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Sweet Home mom starts at-home taxidermy business

By Benny Westcott
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Tyla Brooks, 29, wanted to get out of the medical field, work for herself, and be more involved in her two little kids’ lives rather than being gone all day.

So, naturally, she started a taxidermy business out of her garage in Sweet Home, at 1212 47th Ave.

“My husband and I are huge hunters and I’m super artistic, so it kind of just goes hand in hand,” Brooks said.

Her garage shop, Brooks Taxidermy, is cluttered with animal heads, and the front room of her home is resplendent with even more large fauna, including, notably, a black bear.

Raised in Forest Grove, Brooks graduated from Forest Grove High School in 2012. After that she was a medical assistant for eight years, including at Samaritan Urology in Albany for six years.

She then shadowed at Santiam Taxidermy for a few months prior to starting her own business.

In addition to the shadowing, Brooks is teaching herself from YouTube. “There’s a lot of trial and error,” she said. “There’s a lot to learn. I’m studying a lot of different other taxidermists’ work, and then trying to recreate that and adapt my own techniques. It’s definitely a learning experience.”

She said one of the biggest challenges to getting going was learning how to operate power tools, so she could do certain things on her own without having her husband or someone else do it for her.

“There’s a lot of that when it comes to taxidermy,” Brooks said. “It’s kind of a lot of construction stuff.”

There’s a lot that goes into the craft.

An animal has to be skinned, flushed, turned and salted. The salting process can take a couple weeks.

Then the animal needs to be taken to a tannery (some people tan themselves), where it is turned into what Brooks calls a “workable leather.” That tanning process can take anywhere from a couple months to six months.

“That’s why taxidermy can take so long, is that tanning process,” she said.

After the tanning is done, Brooks has to shave down everything, measure it all out, and order forms and habitat, adapting them to make sure they fit the animal and what the client wants the final product to look like.

“I just want to be affordable and high quality, so that people can afford to preserve their memories without something outrageous, and with not too long of a wait time,” Brooks says.

She said she’s pretty busy now, more so than when she started in January, when it wasn’t hunting season.

The week The New Era caught up with her, she was working on two antelope and some bobcats. “Right now it’s just antelope season, but it’s about to be archery elk, and then it goes to deer, so that’s when it will get really busy,” she said. “But right now the only ones I’m really bringing in are fall bears and antelope.” She said that doing bears is really time consuming.

Brooks expects her busiest time of the year to be October and November, during hunting season. “That’s when I’ll be home the most, just trying to bring in as much product as possible,” she said.

Brooks said hunting is her family’s biggest hobby. “We take our kids with us,” she said. “It’s just what we do as a family, spending time in the woods and stuff.”