Pam Kadlec: techno-taxidermist

I got involved in taxidermy about 15 years ago because I wanted something to do at home while I raised my kids. I loved it so much during an apprenticeship that I ended up building my own full-time business. That's how a lot of people get into taxidermy: it starts as something they do in their backyards, and then it just gets bigger.

Most taxidermists never think about automation, and many don't even have a computer. I found that out the hard way when I started editing the Florida State Taxidermist Association newsletter a year and a half ago. Taxidermists would actually turn in handwritten articles to me. Of the 30 or so hours I spent getting each newsletter out, about a quarter of the time I spent typing in articles on my PC. Now people have gotten a little better. Some fax their articles or send them to me via E-mail. Fortunately, the newsletter comes out only four times a year.

As far as I know, I'm one of the most technical taxidermists around. I've got my own Web site, and I've actually gotten a little business from it in the past year. For example, an American serviceman who was stationed in Korea visited my Web site last summer and later went hunting in Russia. He remembered me and shipped the ibex he shot so I could prepare it.

Of the $40,000 or so I earned last year, probably $2,000 came from the Web. But the Web has nonrevenue-producing benefits too. For example, I often visit animal sites to find reference photos to use while I'm preparing the animals. Zoo sites are great places to get photos. One person even set up an entire site on raccoons. And I met a successful mystery author, Jerome Doolittle, on the Web. He's coming to my shop to learn about taxidermy for his upcoming book, which is tentatively titled The Dead Zoo.

A lot of people find a taxidermist by word of mouth, not through newspaper ads. So I try to keep my good customers happy. To do that, I need to keep track of them, which I do using the Microsoft Access database. In it I keep customers' names and addresses, along with notes about the size deer head they brought in last time or the position of the mount. Or I might send out duck recipes to the duck hunters and venison recipes to the deer hunters. When the holidays come around, I can check my customer notes and send personalized cards or appropriate gifts. Soon I hope to have all 600 or so of my customers entered into my database.

In addition to keeping track of customers, I do all of my own promotional literature on the computer. Using CorelDraw and Microsoft Word, I design brochures that I then take to a printer. The whole process costs me about $80. Outsourcing the job would run me about $500.

Even though I do have an E-mail address, my clients never use E-mail to contact me. I guess that even though the Internet's getting bigger and bigger, there are still a lot of people who aren't on-line.

Pam Kadlec co-owns P.K. Whiskers Wildlife Art & Taxidermy Studio in Starke, Fla.