Greetings friends. My name is Dan Swanson. My wife Tina,
son Soren and I live in the small town of Ludlow, Pennsylvania,
in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest. I own and operate
Dan Swanson and Son Taxidermy along with my cousin and
retired Navy Veteran Clark Green. I’m also into my fourth year
serving on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania
Taxidermy Association.
I spend the winter months working full time in my taxidermy
shop and then return to my job as a property manager in the
spring of each year, at which time my days become very long
between working full time, working the taxidermy shop in the
evenings, coaching baseball, and keeping up with the lawn
mowing business and most importantly being a husband and
Having grown up in the forest, I have always had a love for
anything outdoors. Fishing, trapping,
hunting or just hiking in general were
how I spent the majority of my free
time. My early childhood was spent
fishing with my dad, grandfathers, and
anyone else who would go along, or
quite simply by myself. For years, my
group of friends and I would spend
summer days catching and releasing the local snake population.
As I became old enough to tag along on hunts but not yet old
enough to shoot, there were very special days that I was allowed
to take days off of school each squirrel season to be the carrier of
the harvest. Little did I know that those “preserved” squirrel
hides would be my earliest attempts at taxidermy.
My real introduction to taxidermy came at about the age of 8.
My parents made a pilgrimage to Grice’s Gun Shop in Clearfield
and while we were in town, they took me to Clearfield Taxidermy
where they gave us a tour of the facility. From that day on I was
hooked. I remember sticking my small, little fist up into the nose
cavity of a moose manikin that was sitting on the floor. How
A short few years later my taxidermy dreams were thrown to
the wayside when we discovered that I was very allergic to deer
hair. Even at that time I realized that whitetail deer were the
predominant species for a taxidermist in our region and I wasn’t
willing to struggle through swollen eyes and runny noses, or the

“If you want to really
know what can be
bettered in your
work, compete!”

dreaded allergy shots required to control it. Baseball soon
replaced the taxidermy dreams.
Flash forward about twenty years. Modern medicine brought
me to the realization that I could keep my allergies under control
and once again return to the dreams of the little boy in the rooms
of Clearfield Taxidermy. My first mount was a great six point that
my Dad and I both shot while hunting together. It still hangs in my
parents den and is a constant reminder of where I started and how
far I have come.
As fate would have it, I was put in contact with Paul Czarnecki
with the suggestion that “he can put you on the right track”. As
any of you who know Paul will agree, he has a way of putting
people on track and I quickly realized that the track I was on was
going to be a long uphill climb unless I sought out the proper
training. I immediately joined the PTA and began doing one on
one classes with some of the best
taxidermist I could find.
That winter I competed at the
Harrisburg show with a deer I had shot
in Manitoba. I got a second place
ribbon in the amateur division, but the
critique I received from Matt
Zimmerman was worth its weight in
gold. I was hooked and have competed ever since. If you want to
really know what can be bettered in your work, compete!
If I could offer any advice to people either just starting out or
wanting to make their mounts or business better, it would be to
join your state taxidermy association, and there is none better that
the PTA. The convention and seminars are top notch.
My final piece of advice; take business courses! Taxidermists
are traditionally people with a love of the outdoors and a big heart.
That doesn’t necessarily make a good business person. Believe
me, I learned the hard way and until I began to take business
courses and really sat down and crunched the numbers, I was just
spinning my wheels. Don’t make the same mistake.
So in closing, I would like to say thank you to my wife, son
and family for tolerating my dream, temper tantrums when things
go bad, and the time away when the shop calls. Also I am forever
indebted to the people who helped make me a better taxidermist,
and that starts right here in the Pennsylvania Taxidermy
Association. Thank you all.