Legends Taxidermy has international reputation

June 14, 2014
Jamie Flewelling and habitat designer, Jason Steiger stand in front of a grey wolf display that will be installed at a Cabelas store near Buffalo, N.Y.

Jamie Flewelling and habitat designer, Jason Steiger stand in front of a grey wolf display that will be installed at a Cabelas store near Buffalo, N.Y.

Locally Made.

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

As a native of Ludington, I thought it would be a great idea to feature many area businesses that I had either grown up with or businesses that I had become familiar with in the more recent years of my life. I wanted to promote what the businesses had to offer the local area in a series I call “Locally Made.”

Seeing that I was a local, I figured I probably already knew a lot of what these places offered to locals and tourists alike. Boy, was I wrong. Being a local doesn’t mean much unless you really take the time to get to know your own community, so I’m finally taking the time to get to know my community and what it offers the rest of the world….

 

VICTORY TWP. – My first thought when I hear about Legends Taxidermy is deer heads, lots and lots of deer heads. Well, maybe some fish as well, but lots of deer. It’s not like I’m a hunter or anything. Don’t get me wrong, but I think I can tell the difference between a whitetail from an elk or even a moose for that matter. I pretty much figure I already know everything there is to know about this business that is until I walk through the door.

My co-worker Justin and I enter Legends on a mission to get a great story about this business, but I’m pretty sure I mutter something I can’t put into print as my eyes adjust on the very overwhelming site in front of me. Remember in the “Wizard of Oz”, the whole “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!” quote, well that about sums up the scene looking back at me. There are pairs of eyes from bears, tigers, moose, buffalo, wolves and a whole lot of other animals, which I have no idea what they are even called, staring back at me. Oh, and there’s a giraffe, yes, a giraffe!

legends_taxidermy_scottville_2

One bulk head piece containing a leopard, hyena and grysbok that Legends Taxidermy sketched and constructed.

I have never in my entire life seen these types of animals before, well maybe some in a zoo at one point in my life or on TV, but this is amazing, not to mention just how amazing they are preserved, which brings me back to reality, remembering why we are here, for a story about Legends Taxidermy and what they do.

First off, I can check off remarkable work of preserving and displaying amazing trophy pieces off my list. If you didn’t know, I learn that the animals are referred to as “trophies” and I can see why. Jamie Flewelling, owner and wildlife artist of Legends, greets us and he escorts us into this meeting room where the amazing artistry keeps on coming. He points out some type of lion on the wall and tells us that it belongs to the son of the Cabelas, yes those Cabelas. I realize now that this isn’t just your typical taxidermist. He has a trophy that belongs to the Cabelas! He tells us that most of the pieces in the business have been accumulated over the years from different shows they have attended, from customers and he personally owns some of the pieces. At this point, I’m so intrigued by this entire place that I start asking the real questions and try not to become distracted by the artwork around me.

In 1995, Jamie, a 1988 graduate of Mason County Central High School, opened Legends in Scottville and after one year, he purchased a store front on Virnetta Drive in Pere Marquette Township, where he said he outgrew in a matter of years, but made it work for a total of 13 years before purchasing his current location at 5089 N U.S. 31.

He currently works closely with his lead taxidermists, Randy Wolfe and Matt Bronson to produce a wide variety of very detailed wildlife pieces.

“I made due with what we had when we were on Virnetta,” Jamie says. “We moved to this location in 2008.”

Jamie’s passion for wildlife started at a young age from hunting with his father and brothers.

“I always enjoyed wildlife and the outdoors,” he says.

Jamie and his brother, Reg, first tried taxidermy at a young age when they tried mounting their own deer, but he remembers it didn’t turn out too great. It really started a chain of events of friends wanting him to do taxidermy for them and by the early 1990s, Jamie decided that he was going to work in taxidermy as a second full time job.

“I did it as a second full time job basically,” he says. “I was also working full time as a mechanic at Fruit Packers. I decided I wanted to do it full time, so I started a small business in Scottville.”

Jamie says not only was his business growing, he was also competing in a lot of taxidermy competitions, where he was meeting more and more possible clients for Legends.

When he first started, Jamie was doing a lot of deer and fish taxidermy. He went to more and more competitions and shows, which in return were helping make his business grow very rapidly and also gaining it exposure into the international hunting realm.

“Half of what we do is foreign game,” Jamie says. “Some of these pieces someone just can’t do alone.”

 Legends Taxidermy has a large variety of domestic and international animals on display at their business located at 5089 N US 31 in Scottville.

Legends Taxidermy has a large variety of domestic and international animals on display at their business located at 5089 N US 31 in Scottville.

With the business growing, Jamie hired on more people to help out with the domestic and international work. He currently employs 15 people and he really appreciates all the work each individual puts into their work.

“We have a great crew of individuals working here,” he says. “We are always working on private individual’s pieces and there’s no way we could take on that volume of work without great workers.”

Jamie really prides himself that Legends still supports the taxidermy of hundreds of domestic pieces, which is what really started the business in the first place. Without those customers, Legends would have never have gained momentum like it has.

Because of all the hard work and show appearances, Legends has also gained the attention of one of the nation’s largest outdoors suppliers, Cabela’s. Legends has had the opportunity to team up with Cabela’s to conceptualize, design, construct and install many of their animal scenes in stores throughout the United States and Canada.

“It’s incredible seeing it all come together and take shape,” Jamie says. “We have done so much traveling setting up stores.”

Jamie says they have about 14-16 stores per year that they are working with currently and it has been a great opportunity to work with Cabela’s and having the chance to do new designs for the stores. Jamie and his team worked up sketches for the original designs that are then approved by Cabela’s and then the pieces are constructed at Legends and shipped to the different store locations. The team travels to the store for installation and at times they will do certain touch up jobs on already installed pieces.

Jamie remembers getting a huge break when they were working with two Cabela’s stores out in Denver and the president of Cabela’s came out to visit and saw Legends’ work. He was very impressed with what he saw.

“We had quite a few bulk head pieces there,” Jamie says. “We were doing something different and he liked that. Since then we have been given a lot bigger pieces.”

Jamie says that they do not hold any certain contract with Cabela’s. Their continuous relationship is based on the company’s appreciation of the craftsmanship and design of each piece that they have sent out.

Currently, Legends is working on many different pieces for different Cabela’s stores around the United States and Canada. In July, Jamie and lead habitat designer, Chris Hansen will be traveling to the Vancouver, Canada area to do some installations at a brand new Cabela’s store.

All in all, the work produced inside of Legends takes hundreds of hours and every person employed there has his or her certain job with each piece, no matter if the piece is for a private individual or commercial business.

Not only does Legends complete taxidermy services, but it also offers high-end rifles for purchase and hunting trips to all over the world.

“Part of what we do is traveling,” Jamie says. “It can be really hard work hunting and collecting a trophy.”

Jamie says that he has been all over the world and the hunting trips are just another way Legends can offer a full service studio experience. Many of the hunters will turn around and use Legends for taxidermy services for the trophies they collect in the wild.

“We get to travel to cool places and meet really cool people,” Jamie says.

Legends follows very strict laws set by Fish and Wildlife and the USDA and each location where a trophy is taken has different regulations for shipping back to Legends for taxidermy services.

“It’s hard work and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” Jamie says. “We worked hard to make a lot of great relationships.”

Getting ready to leave Legends Justin and I realize how passionate Jamie is about his business and offering a premiere service to people locally and internationally. It is also very clear on how important his staff is to him and how much he appreciates all that they do to make Legends the business it is today.

I certainly am blown away with everything Legends does behind its doors and how they have remained a somewhat local secret for so long. At first I thought it is basically just a place to take your prize 12-point buck, but now I realize it’s so much more and people need to know that. Not only do they have quite a great reputation in the outdoors world, they are a great representation of Mason County and the quality of product that is made here.

 

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