Local taxidermist Bryan McMahon makes his subject almost come to life at his Blue Ribbon Taxidermy business at 1006 S.W. 7th Ave. in Amarillo. McMahon works on a shoulder mount White Tail deer in his shop Friday. On a pheasant McMahon recently finished, each feather was individually placed.
Real People: Area taxidermist known for quality work
A physical disability keeps Bryan McMahon from doing much hunting and fishing, but it doesn't keep him from enjoying the sport.
McMahon owns Blue Ribbon Taxidermy and makes his living as a wildlife artist. He has reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a chronic and progressive neurological condition that affects skin, muscles, joints and bones.
The disability prevented him from being employed, but with the help of the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program, he was able to go back to school to get his taxidermy license.
He is now the owner of his own growing business.
"I feel blessed to be a person that was given the opportunity, knowing that I come to work every day doing what I love to do," he said.
McMahon, 42, had been employed at Owens Corning, installed insulation with his father and attended a chef school before a back injury triggered his disease. He shows little sign of his disability as he labors in his tiny shop on Seventh Avenue - he soon will relocate into a larger shop - crafting artistic masterpieces out of the heads and hides of hunted animals.
"I love that I have the chance to recreate what the good Lord put on this earth and bring it back to life in a sense," he said.
McMahon said his business philosophy is to give his customers the best quality at the lowest price and to do it quickly. Of course, quick is a relative term.
"My goal as a taxidermist is to always have their work out in a year; six months to a year," he said, noting that most taxidermists have a waiting time of one to two years.
He surprised Ryan Mosher of Amarillo by mounting his bull buffalo head in four months.
"I wasn't expecting to get it back for at least a year," Mosher said.
He said he was very pleased with the mount and found McMahon's prices to be about half what others in the area charge.
"I've told all my buddies about him," Mosher said.
He said he usually gets a couple of mounts done each year and will continue to give McMahon his business.
"I saw his work, and he does good work. I'll be taking him the rest of my hunts this year for sure," he said.
McMahon is a big believer in education - his own as well as that of young people. He graduated with honors from the Central School of Taxidermy and then studied under the tutelage of 10-time world champion taxidermist Frank Newmyer.
"It's quite an honor (to learn from Newmyer)," he said. "I was the fourth student he's ever had, and all the others have become world champions."
He said his health problems have kept him from participating in competitions, but he hopes to some day. In the meantime, he is passing his skills to the next generation.
"I want to give kids today a hope and a future and show them that education does pay," he said.
He said he likes to work with at-risk children and teaches his craft to them when he can. While he is teaching others, he continues to learn himself. He subscribes to trade publications and attends workshops and seminars.
"I don't ever stop learning," he said.