By Richard Lendrum
I spent a couple of days in late February with Aaron and his wife Samantha in Douglasville Pennsylvania. It gave me a chance to get, first-hand, an insight as to what this gent has done over the past 19 years – and it was fascinating. Aside from his passion for pin ball machines, trucks, old Land Cruisers, fishing, and restoring an old jail – and, obviously, taxidermy – it is his passion for Africa that was incredible. And what he has developed there is going to be a base for the promotion of African hunting safaris, for a long time, something I have been working towards setting up. But for now – let’s introduce this man who simply cannot keep still. I asked him how it all started…
Oh, long story short: I was born and raised in up-state Watertown, New York, and had a huge love for both the outdoors, wildlife, and artistry. I joined the marine corps when I was 18 years old, and served three years overseas in the Middle East, and ended up coming back, intending to go to law school. And while I was doing that, I ended up shooting a nice buck here, took it to a local taxidermist and it immediately jump-started my desire to at least partake in the artform of taxidermy. At the time, maybe not for clients and maybe not at the grand scale we’re at now, but I always loved the beauty and the artistry, and creating life from death when it comes to taxidermy.
So, when I was in college I started my company, and within six months I became famous in the industry, kind of known as a prodigy, and started doing a lot of work for Cabela’s, their stores, and demonstrations. At one point in my career I was the only taxidermist in the United States that was fully endorsed by Cabela’s. So my life kind of made a decision for itself and showed taxidermy to be my path. I ended up graduating college, and by then my company was a couple of years old. With my love for global travel and adventure, being in the Middle East, specialising in all the dangerous countries, I immediately fell in love with the adventure aspect of this crazy thing called the hunting industry.
I remember that the first time I went to Africa, I absolutely fell in love with it. It felt like my home away from home. That’s why Africa is my passion. I am on the board of Wild Sheep. I have written for several magazines including Safari, Hunting Four, and of course Wild Sheep magazine. But I still call Africa home. I’ve been to Africa over 20 times and that’s what I’m passionate about, bringing all the positivity that we can towards Africa – its animals, the continent, the culture. And that’s why we push so hard to be positive, positive, upbeat, motivated. The African continent is so broad and diverse. There’s so much to do. It’s not just as simple
a continent like East Asia where you might have, say 15 to 20 different species. Africa has hundreds of different species. And it’s absolutely my passion.
I asked Aaron which his most challenging animal was to mount.
It has to be an eland. An eland is the most challenging of all of the African animals, besides cats, of course. Lions and leopards are the most difficult, but that’s what we specialise in – the difficult stuff. But absolute pain in the butt, an eland is hands down, because of the sheer size, the amount of fat wrinkles, and the lack of hair almost the most difficult on earth to mount, to hit a homerun on. It’s still fun, it’s still enjoyable, but it’s just like anything else in the industry – it’s taxing. Very taxing.
But my favorite is a buffalo. Buffaloes, kudus – anything creative and artistic. That’s why we named our company Artistic Visions, because we wanted to display the trophies in the most elegant and classy way – possibly to impress a wife or a girlfriend. Most times a hunter will be able to go back and share that experience of Africa with them – and that’s what we try and create as a memory. A memory and a piece that are all-in-one. And that’s kind of what we’re famous for, our stack work where we can put three, four or five mounts on a single base that completes a picture of your entire safari without taking up a lot of time, energy, space. And it’s also very cost-effective.
I asked him what his vision was for a base.
It’s exciting times. We’re in such rarefied air right now that the sky is literally the limit – no pun intended. We’re keen to start this new venture with African Hunting Gazette and possible shows. Our location on the east coast, and specifically in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey… actually, it’s four or five states if you add in Maryland and Delaware. There are five states that are within an hour’s drive of us. So it’s going to be, hopefully, fingers crossed, a new epicentre of adventure and elegance, class, artistry. We’re proud to have John Banovich have his paintings here, so we’ll be the east coast gallery for him. We are also proud to be working with Afton House and African Hunting Gazette. It is definitely exciting! A little bit nerve-wracking, but great things start from great beginnings.