East Texas’ Premier Taxidermy Studio
The Sportsman’s Memory Shop
GRAPELAND- Taxidermy has been around for centuries. Saving trophies has always been one of man’s favorite pastimes. The Sportman’s Memory Shop in Grapeland, Texas has been helping hunters preserve their trophies since 1980, and has become East Texas’ premier taxidermy. Bobby Shaw and Robin “Trap” Coppedge started the business as two friends with similar interest in hunting, fishing, and taxidermy. Today they have an amazing team of artists who “bring ‘em back to life,” as they say.
The Sportman’s Memory Shop has five full-time taxidermists: Bobby Shaw, Trap Coopedge, Nathan Shaw, Nathan Rodriguez, and Levi Coppedge. Between the five of the taxidermists they have over 100 years of experience. Each of the taxidermists has their specialties, and each of them takes great pride in their work. Their artistic abilities have won them over 30 State, National, and World competition awards through the years. One of their mounts was even featured in the Whitehouse when George H. Bush was in office.
The Sportsman’s Memory Shop regularly prepares mounts commissioned by celebrities, governors, senators, state representatives, movie producers, CEO’s of major corporations, secret service agents, Texas Rangers, and most importantly, everyday hunters and fisherman. The studio mounts 500-600 mounts per year.
MYETX took a tour of The Sportsman’s Memory Shop with Nathan Shaw. Shaw showed us the ropes, and some of their work. We showed up on Alligator-Moving-Day, so we got to see their latest mount and work of art, as well as mounts they have done over the years, many of which have won them trophies and awards.
“It’s about tricking the eye,” Shaw said.
One of Shaw’s specialties is placing the eyes in the mounts, which is an extremely important aspect of taxidermy.
“You always hear that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and that is true of taxidermy as well. Eye placement is very important to the integrity of the mount,” Shaw said.
Shaw explained their process and the time frame in which the artistry occurs. According to Shaw, when the animals are brought in they are skinned, fleshed and salted, then sent off to a tannery. The horns or tusks are left behind where they are placed on mannequins. When the hides are sent back to the shop the taxidermists begin their process of placing them on a mannequin and. The process generally takes about a year per mount.
For the most part, taxidermists order mannequins for mounts, but in the last few years they have started mounting a certain fish for which a mannequin has not been created yet. About five years ago, gar fishing popularity exploded onto the scene. Since gar had traditionally been considered a trash fish no one has produced mannequins for the fish species.
The Sportman’s Memory Shop started experimenting with mounting gar that fisherman would bring into the studio. Their first gar mount still hangs in the back of the studio to serve as a reminder as to how far they have come with their techniques. Their first gar mount was sewn then stuffed. Today the team of taxidermists at Sportsman’s Memory hand-carve their own gar mannequins.
The Sportman’s Memory Shop mounts everything from whitetails to elephants. Their experience includes animals not only from East Texas and the United States, but from all over the world including Canada, Africa, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Afghanistan, England, France and Spain. Sportsman’s memory has ample experience in mounting all of the “Big Five,” which includes lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinoceroses.
Animals taken on safari go through a lengthy process before they ever make it to the taxidermy studio. According to Shaw, each animal must be brokered back into the country. The process can take six months to a year just to get them into the Unites States.
Over the years the guys at Sportsman’s memory have had the opportunity to mount numerous species. One of their favorite mounts was a polar bear.
“It was our first mount with water and ice, and it turned out great,” Nathan Rodriguez said.
Coppedge and Shaw have contributed to the industry in many ways over the last 33 years. They came up with the method of seamless mounts, and also created special hangers for taxidermists to use in their studios.
The Sportsman’s Memory Shop is located one mile north of Grapeland, Texas, on US HWY 287. Their business hours are from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturday. Their hours expand during deer season to accommodate hunters and they offer wild game processing during hunting season.
Visitors are always welcome! Go by and see what the guys at Sportsman’s Memory are working on and take a look around the shop at some of their impressive mounts. For more information visit www.thesportsmansmemoryshop.com or call 936-687-2945. You can also find them on Facebook!