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Thrill of the hunt' stays alive in his work

By Staff
IMPORTANT JOB When a hunter brings taxidermist Jay Belcher a deer to be mounted, he usually wants to know how long it will take to get the mounted trophy back. Belcher, who has been in the business for nearly 20 years, said making sure that the work is done correctly is more important then speedy delivery. Photo by Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Dec. 2, 2001
Though he's been on many deer hunts, Jay Belcher's biggest outdoors thrill came last season when his 10-year-old son, Jace, bagged his first buck.
Preserving dreams
Belcher is used to dealing with excited deer hunters and sportsmen. He's been a taxidermist for nearly 20 years and owns a business in Clarke County. Without a doubt, he is now in his busiest time of the year.
Belcher understands his responsibilities when he agrees to mount someone's prized buck, and has advice for anyone shopping for a taxidermist.
Getting a deer head mounted can take months.
Not for everyone
The field of taxidermy is not for everyone.
And while he didn't set out to become a taxidermist, he doesn't regret the decision.
A native of Meridian, Belcher graduated from Meridian High School in 1977. He was a relief pitcher for the Wildcats baseball team and signed a scholarship to play at South Alabama. He stayed there one year before transferring to Mississippi State University.
Belcher graduated with a teaching degree and had intended to coach. But he decided instead to try his hand at farming on his family's property south of Quitman. He loved it because his off-time came during the winter and deer season.
He raised wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops during the summer. But the farming business took a downward turn around 1980, and Belcher was looking for a way to make a living.
He signed a contract with a taxidermist in Hattiesburg who would teach him the trade. But one of the stipulations in the contract was that he could not advertise or put up a sign.
Belcher survived for the first few years by working nights on the loading docks at Roadway, and farming.
As time went by, his volume increased and he decided to go full-time with his taxidermy business.
His wife, Cindy, is a State Farm agent in Quitman.
The big one
There was a point that Belcher was reconsidering his decision. Then the opportunity of a career came along in the mid-1990s when he mounted the famous 48-point buck that Tony Fulton shot in Winston County.
To make a long story short, Fulton let Belcher do the job. It brought a lot of attention to his business and left him feeling satisfied that he had made the right decision.
All work …
There has only been one downside to the taxidermy business, according to Belcher.
When deer hunting went from being his hobby to being his job, Belcher started watching NASCAR and became a Dale Earnhardt fan.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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