Last month, I wrote about 96 year old Rene Wendell of Pittsfield who, in the olden days, was a local trapper. You may recall that his grandfather got him got started skinning animals when he was a youngster, progressing from skinning mice and moles to larger critters. It is a must for a trapper to be able to skin animals.
Everything that he learned about taxidermy was learned from a book entitled “Home Taxidermy for Pleasure and Profit’ by Albert B. Farnum written in 1916. He still has that book. He also learned bit by bit on his own.
One day he shot a wood duck and brought to a taxidermist in Sheffield whose last name he believes was Shaw. He had a big room off of his house, loaded with all kinds of mounted birds and animals. Rene really respected him and couldn’t wait to go down there to see all of his mounts. He would always have a few question regarding procedures and visited him frequently, to the point that Shaw got tired of him. Seeing Shaw’s mounts is what got him interested in taxidermy.
He began mounting fish and animals for himself and, later on, for others. He stuffed the fish with Plaster of Paris. Now days they use plastic molds. When it came to mounting deer heads, he used to skin the heads, scrape the fat off, salt them and ship them off to San Francisco to have them tanned. In the meantime he made the head forms out of paper mache and ordered the artificial eyes. He has mounted just about every local legal game bird, freshwater fish and animal.
He has mounted many deer heads, prepared full mounts of bears, beaver, fox, coyote, bobcat and you name it, including the pictured moose which was shot by his son Bill in VT. He regrets the fact that he never got a whitefish or cisco to mount, but he has mounted just about every other freshwater fish around here – gold fish, tiger trout, tiger muskies, common carp, etc. He claims to have mounted the largest brown trout taken out of Onota Lake and a record pike taken out of Pontoosuc Lake.
He loves everything about our woods and waters. Besides the hunting, fishing and trapping, he enjoys the hobby of collecting various butterflies, moths and other insects, some of which have been exhibited in the Berkshire Museum. He also has an impressive collection of arrowheads and other Native-American artifacts. He even has a handsomely framed collection of old barbed wires.
I recognized Rene’s name but couldn’t remember where. I know his son, also named Rene, is a conservation ranger at Bartholomew Cobble in Sheffield.. But he is a younger man. Then it dawned on me. In the spring of 1968 I had caught a large pickerel ice fishing in Laurel Lake and wanted to mount it. At the time, I was working at the First Agricultural Bank and some friends there suggested that I contact a fellow employee (Agnes Wendell), whose husband mounted fish as a hobby. He did indeed mount the fish and did a wonderful job. Guess who it was….the one and same.
In the 10 years of writing this outdoor column, I have met some very interesting and memorable outdoorsmen, but Rene Wendell has to be one of the most impressive of them all. *****
Starting next Saturday, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having trap shooting. The shoots will run from 9 AM to Noon on Saturdays during the month of March. Everyone is invited with instructions available to newcomers. Click onto leesportsmen.com for more detail. *****
Also next Saturday at 9 AM, the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club will be having a multi-state firearms course. This course is unique in that it qualifies you to apply for licenses in Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire and Maine. A Utah concealed firearm permit issued to a non-resident is honored in 32 states. If you apply for all 4 licenses, you will be legal in 36 states. The fee for the entire 5-hour course is $150 or you can take just the Utah segment for $100 or just the Massachusetts segment for $80. The fee is due in cash at the course. There is no exam but bring a pad and pen to take notes. Seating is limited and preregistration is required. Call or e-mail and provide your full legal name plus date of birth to Robert J. McDermott at (413)232-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.*****