BOWMAN, S.C. — It's an old art form, and not for everyone.
John Mellis has been transforming hunted animals into art since the mid 1980's.
“A person goes out and hunts an animal and we call it taking a trophy and so they want to have a memory that lasts forever," said Mellis.
He owns the Great Outdoors Taxidermy in Bowman where they also process deer meat.
He says the town is home to many who enjoy hunting and fishing outdoors.
The popularity of the art has grown with people seeking out bigger animals.
“Deer hunting is very popular here so they may have their first deer head, then they’ll continue on that trend with more and more deer heads. Eventually they’ll want to hunt bigger animals so African safaris come into play," said Mellis.
For the past several years, the South Carolina Taxidermy Association has hosted its annual competition in Columbia. It draws in crowds from across the country.
Judges assess how well an artist is able to preserve the integrity of an animal's anatomy.
“It’s an art. We try to bring stuff to life through taxidermy," said president of the SC Taxidermy Association Chuck Mulkey.
In years past, Mellis won the title of South Carolina's Taxidermist of the Year. He says the art form continues to change and grow.
“You’ve got to study the animals. The fish, the birds, in their natural environments. You need to know as much as you can about them and you need to be able to interpret that information that you’re getting from that study," said Mellis.
The Great Outdoors Taxidermy and Deer Processing is located at 6066 on Vance Road in Bowman.