Mounted in Alaska…via phone from California

Mounted in Alaska...via phone from California

Mounted in Alaska is History channel’s new reality show following Russell Knight the owner of Knight’s Taxidermy; an Alaska based family-run shop known for their incredible taxidermy skills. Assisting Russell is a team of 14 craftsmen, one being his beautiful daughter Tina, the show follows them all in their everyday lives working at the shop. If you would have told me 10 years ago that there would be a show about the lives of taxidermists in Alaska, I would have slapped you and told you to sober up but having watched the commercials then talking with Russ via phone today, my tune has changed. Not only am I going to watch tonight with back-to-back episodes at 10/10:30pm ET on HISTORY I am eagerly awaiting them!
Here’s the promo for the show:

The show looks like a great companion piece to History’s other reality shows and I think it will surprise a lot of America with how Russell and his team treat the beauty of the animals and art of taxidermy.
Talking with Russell, I can tell you he has a love of animals, not only the taxidermy side of them but protecting them and their habitats. Russell is a genuinely nice guy, he loves what he does and where he lives. Alaska for him seems to be a land of wonder and beauty and he respects not only the land but everything on it.

Below are highlights of my phone call with Russell today and I hope it conveys how genuine and honest of a man he is ,he is a regular guy trying to make a living and trying to protect the beauty of nature, if you never appreciated the art of taxidermy then hopefully this interview and the show tonight will help change your mind.

Curt(me): How did the show come about?

Russ: Well you know one day at the shop I got a call from Thinkfactory Media asking me if I’m possibly interested in doing a show. So I sent them home video tapes I had done in the past from trips like Australia,you know the great barrier reef, Africa, I always narrated my home movie like I was a TV host anyways. Next think I know they came up and we cut a scissor reel and made a show and I guess they liked it!

Curt: Did you ever think you’d have your own tv show?

Russ: Never dreamed in a million years i’d have my own show on the history channel, it was almost one year to this month that everything started and I never, ever thought I’d have my own show.

Curt: What got you started in taxidermy?

Russ: My love for the outdoors and the fact I was a poor kid and wanted to learn a trade.
I saw an ad in the back of Outdoor Life and wrote them, it was for the Northwestern School of Taxidermy and it cost $1 a month so for a total $12 I took the mail order classes and graduated at the age of 14, this was the same course that Teddy Roosevelt took and it taught me how to do taxidermy. You know, I learned it all through the mail and thats what got me started!

Curt: So how was your first project, how did it turn out?

Russ: Ohhhh my first project was terrible, it was a red fox. I’ll never forget it, I mounted it and took it over to the next door neighbor and showed it and they immediately burst out laughing, I felt horrible and I ran off. You have to have very thick skin in taxidermy because everybody’s a critic.

Curt: Now that the shows been taping for a while, how is it being followed by cameras?

Russ: We’ve been filming now for 4 months and it took a little getting used to it at the beginning but now im worried about when they leave we filmed together for 12 hours a day, you know the camera crew have become great friends and when they leave this place, pardon the pun, but when they leave it’s gonna be like morgue.

Curt: Your daughter Tina works with you and is on the show, are you prepared for for all the guy fans she’s about to get?

Russ: Oh yeah, yeah, I have lots of guns though and I am a taxidermist, I can mount them and put them on the wall, nah I’m extremely proud of her and shes beautiful so I’m sure she’ll have lots of fans around the world.

Curt: were you surprised Tina wanted to take up the family business?

Russ: I was, I really was, she went off to college for basketball and when that finished she came back and has been working here for 2 years, you know she grew up and worked around the shop since 11 and it’s great to have her back, in fact she’s my bear rug stretcher. You know we do live together as well but its been an absolute joy and its wonderful, we’re having a blast working on this project, we’re just having so much fun if this TV show does nothing else it brought Tina and me closer together and I’m thankful for that.

Curt: Are you worried about backlash from PETA or animal rights activists?

Russ: I’ve been doing this a long long time and I’ve had some run ins with that kind of stuff, nah I’m really not concerned, I’m a member of a respected hunting community and if they want to tangle with us come on up! Nah, I’m on the board of directors of Safari Club International and we take on a lot of the wildlife chores of what has to be done. Its guys like me that go around and fundraise to keep the rights of hunters. All americans,everybody alive is descended from a hunter/gatherer and if it wasn’t for hunters we just wouldn’t be here today. We have to respect and protect these animals. Species like the white tailed deer have been on the brink of extinction and it was the hunters that saved them and other animals from poachers. Everybodies got their own opinions and they’re entitled to it but I hope they tune in and watch our show and see what it’s all about.

Curt: I read that you will be using Theodore Roosevelt’s personal taxidermy kit?

Russ: We’re working on that right now, I tell you the biggest thrill in my taxidermy life was yesterday, I got to hold Roosevelt’s personal taxi kit and examine all the tools and not only that I also got to examine 2 extinct passenger pigeons, Romeo and Juliet, they were the last 2 that ever lived. To be able to hold an animal that no longer graces the face of this Earth was quite a privilege. Forget the art of taxidermy, just the fact that Roosevelt touched these tools was like the holy grail for taxidermists,he was a huge conservationist and he is a hero to all taxidermists.

Curt: whats the oddest thing thats happened so far?

Russ: I guess the oddest thing we’ve got is the Alaska bushman, you’ll have to watch and see who he is, I guess a brief description is he’s a Vietnam vet that wears a Muskox suit and looks like Sasquatch, he raises funds for wounded warriors,( it’s a great cause, he gets people to take pictures with him in the outfit and he passes the money on to the wounded warrior project which I think is great. I wasn’t a military man myself but I try to employ as many as I can, they come in disciplined and whether they’re skilled in taxidermy or not doesn’t matter. They had the skills and fortitude to go through that type of events in their lives to serve our country and that means they can handle a taxidermy shop. You have to have fortitude to deal with that, these people here take these animals seriously. They spend the time and money and want it done right.
Hunters don’t go out there just for trophy, its representative of their whole trip, a mount on the wall is a snapshot of that time frame in their life, you know when you look at that mount its like an instant reliving of that trip. They are proud of the trophy but it’s not so much about the taking of the animal its about the experience and the outdoors, just because you didnt take an animal doesn’t mean you didn’t have a great experience. In fact many hunters come home empty handed but still have an amazing experience and that’s a true hunter, one that doesn’t get an animal but still had that moment, it’s about the conservation of wildlife. I tell non-hunters to buy a hunting license even if they never go hunting, it provides the funds for wildlife enforcement of the game, when you buy a license you fund the protection of these beautiful animals
and that’s how you support wild game.

So I hope you tune it and get a better appreciation of animals, Alaska and Russell Knight and his team’s talents.
I would like to thank Russell for talking with me today and I hope you have a great premiere tonight and a great season, I’ll be watching!!!

and also a special thank you to Heather DiRubba from History Channel.



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