Highland County Taxidermist Wins Best in the World Title

“A lotta people think o’ taxidermy, it’s like go to their grandpa’s house and see an old nasty lookin’ deer hangin’ up.  It’s not like that.  I mean, you’re talkin’ this stuff that looks like it’s breathin’.  It’s the ‘Super Bowl of Taxidermy’, basically.”  That is Harold McGuire of McDowell, Virginia, describing the World Taxidermy and Fish Carving Championships, held every two years as the largest industry trade show in the world for taxidermists.  This year, the event was held in Springfield, Missouri from April 30 – May 4, 2019 with people from all 50 states and 22 nations.  Harold McGuire of McGuire’s Taxidermy and Freeze Drying made the 17-hour drive to the show with a strutting turkey mount.  He arrived a first-time competitor, but he left as something else: a World Champion.

Harold McGuire won the Best in the World Title in the Master Division Turkey Category.  Just to give you an idea of how difficult this accomplishment is, a person has to win two blue ribbons in state shows in the Professional Division to even compete in Masters.  In the Masters Division at the World Championships, a person must score an average of at least 90 points from two of the toughest judges in the industry to win first-place, which means in some years, there is no winner at all.  Harold’s mount scored an average of 93.5.  Since the championships started in 1982, Harold is only #6 on the list of first-place winners in the Turkey Category.

The journey to creating the strutting turkey mount that would one day become World Champion material began several years ago.  Harold says, “A guy had given me a turkey a few years back, and he wanted the meat out of it, so I skinned the turkey out, gave him the meat, and I knew it had a really, really good skin on it, good feathers and be a good competition bird, and I started competing in 2015, and, so, I was savin’ that turkey, and then I decided we was goin’ to go to the World Show, and I put it together, worked on it for probably four to six weeks solid and got everything right and got it done!”

Harold says he strives to make the finished mount look alive.  He says, “In other words, you gotta make the animal look almost better than it does in the wild, and that’s the truth, and at the World Show, your final score is based on your habitat, too.  It’s not just on actual taxidermy.  You could have the best turkey there but have poor artistic value, like a poor base, and you’re gonna get a lower score than a guy’s got a medium-grade turkey but excellent artistic value.  So, I freeze-dried some morels and tried to do the rock, the base it was on, made that out of papier-mâché and tried to make it look as much like the forest floor as I could.”

Harold was self-taught taxidermy from watching video tapes, and he has been working on his craft for 24 years.  His emotions couldn’t be held back when describing what the win means.  “It’s almost like you came full-circle for me.  I mean I won – you know, I – I won best in the world,” he says while choking back tears.  “It means a lot to me.  So, it means a lot to me.  It means a lot to my business.  You know, it’ll be with me forever.  I’ve already had turkeys shipped in from Tennessee, Michigan and South Carolina since I won that award.  I mean, everybody wants to get somethin’ out of our World Champion.  I mean, I would, you know, even though, I’m really – I’m no better than anybody else.”

“You know, it’s like Cary Cochran, two-time past World Champion.  He told me there’s lots o’ guys that don’t go to that show that just do it as a hobby, that are really, really good.  They could come out there and win Best in the World.  I mean, that’s basically what I did, just a backyard taxidermist went out there, never been before, and here, somebody outta nowhere, little ol’ McDowell, Highland County, you know, go out there and blow ‘em away, so it’s pretty cool.”

McGuire’s Taxidermy and Freeze Drying can be contacted on Facebook or at 540-357-3392.

Photo courtesy of Beth McGuire

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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