Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Covington taxidermist Ray Knight stands with Freckles, the longhorn steer he shoulder-mounted for the University of Georgia Animal and Dairy Science department. Top, some of the tools used by Knight in his taxidermy business include brushes, files, paint, molds and drills.
When the real estate market went sour, former home builder Ray Knight turned his hobby into his vocation. Now, the Covington resident has a thriving taxidermy business that can count the University of Georgia among its customers.
A few weeks ago, Knight completed a head and shoulders mount of Freckles the longhorn steer, the mascot for the UGA Animal and Dairy Science department. Freckles died at age 18 in December. He will now hang in the lobby of the UGA Livestock Instructional Arena.
"It was kind of an accomplishment that they would bring it to me," said Knight who owns Alcovy Taxidermy at 4032 Sunset Court on the Newton/Walton county line.
Knight said that in his prime the steer weighed about 3,000 pounds. Working with the 400-pound head and shoulders, and horns that spanned 61/2 feet, made it the most difficult project he's ever completed. The sizable beast consumed his modest-sized shop, Knight said.
"The most challenging thing was the weight of him because it took two people to lift it throughout the process. I've done big animals before like elk but this was much larger than any elk or bear," Knight said.
A hunter who prefers to harvest turkeys, Knight began to dabble in taxidermy more than 15 years ago because other local taxidermists took too long to complete his projects, letting one "go bad," said Knight. About four years ago, he felt competent enough to perform taxidermy for the public.
"I love it. My wife says I can't get enough," said Knight.
Knight said 50 percent of his business is deer -- he takes in about 200 deer a month and the average cost is $260 -- the rest is comprised primarily of fish, ducks, turkey and other small game.
Each animal presents its own challenges. Birds require an effort to make sure the feathers don't dry out and that they are aligned properly. Deer skin must be smoothed down carefully.
The business owner takes pride in telling customers that his turnaround time for animals is six months, even if he has to work around the clock to meet deadlines.
Knight said hunters are the greatest conservationists and he strives to meet his customers' expectations. He wants them to be able to look at the animal and recall the fine details of when and where the animal was harvested.
"I really like all forms of wildlife and with my job I can actually make the wildlife look like it's back in the wild and bring it back to life. The appearance of it, I think that's what I get the most satisfaction out of," Knight said.
For more information about Alcovy Taxidermy, call 678-859-8384 or visit www.alcovytaxidermy.com.