About Richard Lee

Having articles written in various magazines explaining the freeze drying methods and ensuring the public that with secondary drying, the specimens should last longer than the client's lifetime, providing of course that the specimen is looked after in a proper manner, the same as expected of conventional mounts. Modern science and technology as evolution has it, will always improve both quality and costs incurred for materials and processing procedures.

I have been invited as guest speaker and asked to display my work at various hunting/fishing clubs in the North Island with freeze dried boar heads, bull thar, chamois, stoats, ferrets, lambs, deer slinks and conventional mounts of deer heads etc. What I have witnessed over and over again is that the general public are completely amazed at the actual details of the amounts as the words do not describe the finished article, i.e. muscle tone and more realistic poses that are achieved. When I allow the pig hunters to physically pick-up a freeze dried boar head, they are completely blown away with how light they weigh due to total evaporation of all moisture.

I find that advertising freeze dried taxidermy is not achieving what the public want to know, even with publication on the actual process and related information. I recall telling mates what -50 temperature in Canada is like, i.e. you can spit and it's frozen before it hits the ground, which is beyond comprehension until you either see it or experience it. So is the same with freeze dried taxidermy specimens. Unfortunately I can't be everywhere at the same time with specimens for display.

To my knowledge I am the only taxidermist in the world to freeze dry big game head mounts, i.e. boar heads,deer heads ,  bull thar and chamois. As the taxidermist can only experiment with his own material, I have the advantage to do work that taxidermists in Canada and USA are unable to conduct, due to their hunting seasons being so short and the TAG system of shooting one only buck deer or special draw entries for pronghorn antelope etc etc, making it extremely difficult for available specimens for trial purposes.

I am fortunate to reside in NZ where we can hunt all year around without restriction for big game animals, resulting in plenty of opportunities to experiment with big game heads.

What the general public, as well as many taxidermists do not realise, is that the freeze dry taxidermy has so much unexplored territory available to the creative mind. To venture where no man has gone before, is the ultimate challenge for the pioneering spirit.

  Another major feature is that  most big game heads  are in the freezedrier for only 2 weeks at a time  resulting in a quick turn arround with most clients having their trophies back within 4 to 6 weeks depending on the availabilty of the driers.

Freeze-dry taxidermy HAS revolutionised the industry. Human nature is that people are afraid of what they know very little about. We know that the ship will return after it disappears and it is frustrating trying to educate some people whom still have their heads stuck in the sand. However, I have faith in the human race and patience will prevail.

I held an exhibition at the September 2003 Heli-Sika Hunting Competition held in Taupo and was dismayed at how many people whom I talked to about the freeze-dry big game heads that were on display that actually thought I put the head skin over a manikin as you would for a conventional mount with the exception of freeze-drying the skin instead of tanning it. I assured these people the heads were original, brains and all with the exception of glass eyes. The head from the manikin is sawn and discarded with the original head taking its place. Another key factor that the spectators appreciated was that there isn't makeup (i.e. paint) to hide anything or trying to create an optical illusion. Until you have actually seen several heads it is hard to grasp the reality that freeze-drying captures the individuality of each animal as they all look quite different, the same as humans.