It's no longer looked at as simply a "trophy." Taxidermy, says Jay Nielson, is becoming recognized as an art form.

So much so these days that mounts are no longer simply heads and horns."Many are full mounts and many are put in an natural setting to make them look as life-life as possible," said Nielson, supervisor of exhibits and graphics at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

The larger mounts, especially the life-size ones, will take between two and three months to complete.

The public will be able to judge for themselves this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Olympus Hotel, 161 W. 600 South, when leading taxidermists hold their 1991 Competition Art Show.

On display will be more than 150 animal mounts, including life-size bear and deer. There will also be many head mounts of larger animals, such as moose, caribou, elk and the re-mount of Utah's No. 1 mule deer.

"The thing that's neat about this is that it shows just how far this work has come. It's no longer just mounted heads hanging on a wall. It's art. Animals appear in their natural setting. A deer, for example, might be reaching into a bush," he said. "Ducks just won't be hanging, but will look as though they are in actual flight, or sitting on a pond of reeds."

About 75 taxidermists will participate in the competition. Judges will score in three areas - fish, heads and mammals, and birds. What they will mainly be looking for, said Nielson, "is realism . . . Right down to the finest detail."

"You'll find that most taxidermists have a real respect for wildlife. They want to see it preserved. In some cases this is the only way some people will be able to see some of the animals up close.

"I think those who come to the show will find it a real learning experience," he said.

Cost of the exhibit is $2 for adults, $1 for children. Hours will be 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Given away at a special drawing on Sunday will be a rifle, scope and hard case. Also, four animal mounts will be given away during the drawing.