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Big Game Trophies Without the Killing

Associated Press

Pete Rachel sits in a chair below a rhino head hanging on the wall, the animal’s horn just a few feet from a rifle the mighty hunter is holding.

But, things are not always what they seem. Rachel didn’t bag that trophy with a big game rifle. He made it.

Rachel, who originally trained as a hotelier, was encouraged by his mortician father from the age of 12 to enjoy taxidermy. But, he has a soft spot for animals, and his artificial trophies allow him to combine business and pleasure.

Rachel makes molds of real hunting trophies, using a special plaster mix he designed. He then casts the animals in Fiberglas and paints them nature’s colors. Sometimes he uses a flocking technique to heighten the illusion of fur.

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Touch Reveals They’re Fake

Only touching reveals they’re not the real thing.

The “game” isn’t cheap. A fake hippo goes for $4,000 and half a life-sized elephant, including 8-foot tusks, costs $6,000.

People are willing to pay such prices and Rachel’s firm, Wildlife Interiors, is going great guns.

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Rachel is not sure what the appeal is, but he thinks one draw is the clash between the urge to be a hunter and a concern for the environment. Where do you turn, except to Rachel, if you want a lion’s head for over the fireplace but have an aversion to loud noises and a love for wild animals?

“Or it may have something to do with one’s own animal characteristics,” he said. “For example, I’m a Huey Lewis fan, and watching him perform I see him as a lion, his blondish mane moving with the masculine grace of a big cat--the king of the rock jungle.”

Playboy magazine took note of the frustration to display, but not kill, big game.

Plug in Playboy

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The questions began pouring in after Rachel’s firm drew this plug in the June Playboy: “The next time you have an urge to decorate your apartment like a John Dempsey cartoon (you know, the one where a great white hunter is showing a sweet young thing around his apartment and every inch of wall is covered with wild animal heads), instead of killing something, simply drop Peter Rachel a line.”

The response was fantastic.

“I’ve gotten hundreds of letters requesting catalogues, which are not ready yet, and even some orders,” Rachel said. “The mail’s still coming strong. A lot of it is from doctors, lawyers and interior designers.”

Rachel also does fish, since that is his main contact with live wild creatures. He resurrected in Fiberglas a 12-foot marlin caught off the Florida coast, which was too mangled in shipment to be stuffed.

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“My dream of success is being able to buy a 45-foot boat and fish uninterrupted for a year,” he said.

Of course, there are some fantasies that go too far, even artificially.

“Some guy wanted to pay me extra if I added the figure of his wife being trampled by the elephant, but I turned him down. Too kinky.”


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