Meet the Judges for the 2021 MTA Competition!
Most notable are 10X State Champion, National Champion Whitetail, National Champion Gamehead, and most recently
2017 World Champion Large Gamehead.
Game Heads and Mammal Judge
I was born in 1944 and grew up on a farm with four sisters and five brothers. We always felt lucky to have parents supportive of any of us having pets or taking in orphan wildlife. There was always some form of animal, bird or reptile sharing our home.
I went to work for Oldsmobile in 1968 and purchased my small farm in 1969. On the farm I have had many exotic native wildlife and farm animals. I have had a Rehab Permit and a Game Breeders License since the 1980's.
In the past I would go to exotic animal auctions and come home with new species. Eventually I had to quit doing this as I was spending all my time at home caring for animals, taking in injured wildlife or orphan animals.
Animals have always been an important part of my life and a great source of live reference. Wanting to capture their beauty, I was always drawing and trying to capture the look of a live animal with shape and hair and better than painting or sculpting.
I have focused on this form of art from then on and started competing in Taxidermy Competitions in 1980. The Michigan Taxidermist Association was formed in 1982 and I have been an active member since day one. I also been a member of the National Taxidermy Association.
I have won more than 16 Best of Shows at State and National Competitions. Being a consistent winner over the years and my knowledge of animal anatomy has led to being invited to judge for many State Shows as well as judging mammals at the World Show. I was also asked to do some work for the Smithsonian Institute. They have five mounts on display that were done by me.
Fish, Reptile, Invertebrate Judge
Since I've been able to walk, I have been completely and utterly obsessed over fish and fishing. Naturally that progressed into catching a fish worthy of a mount! I was 16 and begged my mom to let me get it done and paid $8/inch (which was a lot of money haha) and after I got it back, I was hooked. I knew looking at that fish, that was what I wanted to do. So at 17, I bought books and a vhs tape, and caught bass and practiced, until I was able to get one together. Since then, I have been fortunate to befriend some of the best people in the industry, as well as compete all across the country at state shows learning and absorbing as much knowledge as I can. My work has dramatically improved and I sure hope it continues to do so. I attended my first show in 2006 and have been ate up with it ever since. A few of my accomplishments competing include multiple State Champion awards, Polytranspar Awards, Vandykes Most Original and Creative, Pro-1 award, Woody award for runner up best of show, and many other odds and ends and blue ribbons along the way. One of my biggest achievements is being involved in Taxidermy University with my colleagues and friends, sharing our knowledge with the world in our DVDs. I think that’s pretty incredible for someone who comes from where I have, to now. Competing has really improved my commercial work and understanding of fish Taxidermy both in Skin Mounts and Custom Molding Replicas. I have spent countless hours looking at fish reference, looking at them every day, and catching as many as I can to improve what I know about these awesome creatures. I hope you will bring something for me to look over with you, and keep an open and honest mind about what follows. I sure am looking forward to it. My biggest advice is study your field of work, surround yourself with driven, like minded individuals and show passion in your finished results. Without that, it seems a moot point to me. Can’t tell you how honored I am to even be considered to judge your show.
Really means a lot.
Charlie Fanta has come a long way since 1967, when, at the age of 10, he split the cost of a taxidermy correspondence cource with his dad. The hobby developed and led to a job in a professional studio outside Chicago while he was in high school. "As the 'kid' around the shop, I would be the one to skin the rotten fish and sweep the floor, but I did learn the craft. It was still an apprenticeship type trade. My boss was particularly skilled at birds, passing his knowledge on to me."
In 1975, Charlie headed to Michigan State University, eventually earning a degree in wildlife management. During his years at MSU, he worked at the natural history museum on campus, gaining experience working with a wide range of non-game animals, including raptors. After college, Charlie decided to make taxidermy his profession.
In the early 1980s taxidermy competitions were beginning and Charlie started competing and learning from various judges at the shows. "I just kept studying and striving to get better. I also started teaching others the knowledge I was accumulating."
Charlie entered the World Show in 1995. This show is a gathering of tadxidermists with over a dozen countries represented every other year. It was there that Charlie was honored with the title of Best in World bird taxidermist and won the competitors award, based on the technical skill and artistic merit of four entries. At the time, the show was the largest gathering of its time with nearly 700 entries. He has done well at subsequent world shows, including a second place finish in world mammals, with a coyote in 2001.
As World Champion, Charlie has been asked to judge and present seminars at state and national competitions around the country. He enjoys working with competitors and students, passing on what he has learned.
Charlie lives outside East Lansing, Michigan with his wife and daughter. Interests include bird hunting, gardening, woodworking, sculpting and painting. "The last couple of years I've really gotten into oil painting; landscapes mostly. It's a challenge. Like taxidermy, there is so much to learn."
Kurt is well known throughout the industry for his amazing habitat recreations in many different mediums. Jay is a very talented up and coming habitat maker. The two will be working together to judge the habitat category within out Open Division this year!
Novice, Youth & Commercial Judges