comprise the bird portion of the course. Students will experience the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest and will acquire the knowledge and ability to artistically recreate her winged creatures. Students will also be instructed in the proper use of synthetic heads and feet, a major breakthrough in accuracy, speed, and longevity of the mount.

Bird portion includes:

  • Specimen handling and care

  • Skinning and fleshing

  • Artificial bird body preparation

  • Mounting

  • Feather placement

  • Airbrush coloration

  • Habitat arrangement

  • Marketing


Each student will usually complete 2-3 game birds. Students may bring their own specimens or they may be purchased from the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


3. Game Heads

Each year thousands of game heads find their way into the hands of taxidermists across the country. Students will learn anatomy, along with Tom Matuska’s mounting methods, which put them far ahead of the competition in speed, realism and durability.

Game head portion includes:

  • Specimen handling and care

  • Measurements

  • Skinning and fleshing

  • Coding

  • Salting

  • Complete tanning

  • Form selection and preparation

  • Mounting

  • Finish work

  • Base/habitat

  • Marketing

Each student will usually complete two “deer-sized” game heads during this portion of the course.* Students may bring their own game heads or they may be purchased from the school. This portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


4. Life-Size Mammals

From the curiosity in the eyes of the playful raccoon to the cunning look on the face of a stalking cougar, our students will acquire the skill and knowledge to successfully mount the many mammals they will encounter in their business. Each student has their own specimen package so students learn not only from their mounts, but from the mounts of their fellow students.

Life-size portion includes:

  • Specimen handling and care

  • Measurements

  • Skinning and fleshing

  • Hide treatment

  • Complete tanning

  • Form selection

  • Mounting

  • Finishing

  • Base/habitat

  • Marketing

Each student will usually mount one medium life-size (such as a bobcat or coyote) mammal.* The school can provide students with a large variety of mammals to choose from or they may bring their own. The life-size portion consists of approximately 80 hours of training.


*Students wishing to do larger specimens such as turkey, cougar or bear may be limited in other curriculum areas due to time constraints. If another instructor is needed due to the size and complexity of the project, there will be an added expense.


Additional Curriculum

What truly sets our taxidermy school apart is the comprehensiveness of our training program. Beyond learning to make artistic and life-like mounts, our taxidermy school teaches business practices and other essentials that are the foundation of a successful taxidermy career. This curriculum consists of a minimum of 40 hours.


Airbrush Techniques

Knowing how to airbrush is essential to a successful taxidermy business. We teach: airbrush choice and selection, spraying acrylics vs. lacquers, advanced color application procedures and techniques, color blending, spotting and marking methods, paint reduction and property alterations, airbrush maintenance and cleaning.



A basic understanding of the skeletal design and musculature of the animals that a student will be working with is essential. We will train you in applying veining, accent to muscle detail and give realistic expression to your mounts.


Base-Making Design and Composition

Realistic base work natural to the animal’s habitat adds life and interest to a quality mount. Each student will be instructed on how to replicate artificial snow, water, ice, icicles, foliage, rocks, etc. Students will design and construct their own dioramas for their mounts. Note: Students will complete an assortment of attractive bases and habitats to their mounts. If large, complex bases require extra time and expense, students may have to adjust their specimen package and may have additional costs.



Each student will be advised in proper business practices, beginning with building your business from the ground up and advertising techniques that work. Students will receive instruction on accurately pricing their work by evaluating cost per hour and overhead along with necessary record keeping methods.


Fiberglass/Graphite Fish Reproduction

Catch and release fishing is the wave of the future. Students are instructed in casting and reproducing fish from the actual specimen, as well as painting and finishing commercial reproductions.


Form Alteration

Form alteration is essential to creative taxidermy. Students will learn time efficient methods to add muscle or change size, bulk, girth, pose or position. Creative alterations enhance a mount from average to spectacular.


Freeze Drying

Students will acquire a working knowledge of the freeze dry system and its practicality and applications in today’s taxidermy industry. Major problems as well as advantages will be evaluated.



State and Federal regulations and how they affect the taxidermist is covered in depth. Students learn state and federal fish and game record keeping and tagging in compliance with state and federal regulations.


Reference Filing

Collecting and filing photos, sketches, measurements is necessary to the construction of quality mounts. Good references will prove invaluable to the beginning taxidermist as well as the veteran alike. The accuracy of the mounted animal is what produces realistic trophies.



All students learn our studio’s technique to complete the initial taxidermy portion of their rugs and then given the necessary information needed to send their rugs to a professional Ruggeri to insure a beautiful high quality product.



A variety of tanning methods will be discussed. Many capes and hides mounted by the student will be tanned in our studio using a premium commercial tan. Students are trained in machine fleshing, beam shaving and finish fleshing, which are all crucial to the tanning procedure.

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