FORT KENT, Maine — Becoming a big-game taxidermist was never in Troy Pelletier’s plans when he thought about careers.
But when the person who preserved his game animals retired, the avid hunter from Fort Kent decided the only way to keep that legacy alive was to teach himself taxidermy.
Big game brings big tourism to Maine, to the tune of $6 billion and 35 million visitors to the state, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Much of this industry is concentrated in the densely wooded areas of Aroostook County, where only a handful of taxidermists practice their craft.
“We work so hard to hunt and get these bucks, and they mean a lot. I want them to be hanging on the wall looking just like they did when they were in the wild,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier, 32, a former logger, is now one of them, as proprietor of Pelletier Taxidermy in Fort Kent.
Pelletier said he knew he wanted to spend most of his time out in the woods since soon after he learned to walk.
“When I wasn’t out in the woods, I was thinking about being out there,” he said. “In school, I was the kid in geometry class with a North American Whitetail magazine tucked into my textbook, hoping that the teacher wouldn’t notice.”
Although taxidermy programs are available at community colleges, Pelletier is self-taught. He studied the techniques of some of the best taxidermists in the country, and applied their methods to develop his craft.
“My mentality is to never stop learning and improving, and being open to trying new ideas or methods to always improve the quality of my work,” he said.
Most of Pelletier’s clients are local hunters or those from all over the country who come to northern Maine to hunt with sporting camps and Maine guides.
He said he felt honored to mount a bull moose felled in 2020 by a member of the family who owns the outdoor recreation retail store Cabela’s.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to do work for a company that has done so much for the outdoor community,” Pelletier said. “As a kid I remember always being excited to find the newest edition of the Cabela’s catalog in the mail, and sifting through the pages for hours at a time.”
When the mount was complete, Pelletier shipped it to the client’s home in Texas. He uses a service that specializes in taxidermy to ship mounts to out-of-state hunters.
Pelletier said he considers taxidermy a form of art.
“It takes a lot of studying of the anatomy and colorations of the animal to recreate it properly,” he said. “Some of the finer artistic details include rebuilding muscle with clay and airbrushing color back into areas like the nose and skin surrounding the eyes.”
Of the many animals he has preserved, Pelletier said he does not have a favorite piece, but some do hold a bit more meaning than others.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to mount a few of my own Whitetails that I’ve taken over the last few years, so those are special to me,” he said.
When not preserving big game, Pelletier enjoys spending time with his family, especially wife Amanda Pelletier and the couple’s 2-year-old son, Parker. He can also be found in the woods scouting new areas for hunting season or shooting his bow.