Tall Tines Taxidermy

December 3, 2021

Métis taxidermist on a mission to reduce wildlife waste


Chris Lecuyer started his taxidermy and tanning business, Tall Tines Taxidermy, last year.

It took Chris Lecuyer over a decade of working himself to the bone in an office environment, chasing money and titles, resulting in sleepless nights, stress, and health issues, for him to realize that he wasn't motivated by money.

"I figured each raise or each new title would ease my soul, and the reality is that it didn't," said the 34-year-old taxidermist.

Lecuyer held roles from inside sales to procurement coordinator, even travelling internationally for software implementations for a Fortune 500 company. In 2016, after spending 18 days on a software rotation in Toronto, Lecuyer realized he wasn't heading down the right career path.

"I am a bottoms up guy, a hard work wins guy. A look after the people and the people will look after you guy," he explained. "There seems to be a point in corporate where you have to break through that barrier to be important, and forget who and where you come from. I am not that guy."


The Métis harvester's interest in taxidermy was sparked after he became disillusioned with his corporate job.

By chance, a stroll through his St. Boniface neighbourhood led to Lecuyer's next venture, which would align more with his love for the outdoors and spur his interest in harvesting, fishing, and trapping.

"I happened to be on a walk in my neighbourhood and stumbled upon a local commercial taxidermist I had no idea existed. I Googled them upon getting home and I sent them an email. Your typical 'I would love to cut the grass, paint the walls, sweep the floors' email, whatever I could do to be a fly on the wall and just be in that environment," he said.

Soon enough, Lecuyer was invited to meet the owner, and started volunteering for the taxidermist on the side while remaining at his purchasing job for a local software firm. He was offered a full-time role with the taxidermist less than a year later.

"The kicker here was that it was for $13 an hour. A more than 50 per cent pay cut, with no incentives, no dental, no RRSPs, nothing," Lecuyer said.

However, he was at the point in his life where he was able to weigh his options, and knew that taxidermy was his future. With some financial management, Lecuyer was able to work at the taxidermist full-time for a few years.


Tall Tines Taxidermy offers custom taxidermy, tanning and fur dressing, European mounts, scenic habitats and dioramas, custom pieces and commissions, fur dealing, and more.

He credits his current knowledge to this initial taxidermy job.

"The three folks that are responsible for everything that I know have a combined taxidermy experience of over 100 years," Lecuyer said.

Upon the onset of the pandemic, when borders closed, lodges shut down, and freezers dried up, the commercial taxidermist was forced to lay Lecuyer off.

"I was sitting around and figured, why not give my own thing a shot," he said.

In 2020, Lecuyer opened his own full-service taxidermist and full-scale fur dresser and tannery, Tall Tines Taxidermy, in St. Boniface. He is now a fully licensed animal parts dealer, taxidermist, fur dealer, and tanner.

"We can process your harvests into beautiful mementos and preserve memories for a lifetime," Lecuyer said, "We use a variety of techniques - a mix of old school tried and true ones, to modern, more up-to-date ones."


Lecuyer is now a fully licensed animal parts dealer, taxidermist, fur dealer, and tanner.

Turning his newfound passion into a career started with small dreams, but the business quickly snowballed.

"I figured if I could trap in the winters, guide in the springs, to (do) taxidermy and tan in between and make just enough to keep little ol' me alive and afloat, that that would be a pretty good existence," Lecuyer quipped.

However, Tall Tines Taxidermy took off much faster than he anticipated.

"The support and word of mouth has been mind-blowing. I am always evolving and ever learning," he said.

The business started out as a part time gig for Lecuyer. Due to its success, he began working there full-time this fall, with his father helping out as much as he can.

"It has honestly been so humbling. When I first decided to give this a kick, I told my father I would be pumped to process 10 work orders. I did 12 times that in my first year," he said.


The business quickly grew upon its inception.

Sales have come from social media and word of mouth - a testament to the stellar service the company provides.

"In my opinion, the special recipe is really, really simple. If you look after people, the people will look after you," Lecuyer said. "My phone's always near me. I am accessible a variety of ways. I am flexible with explanation. I am honest, open, and transparent. Only straight goods here. No nonsense, no drama."

Tall Tines Taxidermy had to quickly scale up in order to meet demand, adding new procedures, processes, supplies, and accounting software.

"It has not been without its growing pains, but those are what I refer to as good problems. It surely beats wondering where everyone is," Lecuyer said.

For now, he's riding the momentum.

"I have outgrown my space and I would much like to relocate rurally into a shop in my backyard," he said.


Sales have come from social media and word of mouth - a testament to the stellar service the company provides.

Lecuyer's long-term aim of the business is to help others as much as possible, starting with his own family.

"To allow my dad to retire and muck around in the shop for me, or to give my mom and brother a chance to live things they never thought were possible, and ultimately at the end of the day, if I could employ members of my community. That would be the icing on the cake," he said. "I told myself when I left corporate, if I was ever going to work that hard again, it would either be for myself, or for a local person who you know needs that money, and it's not a shareholder on his third vacation cottage."

Through Tall Tines Taxidermy, Lecuyer aims to shift the perception of taxidermy by displaying it in a different, crafty way.

"One of the things I am passionate about is trying to make taxidermy more art, and less 'dead animal on the wall,' and this can be achieved a variety of ways, but most popularly by adding custom habitats or dioramas. It takes the 'dead' out of it and gives it a warmer, more museum quality feel," he said. "Remember the first time you walked into the Manitoba Museum and were greeted by a diorama featuring bison and horses? That's the stuff I live for."


Lecuyer aims to shift the perception of taxidermy from "dead animal on the wall" to art, in part by adding custom habitats or dioramas.

Since tanning was new to Lecuyer when he started the business, he worked on the process for a while before perfecting it. Tall Tines Taxidermy is now fully equipped with fleshing wheels and fur tumblers as an alternative to a full mount.

"We tan anything and everything. If a taxidermy mount is not your thing, preserving the hides as throws or flat rugs are also affordable options," Lecuyer said. "I also provide forwarding services, wet tanning, European mounts, custom commissions - I can source a variety of things and make all sorts of crazy custom ideas or beautiful pieces for cabins, offices, barbershops, tattoo shops, etc."

Now a jack of all trades, Lecuyer is the resident marketer, accountant, welder, woodworker, plumber, web designer, and more for Tall Tines Taxidermy. The company's website, www.talltines.ca, offers guidance on how to process various game for both taxidermy and tanning. It's a bank of information that Lecuyer says he will continue to add to.

"This isn't about hoarding secret knowledge of the ages; my craft is already a dying one, but hunting is a growing sport. I just want to save animals from being wasted," he said. "Sharing the stuff I have learned is part and parcel of being taught and learning."


Tall Tines Taxidermy is fully equipped with fleshing wheels and fur tumblers.

Ultimately, Lecuyer is here to work with everyone.

"I am not here to poach. I am not here to swoop up all the business or to put people under. We all have and share the same dreams," he said.

"There is plenty of work for everyone. If you're a taxidermist who needs jobs and I have extra, I will share them. We have to find a way to work together so it's mutually beneficial for all of us."

The biggest goal of Tall Tines Taxidermy has been to provide affordable taxidermy and tanning services to limit the amount of wildlife waste that Lecuyer says is occurring.

"Meat first is always number one," Lecuyer said, "But where I come from, and what my people stand for, subsistence is not just the meat, it's utilizing everything we can to honour that animal. We owe them that much."


A proud Métis harvester, Lecuyer loves the outdoors. He aims to reduce wildlife waste through taxidermy.

While Lecuyer has always enjoyed the outdoors, especially summers spent as a child in St. Eustache and Flin Flon, obtaining his harvester card took some convincing.

"I was worried about the drain on our natural resources," he said.

However, seeing the due process in which his father and other Métis harvesters underwent to preserve the harvests each year eased his mind.

"I watched how they managed the resources, committed to trust funds, used tags, and tracked harvests," he said. "In 2017, I decided - after many years - that the system was fair and just, and that it rewarded and ensured that the future generations of our natural resources would be secured."


Obtaining his harvester card allowed Lecuyer to spend more time in the woods, harvesting white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, and turkey over the years with this father.

It wasn't until Lecuyer obtained his harvester card that he started to really spend time in the woods, harvesting white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, and turkey over the years with his father.

"There is so much to learn to ethically and humanely harvest food, and each species poses a unique set of challenges. Harvesting has significantly impacted how much time I spend outdoors, why I am outdoors, my love of the outdoors, how I harvest, why I harvest, and what I want to do with my life," he said.

When Lecuyer became a harvester, he made a commitment to pursue game more passionately, and honour the wildlife in the same way his ancestors did. He also wants to continue the tradition by passing on his learned wisdom for the next generation.

"I have never felt more proud to be Métis, and more committed to wanting to provide a way to give back to the Manitoba Métis Federation. Be it by mentoring Youth, running seminars, anything to do what I can to help future generations thrive and succeed," he said. "I recently started a big chest tattoo of a bison skull with the Métis flag floating above my heart, and I wear it proudly."

Visit Tall Tines Taxidermy at talltines.ca or @talltinestaxidermy.

 


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