Jim Unger probably couldn't have picked a better place than Mafeking to set up a taxidermy business.
Located in town just off Highway 10, he's well situated to pick up business from the many American hunters and fishermen on their way to and from Manitoba's famed lakes and wilderness areas.
Jim and his wife Noella opened Porcupine Mountain Taxidermy & Novelties in October 2000. They received many letters of support from outfitters in the area who saw a taxidermy business as a highly desirable service.
Jim has also established mutually beneficial working relationships with several trappers operating registered traplines around Mafeking. He often buys furs from them and then does the tanning himself on the smaller pieces, producing finished skins or mounts for sale.
The Ungers received a loan from Community Futures Cedar Lake Region to establish Porcupine Mountain Taxidermy and Novelties. This covered the purchase of a building and renovations to the building including construction of an 8' x 10" walk-in freezer, installation of a security system and basic tools of the trade.
"Cedar Lake was very helpful," says Jim. "When I spent more on the renovations than I anticipated, I found I was short money for paints. I needed those for the finishing of the products. I asked them for an extension of the loan. We talked it through. They're open to listen to you."
Taxidermy is an extremely detail-oriented business, and is a process that cannot be rushed. Jim and Noella estimate that it took about 40 hours from start to finish to produce the 200-pound timber wolf mount they have on display at their shop.
Jim had been working as a guide and doing taxidermy work on an ad-hoc basis when he decided to make taxidermy his main line of work. An eight-week course through the Canadian College of Taxidermy in McCreary, Manitoba gave him the finer points of the craft.
Business is building for the Ungers, and customer relations play a big part. "You get to know a lot of customers personally. I take them fishing after," he says.