Hunting shop expands services, improves hunting community

Published 6:54 pm Sunday, October 21, 2018

When two men came back to Elizabethton to open their own hunting store, they didn’t originally offer taxidermy services, but after years of customers asking for it, they decided they could do it better than anyone else.

H&S Hunting and Fishing began offering taxidermy services about a year ago, and co-owner Michael Manuel said it has improved the company’s ability to offer an all encompassing experience for their customers.

“It seemed like a good fit,” Manuel said. “People used to ask us all the time if we did it.”

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Unlike many other taxidermy places, Manuel said H&S uses a “tanning” method, in which the hide is placed in a metal tank with a special chemical and pressed via air pressure. He said this allows the process to last much longer than traditional, freeze-dry methods.

“Many processes will only last a few years, while some of ours were treated in the early 2000s or even the late ’90s,” he said.

Different animals require different methods to preserve what customers bring in, but Manuel said there is little a customer could bring in H&S will not work with.

“Last year, we did about 250 mounts,” Manuel said. “We are hoping to double that in the future.”

Manuel and his partner, Howard Craft, first opened H&S in 2002, as a way to incorporate Elizabethton’s hunting population.

“Elizabethton is a big hunting region,” Manuel said. “We get folks from all over who want to hunt here.”

The duo originally ran an outfitting store in Illinois, and wanted something to do during the off-season, so they decided to open shop back where they grew up.

The idea actually came from Manuel’s son, who took some courses in Pennsylvania in order to learn how to taxidermy safely.

He also said H&S prides itself on serving their customers, forming a community of customers and visitors who keep the store running.

“We are all one big family,” he said. “One of the owners is always here. We want to make sure everything is taken care of.”

Manuel said the proof of their success is in the responses from community members, including various letters and sometimes even a cake or two.

In addition, Manuel said he and the rest of the team are hunters and fishermen as well.

“We do not sell products we ourselves would not use,” he said. “We test the quality of our stock.”

Manuel said the daily goal is to make every customer satisfied, because money spent there betters Elizabethton.

“If you shop here, you help the community,” Manuel said. “By doing that, you help everyone. It helps us do more for schools and other places.”