Michael Gary Orthober

Date of Birth: November 27, 1961
Place of Birth: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsisn
Current Location: Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Michael’s father taught him to draw (trucks, airplanes and birds) at a young age. Later he acquired a couple bird books and started drawing the birds contained in them. Along with his interested in birds he started building WWII aircraft models and learned to use an airbrush to paint them. His father (Gary) and uncle (Roger) were hunters so Michael began hunting with a BB gun at a young age. His uncle had a fews mounts in his home and Michael admired the taxidermy and decided to try taxidermy on his own beginning with birds. His uncle gave Michael the lesson books he bought from the Northwestern School of Taxidermy along with the tools (Michael says he still uses the carcass hooks). He also found a book in the school library called Quality Taxidermy that aided in his start of taxidermy. The first bird he attempted was a pigeon when he was 11 years old.

Michael started a business in his parents basement during his sophomore year in high school doing birds. Soon he move on to mammals and started fish in1983.

He joined the Wisconsin Taxidermy Association and in 1981 where he attended his first competition. He did not compete, but was impressed with all the taxidermy and seminars. He began competing the following year and missed only one WTA competition over the next 36 years. He was on the WTA Board of Directors for 4 years and was the WTA competition committee chairman for 17 years.

Mike married to Lorie Orthober in 1982. In 1983 Michael worked briefly for a large taxidermy studio, but decided after a couple of weeks that assembly line taxidermy was not for him. Michael took a completely different path. He had acquired five acres of family land and with a background of working in construction built his workshop and moved his taxidermy business there. After several years part time he went full time in the late 1980’s.

Michael continued competing and won his first blue ribbon in 1989. In 1995 he  won his first judges best of show in Wisconsin and went on to win nine more Best of Shows at various competitions. By the year 2000 Michael had established himself as one of the most accomplished taxidermist in all phases of taxidermy in the World. Some of his major winnings include ten Best of Shows, nine WASCO Awards, two First place World Show Master of Masters awards, one Third in World, two Second in World and three Best in World titles. He has won numerous major awards at the NTA including the NTA Taxidermist of the Year in 2017.

Mike Orthober’s accomplishments and vast knowledge of all areas of taxidermy  has earned him judging assignments at many state shows the IGT, the NTA, European Championships, Canada Championships, Russia Championships, New Zealand Championships, and the World Taxidermy Championships. He has been highly sought after as an instructor having given over 100 seminars and still does one on one classes in his studio.

In 1997 Mike was contracted to build a wildlife exhibit at the local county museum (Door County Historical Museum, Sturgeon Bay, WI). He designed the diorama, painted the background mural which is approximately 30′ x 14′ tall and a side wall that’s 14′ x 9′. He also built the habitat which includes a large beech tree, a limestone rock ledge, a stone fence, water scene and the ground cover. Michael also mounted all the animals and birds. There are approximately 140 birds from hummingbirds to raptors, eight mammals, and assorted reptiles and amphibians. Most of these mounts were mounted at the museum with people watching him work and asking questions. The exhibit was officially opened in 2004. Mike still add specimens every year.  He also does many protected birds for nature centers and schools which is his favorite facet of taxidermy.

During this time he also started doing a taxidermy and exhibit lecture for the Door County Historical Museum at the Elderhostel program in his county. After the museum quit participating, he now continues to do it as a service to his community. He does the lecture around ten times per summer. Michael has taught thousands of people what taxidermy is all about and they are always amazed!  He helps teach a taxidermy class at two high schools in his county for the last ten years and also teach hunters safety, including the wildlife ID and game care part of the class for 16 years.

Michael Orthober has achieved tremendous achievements in taxidermy, he has given back to the industry as an instructor, judge, sculptor and association board member and leader. He has educated thousands of non-taxidermist as to the complexity of our trade and the artistry of our craftsman.