Montana School of Taxidermy and Tanning 3280 Green Meadow Drive, Helena, MT 59601 - (406) 443-0022
(406) 443-0022
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Class Schedule
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Montana School of Taxidermy and Tanning

Class Schedule & Course Description

CLASS SCHEDULE, 2023 (All Classes Open)

Winter 2023 Full Course January 2 - March 3
  Big Game January 2 - 26
  Birds January 27 - February 7
  Fish February 8 - 24
  Advanced Habitat February 27 - March 3
Tanning Class Tanning Class
March 8 - 31
We do not close for any holidays. Students are allowed to work Monday and Tuesday evenings.


All classes listed below taken together for full course is 328 clock hours.
3-Week Big Game Class
(120 clock hours)
Class starts with the basics, the proper way to make a death mask for future references, the sizing and measuring of big game heads and life size for ordering forms and the proper ways to make cuts for shoulder mounts, rugs, and life size. Then students will be required to properly flesh and prep (turn lips, eyes, nose and ears) on all their specimens, salt properly and then begin the process of tanning, all skins will be tanned on site. Our tanning process is the most detailed and modern in the country.

Students will be required to tan all their specimens as follows: salting, pickling, shaving, tanning (Knoblochs tan, TX2001), oiling, staking, and final tumble. Once the tanning is complete students begin the process of mounting a white tail deer shoulder mount, which includes: pouring their first form, form preparation, antler setting, eye setting, form alteration, and mounting. We practice setting eyes for several days so students become proficient at it. Each student is required to mount three big game shoulder mounts, and one life size during the big game class, but is encouraged to do more if time allows.

How to sculpt and make a fiberglass mold is also taught and the class will participate in the actual making of the mold and pouring a form from it.

There will be a rug demonstration as well with the students having a hands on participation with its completion. We cover all aspects of the business end of taxidermy in this class as well: shop layout, tools and supplies needed, advertising, insurance, taxes, determining shop overhead, employing shop personnel and shop contracts, how to build tanning equipment, proper way to set up your shaver, and operate your own tannery.
9-Day Bird Class
(72 clock hours)
First day is a demonstration day of how to mount a pheasant, then the students are off to the races mounting their own birds. The students are required to mount three birds, but many do more. We cover the merits of using a real head versus an artificial one and a wrapped body compared to a form body. Each student is required to mount a flying bird, standing bird and the third bird is of their choice. One pheasant, one waterfowl are mandatory, the third bird is of their choice.
12-Day Fish Class
(96 clock hours)
On the first day of class the instructor will demonstrate the complete process of mounting a trout using the actual skin (skinning, fleshing, curing, making a template, pouring a form, carving the form, mounting and posing). The next day students are skinning and mounting their first fish. Each student is required to mount five natural skin mounts and one fiberglass reproduction. Four of the skin mounts are mounted one sided and the fifth skin mount is mounted and displayed two sided. Of the five skin mounts at least one has to be a hard scale fish (e.g., bass, pike, etc.). The fiberglass reproduction can be any species. Students will paint all fish using an Aztec double action airbrush using water based acrylic paints (Polytranspar and wild life colors). All aspects of airbrushing will be covered as well as the proper way to use spot markers, colored pencils, colored waxes, and scale tipping.
1-Week Habitat Class
(40 clock hours)
All aspects of habitat construction will be covered including making artificial rocks from molds, hand carving large artificial rocks, water features, snow and ice, use of natural and artificial plants, building artificial limbs and trees, gathering grasses and ground litter and how to preserve them. The use of the newer method of a rock panel will also be demonstrated. Students will be required to complete three habitat pieces, one for their life size game animal one for their bird, and one for their two sided fish. The proper way to price your habitat will be discussed in detail.
TOTAL HOURS: 328 clock hours


  1. Measuring & sizing big game heads.
  2. Making death masks (plaster/clay method)
  3. Proper way to cape heads
  4. Preparing capes (splitting lips, eyes, nose, turning ears & fleshing).
  5. Salting capes
  6. Saltroom order (proper way to salt and store capes for curing).
  7. Tanning (teaching total procedures using several tanning formulas & methods). Students will be required to tan everything they mount.
    a. Rehydrating
    b. Bating
    c. Washing
    d. Shaving (using several brands of rotary knives)
    e. Degreasing
    f. Pickling
    g. Tanning (using TX-77, alum, and tan TX-2001)
    h. Oiling skins
    i. Drying
    j. Staking.
    k. Drumming (using several types of mixes and deodorizers).
    l. Finishing skins.
  8. Mold making (sculpting a deer head using references and a death mask, demonstrated). Students will actually make the fiberglass mold and pour form upon completion.
  9. Proper way to settle antlers on forms, plus how to use the new shed systems!
  10. Preparing forms for mounting (cutting lips, contouring, dewaxing and modeling nose).
  11. Practice setting eyes (students are required to set eyes at the beginning of each day for several days until they become proficient).
  12. Final prep of tanned capes (sewing/thinning).
  13. Setting ears (plastic vs. bonded method).
  14. Prefitting capes on forms (includes teaching students how to alter forms in ever way to fit capes).
  15. Mounting (using all the best commercial methods), carding, grooming, putting & Finishing ( we paint all heads using an Aztek double action airbrush with polytranspar and wildlife colors paints).
  16. Proper way to hang & display heads.
  17. Altering life-size forms.
  18. Basic habitat building (basic rock making and basic snow and ice scenes, using several methods & materials, i.e. snow flocking scene, water scene, etc.).
  19. Base building (framing).
  20. Crating heads for shipping.
  21. Ruging (latest commercial methods used).
  22. Building stretching tables.
  23. How to build tanning equipment needed to operate your own tannery, (staking machine, tumblers, wet wheels, hide sanders).
  24. Proper way to set up your shaver.
  25. Business course is now taught throughout the course (shop contracts, shop layout, advertising, insurance, taxes, determining shop overhead, pricing, phone presentation, determining tools & supplies needed, shop location (zoning), determining shop size, employing personnel and workers comp.
  26. Bird mounting.
    a. Wrapped method vs. foam bodies. Use of artificial heads.
    b. Washing, degreasing & tanning vs. Boraxing.
    c. Proper tumbling.
    d. Displaying (includes habitat building).
    e. Finishing & painting.
  27. Fish mounting.
    a. Carving fish bodies vs. pouring fish bodies
    b. Displaying (includes habitat building).
    e. Repairing damaged skins.
    d. Artificial reproduction vs. skin mounts.
    e. Painting (all fish are painted using Aztek double action airbrushes with polytranspar water based paints).
  28. Teaching students how to score for Boone & Crockett
  29. Catalog inventory (students will order and receive approximately 15 supply catalogs and organize to buy best forms & supplies available).
  30. Students are required to pour at least one foam form.
  31. Advanced Habitat Class - Conducted during the final (eighth) week of the Commercial Taxidermy Class).


  1. To teach the basic taxidermy skills necessary to become proficient at commercial taxidermy, tanning, and habitat.

  2. To allow the student to develop these skills through mounting, tanning, mold making, and basic habitat planning.

  3. To allow the student time to proceed at his own pace with close personal supervision.

  4. To expose student to necessary business skills and procedures vital to a successful commercial taxidermy operation.


Monday - Friday and occasional Saturdays

  • 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

The school is open to students Monday and Tuesday nights from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

We are not closed for any holidays.


Students can take all or any portions of the course at anytime. Most students take the full course, but part-time students are welcome. Partial classes are priced higher to encourage full course enrollment.


Big Game Course 3 Weeks $2,600
Bird Course 9 Days $900
Fish Course 2 Weeks $1,300
Advanced Habitat Course 5 days $800
Tanning Course (if taken separately) 3 Weeks $3,000


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