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Taxidermy museum wants kids to hunt, embrace nature

John Carlisle, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Outdoors

WILLIAMSBURG, Mich. -- These wild animals won't bite you if you touch them. And they won't flee if you're near.

At Guntzviller's Spirit of the Woods Museum, the wildlife is approachable, fascinating and quite dead.

Voss Guntzviller is a taxidermist, and he created a tourist stop showcasing hundreds of animals that once roamed the woods of Michigan, but now in their stiffness make close encounters safe and easy.

"Part of it was for education," said the 68-year-old. "We have a lot of youth and kids, a lot of people who don't see what we have in the outdoors. And to take the time and wander around the woods, a lot of people don't have that. So when I built this museum I thought people could come in here and they could see everything right up close, just like you would see in the wild."

Voss has always loved the outdoors. Like a lot of Michiganders growing up in a rural town, he spent much of his childhood outside -- camping, fishing, hiking through the woods. And hunting.

His dad and his uncles taught him how to hunt when he was a little boy, just like most kids he grew up with. And it's bothered him that every year, he sees fewer people heading out into the woods when hunting season rolls around.

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It bothered him that with dozens of school districts within a short drive of his museum, there have been very few teachers leading kids here to learn about Michigan wildlife.

But it bothers him most that the kids themselves don't seem as interested as they once were in outdoor sports like hunting, fishing and trapping, traditions that were once commonly passed down from fathers to sons and from uncles to nephews.

"I think they're missing out big time, you know, because there's nothing like being out in nature," he said. "You see the different animals that are out there. It's the smells, it's the noise of the cricks running. You know, there's a lot of things you don't get by watching TV or sitting on the couch, sucking on a soda."

That's why he built a museum full of dead animals -- to show people what they could be seeing alive in the wild if they ventured outside. To spark an interest in nature among kids. And to say that hunting is a part of life, and that if you eat meat you should hunt it yourself sometimes so you know the consequences of your choices.

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