Caribou Gear

Foreign trophy processing problems

OntarioHunter

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Thought I would share this horror story so others might learn from it. I hunted Africa in 2019 and harvested eight fine trophies. The outfitter turned them over to their "preferred" taxidermy company. I had all eight skulls euroed plus kudu pedestal cape tanned and wildebeest "backskin" tanned. I specifically ordered the kudu euro skull AND cape so I'd have something to put on the wall in case the cape was screwed up. Not an uncommon occurrence when dealing with overseas taxidermists. Long story short, after many problems, the crate with trophies finally arrived at the local freight dock the first day of pandemic lockdown February 2020. I actually intercepted the shipment after the customs broker in Toronto mistakenly misdirected it to another city five hours west of here. I get the crate home, remove the lid in my driveway, and the stench almost knocks me over. What the hell?! First skull I unwrap is the wildebeest. It's been PAINTED white. No doubt to cover the rotting flesh. All the skulls were painted and missing teeth (the buffalo missing ALL teeth). The kudu cape had a missing patch hair on the left shoulder. The wildebeest hide was clearly from a cow shot once while laying down. Probably a sick animal culled from a game farm. Well okay, this stinks (literally) but it's a lockdown in the middle of the winter so cleaning this mess will give me something to do. Last skull to be stripped and boiled is kudu. And what do I find? The taxidermist boiled the skull till one of the nose pieces fell off and disintegrated. So they just dug up another piece. Not even from a kudu (almost certainly waterbuck) and badly discolored, obviously from being left to soak in a pit of greasy decaying animal parts. That's too much! I sent an email to my PH and he raised hell.

During my second safari last August I was surprised to learn the outfitter was still dealing with same taxidermy company. I had a zoom conference with the manager and after making some weak excuses he finally conceded the "mistakes" and agreed to make good. They would process the capes for sable and second kudu free of charge. Eight skulls would not be painted. At Christmas I get an email from taxidermy outfit saying they finished the work and sent it off to freight company. Wait, no photos for final approval? And what the hell are they doing sending the stuff to the same freight company that made a dog's breakfast shipping my first trophies? They knew about those problems. Nothing happens. Then last week I get an email from the taxidermy company: why haven't you paid the freight company's account? Maybe because I never got an account from them: "Why are you guys still doing business with this crappy shipping outfit?" The freight company emails: sorry we misspelled your email address (like it didn't get kicked back as undeliverable?). Wire them $2074.00 US now if I want the stuff shipped. That was their "account." A one-liner. No itemization. Not an account - a demand. Jeezus, that's a lot of money to ship one box half way around the world bulk freight when it didn't cost me nearly that much to fly there and back as a passenger. Last time freight was around $900. I contacted the lodge owner and he relayed my concerns to the manager of the taxidermy company. The freight company told the manager that the increase was due to airlines increasing rates x2.5. Nothing can be done. I send the money and ask for details. No response. I contacted my customs broker and asked if she had heard when the stuff would be shipped. Nope. Nothing. Then I finally get an email from the freight company cc'ed to taxidermy and customs broker. Another one-liner: "documentation" has been completed and shipment will go out next week. Again, that's all it said. No details. No documentation attached. Noninformation information. Curiously, within fifteen minutes I received an email from my customs broker with all shipping docs attached, including a customer invoice! Why didn't the freight company send the documents to me? Because the freight company didn't want me to see the documents. Turkish Airlines was charging $845US to ship the crate from South Africa to Toronto. The customer invoice on page two had several expenditure items listed (depot handling, terminal fees, etc.), all left blank. The only thing itemized with a currency amount was Turkish Airline freight charge. At the bottom the grand total was "AS AGREED". The freight company didn't even have the balls to specify what was supposedly "agreed."

What can the readers glean from this? Always specify to overseas taxidermist that projects WILL NOT leave their premises without your approval. That approval requires 1) photos to substantiate client satisfaction [something they "forgot" this time] 2) a firm itemized quote from a freight company if the taxidermist is not shipping the items directly. Common sense would seem to dictate taxidermists cannot transfer client property to someone else without the client's approval. Of course, it's pretty clear to me this taxidermist is in on the scam. Once the trophies are in my possession the hammer is going to fall on that outfit. Justice can be obtained much more efficiently on the internet than through the courts.
 
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kiwi hunter

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id boil the skulls same day and bring the stuff over as baggage, might need to cut the skulls in half but id save a lot of bother
 

MarvB

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^^^other than some vac pac’d biltong, have NEVER seen/heard of any meat ever coming back. Don’t know if I’d trust the process if it did!
 

SaskHunter

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^^^other than some vac pac’d biltong, have NEVER seen/heard of any meat ever coming back. Don’t know if I’d trust the process if it did!

He's lucky he received ANY trophies at all. Meat/flesh leftover on a trophy coming back from Africa is a sure way to have Canada Border Services seize and destroy your trophies.

I don’t believ your aloud to bring any meat back from Africa

Canada doesn't allow it anyway unless it falls below these strict guidelines or comes from the USA. This is the sole reason why I am not heading to Greenland for a cheap Caribou hunt! I have no interest in hunting something somewhere I cannot enjoy the meat from... I may change my mind one day, but until then, no!

https://inspection.canada.ca/food-s...onal-use/eng/1389630031549/1389630282362#tab2

"Table 2. Food products allowed into Canada originating from a foreign country other than United States

Fresh, dried, and cured meats (such as hams and sausages) are not permitted.

Only the following commercially prepared meat products are permitted and only if accompanied by you into Canada (they cannot be brought in by mail or courier):

  • products cooked and shelf-stable (safe at room temperature)
  • products purchased in a sealed container (such as a glass jar, can, retort pouch, semi-rigid disposable serving dishes for ready-to-eat meals)
If the permitted product contains beef, it can ONLY be imported from countries of negligible risk for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease).

The packages must have identifying marks indicating what the product is and which country it originates from.

Proof of country of origin may be required."
 
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RobertD

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id boil the skulls same day and bring the stuff over as baggage, might need to cut the skulls in half but id save a lot of bother
Probably wouldn't even have to cut most skulls
Just take the horns off the cores and cut the cores off about 6 inches up
Would be my inclination anyway
 

OntarioHunter

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Did you get the meat back to you in good shape? That would be my #1 priority.
Meat outside North America cannot be brought across the borders here. The meat is processed on sight and either sold on the market or used by staff and their families.
 

drexal

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Yikes! You know the saying... fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me.

If you don't mind me asking, how much were the taxidermy fees? Included in the safari or separate?
 

OntarioHunter

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Probably wouldn't even have to cut most skulls
Just take the horns off the cores and cut the cores off about 6 inches up
Would be my inclination anyway
The skulls have to be certified by vet inspector before leaving the country. Then they have to go through a rigorous examination by Agriculture Canada dept at customs when they arrive. How the hell did my first shipment get through those inspections? I'm sure the stuff was not inspected in Africa. Seems that happened again this time because when I asked for an update around Christmas the freight outfit said they didn't have vet documents. The taxidermist then couriered the docs to freight company ... 2.5 hrs drive to town! So, why was the crate sealed up by taxidermist without inspection documents? Thankfully, the pending COVID lockdown for the following week probably assisted in getting my stinky stuff through Canada customs. The rush was on to clear as much as possible off loading docks before things were shut down. Remember, this was the start of the pandemic in February 2020. Everyone was in a panic and flying by the seat of their pants. It was clear when opening the crate at home that only the buffalo skull had been inspected and only the nose had bubble wrap removed. As luck would have it, that was the ONLY clean skull in the lot. I only had to strip the paint on it. The rest had to be stripped, boiled, and bleached with peroxide. Still, the inspection station must have been in a wind tunnel for the inspectors to not pick up on the stench.

If I only went over for one animal (like ibex hunting for example), then processing one skull before I left and taking it back with me might be doable. But I shot eight animals. And the kudu was dropped just before sundown the day before I flew home. If inspectors here reject a shipment, then it can get real messy ... and EXPENSIVE! The trophies can be 1) returned to African shipper [God forbid!] at hunter's expense or 2) incinerated or 3) sent to a sterile sealed storage facility till they can be decontaminated by a special hasmat crew. From there the trophies are sent to a designated certified taxidermist to be cleaned up and returned for another inspection. I know a fella at the trap club whose warthog skull failed inspection at Toronto airport (wrongly as it turns out). Just the hasmat decontamination and storage cost him over $3,000! Fortunately, the skull didn't have to go to a taxidermist for cleaning or who knows what it would have cost.
 

OntarioHunter

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Yikes! You know the saying... fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me.

If you don't mind me asking, how much were the taxidermy fees? Included in the safari or separate?
Taxidermy fees were not unreasonable. Skulls were $100 each except buffalo which was $250. No plaques, just the skulls. The tanned capes are usually $250. Sending the capes back "dip & pack" for taxidermist to tan is cheaper but almost impossible to deal with at customs here. Recent change in regs requires the stuff to be sealed at border by inspectors and shipped directly to the certified taxidermist/tannery. They have to seal up the room, ensure the rodents are under control (requires a certified pest control service), and then arrange for Ag Canada inspector to be there when they open the crate. Tannery in Winnipeg charges $500 before they will even look at a shipment. Hides that are already tanned will go through Canada customs no problem (for now anyway).
 

drexal

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It sounds like a big mess. I think I'd start dealing with a different taxidermist/tanner. I hope you have better luck in the future. At least your safari was successful.
 

OntarioHunter

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Probably wouldn't even have to cut most skulls
Just take the horns off the cores and cut the cores off about 6 inches up
Would be my inclination anyway
Well, you'd think so anyway. The first shipment had the kudu and gemsbuck horns removed from skulls and packed separately. The rest of the skulls had horns attached. Holes were drilled in back of them and patched with what appeared to be window putty. WTF? During the conference call this trip the manager of taxidermy company told me that was to anchor the horns back on the skull. But the horns were never removed from the skull for cleaning! That's why they stunk. Rotten flesh was clearly visible around the bases. Drilling and plugging was obviously cosmetics to fool the local vet inspector (who must have been one helluva fool).
 

drexal

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But the horns were never removed from the skull for cleaning! That's why they stunk.
That's the first thing I thought when I read your original post. If they were that lazy with the rest of the stuff, I figured they wouldn't spend the time separating the horns from the skull.
 

OntarioHunter

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It sounds like a big mess. I think I'd start dealing with a different taxidermist/tanner. I hope you have better luck in the future. At least your safari was successful.
Yes. Shit is going to hit the fan for sure. Here's the problem. The lodge owner's wife runs a tour company to keep spouses and kids occupied while hunting is going on. Elephant and lion sanctuaries, wineries, tourist shops, etc. Part of the package is a tour of this big taxidermy outfit. It's a shared business arrangement beneficial to both. Next closest taxidermist is almost three hours drive. You see where I'm going here.

My PH has assured me my stuff will never again be handled by that taxidermist. If he has to, he will haul my stuff into town to another taxidermist when he goes home to family between hunts.

At this point I just want my trophies safe in my hands. After that we'll see what kind of leverage can be used to get some of those funds back or redirected to my outfitter for next trip. Again, the internet can be a useful club to wield against jerks like this taxidermy outfit who depend on tourist dollars. I am pretty sure the outfitter is being victimized too. Will he be willing to apply some heat? We'll see.
 

OntarioHunter

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Something to keep in mind. I'm sure most of you who have a foreign hunt on your bucket list will want shoulder mounts done. When the stuff is shipped air freight it will be billed by either gross weight or "billable" weight. The latter is a computation that takes into account weight AND size of the crate. As an example, this shipment is one crate with gross weight of 73kg. The billable weight is 92kg. The air freight company can choose the greater of the two when calculating rates. For shoulder mounts done there, the crates will be large but relatively lightweight so the freight documents will show a big difference between gross and billable. I can only imagine what the freight for billable weight would be for crating eight shoulder mounts sent from Africa. Yikes!
 
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