Buck was known for many things and one of them was storytelling and his many interests. In the past this web page has had a few of the stories he told us. The following Buck Tale is about another of his interests beginning with a correspondence course Buck did while attending Hibbing High School.
Taxidermist Ė An Early Interest and a Correspondence Course
Bobcat Mount Late 1940s
Northern Pike Mount Late 1940s
Mount In Progress 1980s
Finished Mount 1980s
White Ptarmigan Mounts 1960s
My father, Buck Johnson, was a multi-talented individual. It seemed to me as a child that my dad could do anything he put his mind to. So it did not seem unusual that my father, in addition to his military career, was a taxidermist. We were used to the freezer-full of animals, fish, and birds waiting for their turn for dadís artistry to return them to their life-like beauty. To be sure, whenever a bill was due that his budget couldnít cover, Dad would get out a frozen carcass to mount and get to work.
This made us the curiosity of the neighborhood when we lived in St. Cloud, Minnesota. My little friends were afraid to go into what they considered a chamber of horrors. In the early years he did all his own tanning, necessitating large barrels of brine with hairy hides inside. These were especially scary. I can still smell the brine and hides and see the stretching boards with various furs displayed.
During that time period, Dad mounted some spectacular displays. One really amazed the neighbor kids: a male bear on his back legs in a threatening pose, a female on all fours, and two cubs playing. These were done for a hotel lobby and were there for many years. I also remember the full shoulder mount of a buffalo that had to be dispatched when being transported in a trailer and which went berserk. When Dad died, we donated the mount to a native tribe for their community room.
My little brother almost gave my poor father a heart failure one Sunday afternoon. Dad had been working on a trophy mountain goat with a very handsome goatee. Having finished for the day, Dad took a nap. My brother had just been learning how to use scissors and thought the goat would look better without that goatee. When Dad woke up, there was a commotion to be sure, but then Dad just set about sewing and reworking the missing hairs and no one would have ever known about the haircut.
We children were often treated to impromptu biology lessons. Dad might be readying a deer head to be mounted. The skull pulled back, the brain and eye muscles would be exposed. He would call us all around and show what would happen if he pulled on one muscle and the eye would move this way or that. Dad was always curious about how things worked and expected that we would be too. I think I still have learned that lesson and have never been afraid to try something new.
Dadís career as a taxidermist was begun when he enrolled in a mail-order class. Iím sure a lot of what he learned was through trial and error, but there was more. Dad was a keen observer of what the animals, fish, or birds would look and behave like. When we would be in a venue where other taxidermists were displaying their work, he would call us over and point out a really good mount and tell us why it was so natural---or conversely---he would point out that the animal would never be seen in a particular pose. Indeed he seemed to have an artistís eye for color and technique with paint and form. It shouldnít surprise anyone that his mother, Verna, was an accomplished painter.
We still have a number of his old mounts in the family cabin. Over time Dad experimented with new techniques and materials. For example, his last fish mounts would be molded in plaster of paris and then a plastic fill would replicate the minute details. After that, he would carefully air brush the colors into a life-like rendering of the real fish. Eventually, he quit doing mounts. He came out of retirement when George, my husband, shot his last two trophies. He was so proud that he hadnít lost his touch and so were we. These mounts grace the cabin and remind us of his many talents.
By Gail Johnson Huschle
Buck's daughter and George's wife.
How do I get that big buck onto the bed of my pickup when I am hunting alone?
This came from one of our customers, James Everson. Bring an old ladder along and leave it in the truck bed. When you get that big deer to the truck put the ladder on the ground and put the deer on top of the ladder. If you think the deer will shift when lifted you may want to tie it to the ladder. Now lift the end nearest the truck and position it on to the rear tailgate. Then go to the other end and lift and slide the ladder with deer on to the truck bed. It really does work. Thanks James.
If you have a story to share about Buck Deerscent please send it to our email address as a Word attachment or as text within the email.
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Buck Johnson Wildlife Scents, Inc.
PO Box 29, Grand Marais, MN 55604