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UTNY Competition Rules, Categories, and Entry Criteria

If you have questions about the convention or competition, check out the FAQ section on this page or contact a UTNY board member.

Divisions of Competition

When entering your pieces in competition, you will need to designate their division and category. The division you choose determines the level of critique your piece will receive. If you ask many taxidermists who have been competing for awhile, they will tell you the best benefit to competing is the knowledge you will gain through the critiques of your piece. Toggle between the divisions listed below for more information.

  • Youth
  • Commercial
  • Amateur
  • Professional
  • Masters

Any competitor 16 years or younger may compete in the Youth division. Competitors in the Youth division may compete under their family member's UTNY membership, but must pay competition entry fees.

The Commercial division is open to all competitors and offers the least level of critique. Judging is done without a flashlight or physical touch from several feet away. Mounts in the Commercial division receive blue, red, or yellow ribbons without numerical scores and are eligible for Taxidermists' Choice special awards. There are no Best of Category awards in this division. 

The Amateur division is for anyone who is new to taxidermy and has never competed in a given category in a taxidermy competition before. If you earn two first place ribbons in the same category or a Best of Category award within the Amateur division, you must move up to the Professional division the next time you compete in that given category.

The Professional division is for taxidermists who have competed in a given category before and who have generally moved beyond the hobby stage of their craft. If you achieve three first place ribbons in the same category within the Professional division, you must move up to the Masters division the next time you compete in that category.

The Masters division is for seasoned, often full-time, taxidermists who have won several blue ribbons in a given category in lower divisions. Critiques at this level are quite in depth and offer valuable insights for improving your mounts.

Division Selection Rules

A mount can only be entered in one division in the competition; for example, you cannot enter the same mount in the master and commercial division at the same time. Competitors will be required to move into higher divisions after winning a certain number of blue ribbons in a given category. You may voluntarily move into a higher division for a certain category, but from that point forward, you will not be permitted to move down to a lower division.

When choosing a division, keep in mind:

  • The higher the division, the higher the judges’ scrutiny. Ribbons may be harder to come by, but the input from the judge will be more in-depth.
  • First timers often think they should start in the Amateur division, but you might consider entering the Professional division. The judging is to a higher standard, and the critique will be much more detailed…  you will learn more, faster!
  • The Commercial division is basically judged from several feet away—the customer’s viewpoint. Ribbons may come easier, but you won’t get the benefit of a score sheet and critique. If you are hungry for knowledge, you might be better served in any of the other divisions.
Brain standing with his mount and awards
Brian Noody and his 2019 black buck that took home six special awards, a Best of Category designation, and a score of 95 in the Masters division.

Categories of Competition

Depending on your piece, the division you’ve decided on, and the nature of your work, you’ll need to define categories as listed below. Some categories, called “open categories,” will not need an associated division.

If you have entered your mount(s) in the Youth, Amateur, Professional, or Masters division, you will also need to designate a category from the list below for each piece and note whether your mount has an open or closed mouth. Best of Category awards will be given to the highest-scoring blue ribbon entry in each category, per division. If a division does not have any blue ribbon awardees, there will be no Best of Category ribbon awarded.

Each entry is $25 if pre-registered and $40 if you register the day of the show.

  • Whitetail deer
  • Gameheads (including animals at 1/2 life-size)
  • Large life-size mammals (larger than a coyote)
  • Small life-size mammals (coyotes and smaller, including juvenile large mammals, fawns, cubs, etc.)
  • Upland birds
  • Waterfowl
  • Habitats
  • Turkeys (freeze dry heads permitted)
  • Reptiles (skin mounts)
  • Reproductions (fish, reptiles, amphibians, replica antlers, etc.)
  • Fish (All fish are judged as two-sided skin mounts in the Professional and Masters divisions. One-sided fish are permitted in the Youth, Amateur, and Commercial divisions. The judge will need to see two eyes and the finished area to blend the seam in order to score the fish. If you do not specify your division, the fish will be scored as Commercial.)

There are no Best of Category awards in this division. Category options are fewer and include:

  • Whitetail deer
  • Gameheads
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Fish

Some categories do not require a division designation. Entries in open categories are not eligible for the Distinguished Taxidermist Award or other special awards unless specifically listed.

All competitors regardless of age and skill level are considered eligible for the following open categories:

  • Wildlife Art — This category includes, but is not limited to, sculpture, painting, photography, carving, casting, or flat art. Judges will choose placements. Wildlife art will not be allowed if it is lewd or offensive to the public (traps, blood, arrows, etc.). NO LIVE AMMO!
  • Freeze Dry Taxidermy — Entries must be designated for this category specifically. No other freeze dry will be permitted in the general competition with the exception of turkey heads.
  • President's Challenge — To be eligible for the President's Challenge Award, you must pay an additional $10 entry fee. The winner is chosen by the UTNY president. The mount changes each year.
  • Collective Artists — This category applies to works completed in groups. Everyone who works on a entry much be a paid UTNY member (no shop entries). Only one ribbon will be awarded per collective entry.
  • Novelty — This category is for pieces such as wildlife re-creations or novelty taxidermy paired with unnatural habitats

Competition Scoring

Entries in categories within the Youth, Amateur, Professional, and Masters divisions are scored on a 100-point scale. A common misconception is that you’ll be competing against other taxidermists for first, second, and third place ribbons. Rather, your piece will be scored independent from other mounts. Your final score designates which ribbon you will receive: 90–100 points earns a First Place ribbon, 80–89 points for Second Place, and 70–79 points for Third Place. There are often multiple first, second, and third place ribbons per category. Pieces entered in the Wildlife Art, Freeze Dry, Novelty, and Collective Artist categories and the Commercial division will receive placement ribbons without a numerical score.

Special Awards

The highest scoring blue ribbon mount in each category, per division, will be awarded Best of Category. There are more than 50 special awards up for grabs, and competitors are considered for almost all of them without separate entries or fees. When registering your mounts, be sure to check your eligibility for special award consideration if you used certain products. Special awards are presented at the banquet. 

Rules for all UTNY Competitors

  1. All attending competitors must be dues-paying members of UTNY and must be registered at the convention. Your registration badge must be worn at all times.
  2. All competition pieces need to be registered for the competition and the appropriate fee(s) paid.
  3. You must pick up your packet before entering competition pieces. All competition pieces must be delivered to the check-in area by 4:30 p.m. on the Friday of the convention weekend. Any final grooming is to be done only in the check-in area prior to the official judging session. Pieces may not be removed until the end of the board meeting on Sunday. NO EXCEPTIONS! Anyone wanting someone else to transport their competition pieces on Sunday will need to supply a written document to the competition committee with both parties’ signatures for release.
  4. No one is to be allowed in the competition area prior to, or during, judging other than authorized competition committee personnel.
  5. Pieces may be used to compete only one time in a UTNY competition.
  6. Hangers must be placed so that they extend above the panel on backer. If two hangers are required, space them on full inches apart for pegboard display. You can move them back down after the show.
  7. A piece can be rejected from competition if members of the committee judge it to be lewd or offensive to the general public (i.e. blood, traps, arrows, etc.). NO LIVE AMMO is permitted.
  8. Any plaques or signs identifying the taxidermist or customer must be removed or obscured before judging. All glass cases must be removed by the competitor only and before judging. This will be done in the grooming area.
  9. Multiple ribbons will be awarded in most categories, according to quality of work. In the event of a tie, duplicate ribbons will be given.
  10. Score sheets will be given to competitors. It will be the competitor’s responsibility to keep their documentation. UTNY will only hold the scores of each competitor, not their detailed score reports. Raw score will be used for the ribbon placement in all categories and divisions. Judges will be notified of the division and category.
  11. Any unsportsmanlike behavior will result in the loss of your ribbon(s).
  12. Animals hunted legally in the world are allowed with proper permits, including transport permits. Hawks, owls, songbirds, or eagles will be allowed with proper state and federal paperwork. The competitor is responsible for knowing and following all such laws pertaining to species on federal or New York State protected or threatened lists.
  13. JUDGES’ DECISIONS ARE FINAL.
  14. All competition pieces will be entered at the competitor’s own risk. UTNY is not responsible for any liability due to damage, theft, fire, or natural causes.
  15. Any competitor 16-years-old or under will receive a ribbon and may register under family membership. They must still pay the competition entry fee.
  16. If you bring any animal that does not conform to any category, you must submit photos and reference pictures for the judge to determine if it was correctly interpreted in the mount. There will be no Best of Category ribbon.