Big Game Trophies Without the Killing
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.”