Word & Image 

Robert Olson, 36: Owner, Frozen in Flight Taxidermy

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

"I've always had a fascination with birds ever since I was 3. So I did a lot of bird watching. And then when I got into my teens, I started doing bird hunting. My dad took me — mostly we hunted doves — and we'd bring them back, and he would usually clean the guns and I would clean the birds.

"And I'd have these birds, and I didn't want to mess them up, but we had to do that because we had to clean them so we could eat them. So I just got to where I wanted to preserve them. I started kind of just trying to, getting as far as I could without any instruction. … I screwed up a lot of birds in the process, but, you know, you have to learn by your mistakes.

"I got serious when I was working for a bird biologist in Georgia. This is like 10 years ago. I told a friend of mine I worked with part of the year that I would mount a bird or two for him. He was a hunting guide for the other part of the year in Arkansas. … After the hunting season he came back with like 12 birds, and they were geese. Geese are much bigger and I was getting over my head. So I took a five-day course. Learned from that guy. Then a few months after that, I started working for a guy in town who did everything. He didn't have anyone to do the birds. And that's how I got started.

"Now I get about 200 birds a year. … The typical duck takes me about five and a half to seven hours depending on the size of the bird. I'd say half of that time is cleaning it, skinning it, and getting it washed and dried. The other half of the time is spent posing it, assembling it and grooming it, and carving it out, injecting feet.

"I've always pursued birds. I've always been fascinated by birds — their ability to fly, their colors, their form, their evolution, how they evolved over the millennia — is really fascinating to me. It's just one of those things where you like it. Everyone has their thing and birds have always been a passion for me."

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Robert Olson's taxidermy shop is located in Scott's Addition.

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