MARSHALL - Mike Dulas' original intent when he started taxidermy was to have something to keep him busy during the winter.
Dulas has started Buck 'n Rooster Taxidermy Shop, Studio and Gallery on East College Drive in Marshall.
Throughout his adult life, Dulas said he's done a variety of jobs - software engineer, a nuclear engineer and weapons officer on a submarine, building contractor, real estate broker and aerial spray pilot - among other things.
Photo by Cindy Votruba
Mike Dulas works on a taxidermy project in his new business, the Buck n’ Rooster Taxidermy Shop, Studio and Gallery he recently opened.
He learned the basics of carpentry from his father, Bernie.
Last year Dulas was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had surgery in December.
He had a restriction as to how much weight he could lift which left out taking care of snow removal in his property management job. So he decided to pursue something associated with his passion for the outdoors. Dulas went to Northwest Iowa School of Taxidermy to learn about one of the oldest professions in human history from Tom and Vicki Matuska.
That's where he learned how to "really do it right" when it came to taxidermy, Dulas said.
"I took the critters I made there and started a business," Dulas said.
Taxidermy is not just animal preservation, he said.
"It's really about animal artistry, giving a pheasant flight, attitude to a fish, personality to a bear," Dulas said. "Clients want to remember the hunt, how it was."
"It takes skill and patience of a craftsman to get realism," he added.
Marshall has a couple other good taxidermists, Dulas said, and he's the first to open a gallery and studio. He moved into his location the first part of March.
"My studio is new, and the time of the year is slower," Dulas said. "So I've been going to conventions and sportsmen's shows and learning."
He said a lot of interest was generated at the Tracy Area Sportsmen's Show.
And with Marshall being one of the hubs for outdoorsmen according to Outdoor Life magazine, Dulas said the Buck 'n' Rooster is a natural fit to the region.
Deer and pheasants are popular and Dulas expects he'll be busy with those this fall.
"Right now, fish are popular," he said.
Taxidermy takes all the skills he knows - welding, construction, Dulas said.
"It takes some thinking and you don't know what the end result will be," Dulas said.
Dulas refurbished the animal heads and trophies from the Wooden Nickel as one of his projects. He said he did it as a favor to a friend, Darv Ekness, the owner of the Nickel, which recently underwent major renovations.
"The animals haven't seen a lot of attention in years," Dulas said.
When he pulled off the panel behind the moose head, he found that it had a date of April 14, 1921, stamped on it. Once Dulas rid the 20-year-old buffalo head of popcorn, he repainted the cracks in the nose. Dulas gave the shark a touchup and a nice coat of paint as well as taking care of the scratches and gouges.
There are not a lot of products made specifically for taxidermy. Dulas said he even uses haircare products, from bleach to wig spray, as well as carpet glue and bondo.
"The tools and products are right off the shelf," Dulas said. "Lots of glue, lots of bondo, lots of airbrush paint."
What's fun about taxidermy is that every project is new and unique, Dulas said.
"Right now I really enjoy it," he said.
Dulas calls his taxidermy studio his "second home." He's looking to a grand opening in September, but he's been taking projects as they come.
"It's really easy to get wrapped up in a project," Dulas said. Sometimes it will be 10 p.m. before he looks at his watch, he said.