ENNIS — Ennis native Terry Hillger has had a passion for hunting, fishing and collecting game trophies since he was a high schooler.

And as a result, he has built a large clientele from virtually around the world, of game hunters, both big and small, who either bring, or send their work to him at his place of business, Trophy Taxidermy, located just south of Rice.

Hillger expressed the exhilaration he experiences as he immerses himself into his craft.

“Being a hunter and a fisherman myself, I know what it is to enjoy the success of the hunt,” he said. “And I know with each trophy that I do what it means to each hunter and I love to live that hunt through them. You meet a lot of really good people through hunting. You may not have anything else in common with them, but hunting brings people together.”

Having a love for game hunting when he was in high school, Hillger said he couldn’t afford to have trophies mounted, so he started reading up on the craft and learning about it on his own.

“It has turned into a business and my clientele has really built up through the years,” he said, listing clients from New York, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. He has mounted trophies for hunters from California, Colorado and Ohio as well as across Texas.

Although many people in the taxidermy business freeze-dry the materials to make trophies, Hillger says he’d rather mount them the old way.

“The word ‘taxidermist’ isn’t being used as much today as it once was,” he said. “It’s being called ‘wild life artistry.’ ”

Hillger’s services go beyond just mounting trophies – he also assists in and books hunts – everything from white tail deer in Texas to elephant hunts in Africa.

Some examples of his hunts include British Columbia – bear, moose and wolf; Alberta – moose and whitetail; Colorado – elk and mule deer; and Texas – whitetail and exotic hunts.

“My favorite place to hunt in Texas is down in the Hill Country,” he said. “Down around places like Kerrville, you probably won’t find many world-class white tail deer, but you’ll have such a good time watching the wild life down there while you’re hunting.”

His talents are varied, building not only trophy animals, but such mementoes as a floor lamp with stand made from the horns of the Gemsbok and Kudu – in the antelope family – with a shade covered with the fur of an Axis antelope.

Celebrating 27 years in the business, Hillger’s business was located in Ennis until he relocated on Interstate 45 just south of Rice last August.

“I moved out here for the interstate highway frontage,” he said of his business, which is located in a new metal building he shares with a landscape company.

He also does work for the Dallas Safari Club, mounting trophies from Africa, New Zealand, Australia, “Clients from far away will ship the materials (skins, skulls and horns) packed in salt,” he explained.

Animals he has mounted include American bison, giraffe, elk, black bear, white tail deer, black buck antelope and soon he will begin work on a life-size African lion.

While he loves mounting trophies for other hunters, Hillger has been known to take off on safaris of his own.

“I spent 19 days in Zimbabwe hunting kudu and nyala, which are in the antelope family,” he said. “I don’t get to go on trips like that very often, but I will go back one day.”

Asked what his limits are when it comes to mounting animals, he said there is no animal that could be taken legally that he couldn’t do.

Hillger also sells deer feeders and deer stands and other products for the big and small game hunter.

Hillger and his wife Mari, a native of Mesquite, have been married for 31 years and have a son, T.J. (Terry Jr.), and a daughter, Britani, and her husband, Matt Newman.

Although there would be few distractions from his business, Hillger admits he’s getting anxious about the birth of his first grandchild, Aspyne Eve.

“She was due yesterday, but the doctors said if she isn’t here in the next few days, they may have to induce. I just can’t wait until she gets here. I’m going to spoil her so much,” he said with a smile.

For more information about Trophy Taxidermy, visit the Web site at www.trophy-taxidermy.com. Call 972-872-9000 or cell 972-741-8977. E-mail him at jthillger@academicplanet. com.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.