Shawnti Coolahan believes taxidermy is a misconceived industry.
The Mansfield taxidermist, who runs Alpine Artistry with her husband Glen, is working to change attitudes about the industry.
“People think it’s just done out in the back shed, but we’re trying to show that we’ve made a business out of it, and we do it in a professional manner,” Ms Coolahan said.
She said while the process was often considered “barbaric”, taxidermy was actually an artistic practice.
“People think it’s just shooting and stuffing animals, they think it’s gross, but that’s because they don’t understand it,” she said.
The most common animals they turn into pieces of art in Victoria are fallow and samba deer.
But they do all species, from local, interstate and even international hunters.
She said the only part of a deer used in taxidermy is its skin and antlers.
They turn the skin into leather, and then sculpt a styrofoam form, which represents the animal’s head, and is what they put the leather on top of.
She said it was a very popular practice all around the world.
“Hunting is not an easy pursuit, and hunters are very passionate about it, so it’s sort of keeping it in memory and honouring the animal for what it was,” she said.
As hunters themselves, the Coolahans identified a need for a local taxidermist in Victoria, so decided to fill the gap.
“The hunting industry in Victoria alone is a multi-million dollar industry, it creates a huge amount of revenue,” she said.
“Thousands of hunters are in pursuit of game, it’s a good pastime for families and it gets people outside and in the bush.”
They are passionate about hunting, and it has taken them on journeys all around the world.
Ms Coolahan said as well as being a way to manage rapidly growing populations, the meat from the animals was a commodity, and was used to feed many families.
She said venison was actually a very healthy meat.
“It’s high protein meat, with very low fat, and no antibiotics in it,” she said.
“Anything you can make with beef, you can make using venison.”
She recommended anyone unsure about the industry to come and have a look at what they do.
“We’ve had a lot of people come through and have a sticky beak, and it’s really opened their eyes,” she said.
“We’re trying to make it not seem like such a bad thing, and it isn’t, we’re meat eaters, and hunting is the same as buying your meat from a supermarket, except we just harvest it ourselves.”