Mitchell Morrison, 11, of Greene grew up watching his grandfather, Dana Saucier of Lisbon, in his taxidermy studio almost every Sunday after church.
The boy, who plans to be a doctor, was drawn to the surgical precision it took to mount the trophies.
“I guess you could say he inspired me,” Morrison said at his Greene home recently. His grandfather is president of the Maine Association of Taxidermists.
Morrison decided he wanted to try his hand at taxidermy.
As luck would have it, the town of Lisbon had found a raccoon killed recently on the road and delivered it to Saucier.
“They bring me the stuff that is salvageable,” Saucier said.
Grandfather and grandson got down to business.
Saucier did the scalpel work, deeming it unsafe for Morrison. But once the raccoon was skinned, Morrison — with the guidance of his grandfather — tanned the hide, filled the ears with clay and repaired a few places that were marred from the vehicle accident that took the animal’s life.
They then placed the pelt over a Styrofoam form and sewed and pinned it tight to the form.
“We wanted it to be tight. And if we hadn’t pinned it, it would be all droopy and baggy,” Morrison said.
Next, it was time to decorate the base with stones, moss and a dropped antler found while hunting.
“It took him about three hours to do,” Saucier said.
Then it was off to the 30th Annual Maine Sportsman Show in Augusta at the beginning of April.
There, Morrison thoroughly impressed the judges and received the highest score possible on a taxidermy piece: 100.
Along with the perfect score, he took many blue ribbons in his category.
“I think there was one other kid up there,” Morrison said. “He must have taken all the red ribbons!”
But to Morrison, it’s not just about winning awards for his art.
“One of the best parts of taxidermy is looking at the finished product and thinking, ‘I did that,'” Morrison said. “It makes me feel really proud.”
And Morrison is the first to admit taxidermy is a hard way to make a living.
“Taxidermy is not very high paid, but I want to do it, so I’m going to be a doctor,” he said. “One feeds the pocket; the other feeds the soul.”