- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2001

The rifle-toting deer hunters braved the rain as long as they could stand it when Maryland's fall deer hunting season opened yesterday. Those that could stand it no longer rubbed their hands in frustration. But those that bagged a deer, particularly a buck with a full head of antlers, rubbed their hands in anticipation and headed for Bushey's Taxidermy.
Taxidermists, those folks who preserve deer heads for mounting on office or den walls, count the two-week season as one of their busiest and most lucrative periods. It should be at $375 per head and up.
Johnny Pierce, 23, walked into Bushey's shop on Mattingly Avenue in Indian Head, about 11:30 a.m., with the head of an eight-point buck in a brown cardboard box.
Another hunter, Mike Ohnstead, was on Mr. Pierce's heels with his trophy the head of a 10-point buck, which he shot in La Plata.
Both of the hunters' trophies are in good hands. Dan Bushey, 59, and his son, Ayrlie, 29, know what they are doing.
"This is a real busy time right now. Eighty percent of the business will be taken in during the next two weeks," said Mr. Bushey, while measuring one of the buck's heads.
In the next 36 hours, 40 hunters will visit his shop for mounts. He started the family taxidermy business 25 years ago, and in the course of any given year, he'll easily get 800 orders, which include deer, ducks, turkeys, foxes. He even mounted a 99-inch-tall grizzly bear weighing in at between 850 and 900 pounds this spring.
The Charles County native started hunting when he was 12 years old. Now retired, he hunts every day, he said. Taxidermy was just a natural progression for him to make. And he didn't go to any fancy schools to learn how to preserve animals and show them as they looked when they were alive Mr. Bushey taught himself.
"You've got to be doing this a good 10 years to get a good delivery a good finished product. And you've got to have a lot of common sense. There has to be some sort of knowledge about the outdoors," he said. He may be a bow hunter but he's also a keen observer, which adds to the art of taxidermy.
"I watch the deer; it gives me an opportunity to see them at a close range. That way, you get a good finished product," Mr. Bushey said.
It's a meticulous process, one that he and his son take seriously. They both believe in authenticity. That's why Mr. Bushey uses McKenzie mannequins for his deer mounts.
"They're shaped like deer in this area long and slender, thin-bridge noses with narrow eye sockets," Mr. Bushey said. He enhances his mounts with detailed work.
He first sees his specimens with their skulls, skin and antlers intact.
"I peel the skin off of the skull and cut off the antlers. They'll be reattached to the mannequin. Then, I send the hides out for tanning. When they come back, I glue the hide on the form. Once I finish mounting, I put tags on the mount and pin it down," he explained to a squirmy spectator. To make the deer's glass eyes life-like, he uses a solution called hydromist for the glistening effect.
it's the sound of the telephone again. It's another hunter. Mr. Bushey talks and then gets back to business.
"I'm so busy, this is no joke," he said.
From his workshop, a reporter followed him to his home, just a stone's throw away, where he houses some prized possessions. On his enclosed porch is a 241/2-pound turkey with an 111/2-inch beard, a mounted eight-point buck with a 23-inch antler spread and a black bear that he killed in Quebec, Canada. The trio won Mr. Bushey the coveted Grand Slam for his hunt between September 2000 and May this year.
His basement is where his trophies are showcased. Seventeen in all line the wood-paneled den, from eight-point bucks to 13-point bucks some with leaves in their mouths, others heads slightly cocked to the side, and still others with wistful expressions.
He loves to hunt. It offers him "the things I like the most the serenity, the quiet, the peace. Then, I go from that to the real thrill of being close to an animal, really close. I want it to be where I have accomplished an ambush. The way I do it, I see the deer the trail and the winds in my favor I get really close, 10 yards, that's the best way," Mr. Bushey said. It is why he only hunts with a bow and arrow. He needs it to be a test of skill, not firepower.
Opening day yesterday with its rain and fog made things tough for the firearm hunters.
"When it gets wet, rainy, and also warm, the hunters don't move around much, so the deer don't either," explained Department of Natural Resources biologist Bob Beyer, 54, the associate director of the DNR's Game Management Program. "When it's colder, the hunters don't stay still for long."
The rain sent many hunters packing. The road along the McKee Beshers Preserve and Seneca Creek State Park in western Montgomery County, for example, is usually lined with cars and trucks the first day of firearm season. Yesterday, there were only twenty.
Jackson Ramirez, 16, a student at Bladensburg High School in Riverdale, sat in the back seat of a Chevy Suburban, waiting to go home. He had hunted for the first time yesterday with his father Roberto and 11 other men. It was not a good day. They shot no meat and on the way home one of the vehicles in the three-truck caravan broke down.
Next Saturday would be better, the young hunter said.
Jon Ward contributed to this article.

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