Achievers: Taxidermist wins award at world competition
CHINO VALLEY - A hunting and fishing background led to a three-decade hobby in taxidermy for Kerby Ross.
Ross, 50, recalls taking taxidermy as a science class while attending Northwestern High School in Wayne County, Ohio.
"In fact, I quit playing football in order to take it," Ross said.
He said the teacher required him to do skin mounts - from dead creatures - of a bird, fish and animal.
He later earned a bachelor's degree in history from Kansas State University and a master's degree in management from Webster University in St. Louis.
While he joined the military and pursued various occupations, Ross continued taxidermy as a hobby. A medical retirement in May from his former job as a detention officer with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has given him more time to pursue the hobby - and enter competitions.
Ross said he has entered statewide shows for 12 years, and took part in May at the World Taxidermy Championships in St. Charles, Mo. He returned to his Chino Valley-area home with first-place ribbons in reptile reproductions of a Cuban rock iguana and a desert tortoise.
"You get judged by world-class judges, and you learn," Ross said. "They point out how you can improve."
Ross improves his taxidermy craft "exponentially year after year," said Terry Johnson, president of the Arizona Taxidermy Association, which has at least 50 members.
"It is a matter of practice and it is a matter of repetition and using different materials, methods and techniques," Johnson said.
Johnson, who has known Ross for about five years, said he bought a reproduction from Ross that he describes as being "very nice."
Ross said he used rubber silicone to make molds from the tortoise and iguana, and poured plastic to make casts. He orders reptile specimens from zoos and other breeders.
He said most of his customers are hunters and fishermen who bring in deer, trout, birds or other wildlife. He makes skin mounts of birds, animals and some fish.
Ross is one of 14 licensed taxidermists within Region 3 of the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, customer service representative Sheila Martin said. The region stretches from Mayer west to Bullhead City.
Ross said he enjoys taxidermy because it involves artistry. He said he might expand his hobby because he will not receive a paycheck "anytime soon."
Editor's note: If you have a suggestion of a local person to feature in Achievers, call 445-3333, ext. 2041, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.