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Elk Creek Taxidermy of New Castle snares honors at state championships

Kelley Cox / Post Independent
Staff Photo |

With more than 40 years of combined taxidermy experience, father and son duo Mark and Josh Gustad operate Elk Creek Taxidermy on West Main Street in New Castle.

Recently, both Gustads competed at the 2013 Colorado State Taxidermy Championships, combining for 13 awards on 17 entries in their first-ever competition.

Sponsored by the Colorado Taxidermist Association, the competition took place June 6-8 in Craig. The event featured three adult divisions: novice, professional and masters, with masters being the most competitive.



“They suggested we should enter in the professional division, but we figured the masters was where the competition would be, so we went there and did really well,” said Mark, 56.

The event website defines the masters division as “the highest level of competition. This is for the taxidermist who wants to compete at the most technically correct, artistically oriented and creative level.”



Josh, 26, entered 10 items in the competition and came home with nine awards, including a first-place finish in the small animal masters division for his red fox. That same fox also won a best of category award and the mammal challenge award in the masters division.

“It was a pretty good feeling to be able to win several awards,” Josh said. “We were really going in blind, because I’d never even been to a competition to see what it was like. I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Josh also collected ribbons for several other masters entries, including a mounted black bear and a badger, as well as four ribbons in the professional division. Mark added four masters ribbons for his red fox, mounted deer, cutthroat trout and brown trout.

“After the first time, you learn things you could have done to get another ribbon,” Mark said. “We’ll go to a couple more competitions; they just take a lot of time.”

Mark, who grew up in Lakewood, has been working as a taxidermist for roughly 35 years, having entered the trade immediately out of high school. After working at a shop in Golden, he moved to New Castle to work for Dawson Taxidermy, a well-established local business.

In 1982, Mark purchased the business from owner Monk Dawson, converting it to Elk Creek Taxidermy. The shop has been at its current location on West Main Street for about 25 years and is now run solely by Mark and Josh.

“He’s one of my best friends, and we work together great,” said Josh of his father.

A 2006 graduate of Rifle High School, Josh spent time at several colleges before returning home to work with his father full time four years ago. According to Mark, Josh has been around the shop “since he was in diapers.”

“It’s something I really liked, and I just grew up around it,” Josh said. “I went to several colleges and didn’t like it, so I thought I’d do this because I enjoy it. It’s just a good variety.”


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