DREXEL, Mo. -- You wouldn't think that someone would mess with a hunter, after all he's got a gun and knows how to use it. But this taxidermist has angered hunters all across the metro and every year, the number of victims grows.
Drexel is the kind of small town where there are no stop lights and the gas station attendant still fills your tank. Here in this quiet corner of far western Missouri business is still done on a first name basis. That's why what happened in this now boarded up building on the corner of Main Street is such a shock.
Melissa Nichols works next door at the breakfast depot. She says people regularly stop by looking for Monte Sink -- A 70-year-old taxidermist -- who disappeared a year ago and who customers accuse of taking their money and their animals.
Nichols recalled one woman who was in tears.
"She came by furious wanting to know if we had seen Monte. She said he had told her to come by for her son's first kill. She left here empty handed. It was sad."
It's not often you hear of a scam involving a taxidermist, but Monte Sink has developed quite a reputation that tracks back more than a decade.
"When I heard that he left Drexel I knew it was a long chain of him moving ahead of everyone else trying to get their things back," said sportsman Chris Gentile.
Five years ago he gave Monte a wild turkey to stuff and a $200 deposit. He's never seen it since.
"You expect it to take a year. Then you find out that year turns into two years and then you realize I'm not going to get some of this stuff back."
Gentile said he's given up trying to find Monte.
Ryan Vestal is still looking for him. Vestal wants his trophy buck back. He gave it to Monte nearly four years ago along with a $100 deposit.
"You sat out in the cold. You froze your butt off and it's your animal," said Vestal who said he originally hired Monte because of the quality work he did. Vestal figured it would take about a year to mount his deer, but when he called Monte months later to check on the progress he couldn't reach him. He drove to the shop. That's when he discovered Monte was history and so was his prize buck.
"I'm not the first or the fifth or the 10th person," said Vestal. "This has been going on for 20 years."
He said what's worse is that some of the mounts that monte belong to children.
"He's taking some of these kids mounts that are probably nine or 10 years old and that's the first deer they've ever killed in their life and they'll probably never see it again."
Because Monte likes to keep moving -- with apparently all his animals in tow.
First, he was in Pecuilar, Mo., then Louisburg, Kan., then Drexel and now he's somewhere else.
He just forgot to tell people where that somewhere is. But no one's forgotten him. He lives on like a bad dream. The woman who rented him this Drexel location told FOX 4 Problem Solvers she had to repair the front door three times after it was kicked in by angry customers.
Hunter Bill Hass said he never had to kick in the door, but he said he did have to threaten Monte before he got his deer back. That was shortly before Monte left town.
"I want it now or we are going to have a big problem," Hass recalled telling Monte. Hass said he then followed Monte to where he stored the antler racks and was surprised to find not only his but nearly 30 others, all hanging on 2x4s. Hass grabbed his rack, but said Monte refused to give him back his $200 deposit.
Dan Charpie is out $450. He wanted replicas of two fish he had caught in Canada in 2005. He expected the replicas to take no more than six months, but as the months rolled by he started to grow concerned once he realized Monte had never even ordered the blank fish forms needed to create the replicas.
"I frequent the area and I would go in and ask how are things going? Do you have the blanks ordered? He never had the blanks ordered. I would ask 'where are the blanks?' Month in, month out, I kept asking him."
Finally, he demanded Monte return his photos and his lure, but Monte said he couldn't give him back his money yet. He said times were bad and he didn't have the cash. He promised he'd have it soon.
That was two years ago.
So where is Monte Sink? To find him we headed south on Highway 7 toward Lebanon, Mo., where his family lives. But we hadn't gone far before we saw this billboard on Highway 7 advertising Monte Sink's newest taxidermy location in Lincoln, Mo., on the outskirts of the Lake of the Ozark's region -- a popular destination for hunters.
We decided to pay Monte a visit, but he stopped us at the door, telling us we could come in only if we left our camera outside. He denied complaints that he was hiding from customers, saying that he had the same phone number he'd always had and that he was located on Highway 65 in plain sight.
We asked why he'd never told customers he was moving. He said that wasn't his responsibility -- they could find him. Monte didn't deny any of the claims made by his upset former customers, but he said all they needed to do was call and he'd make things right.
FOX 4 pointed out that they had all called repeatedly and that he hadn't made things right. He apologized and said he would now. That was two months ago and so far he hasn't done a thing.
Customers like Chris Gentile aren't surprised.
"When I first got to know him I thought he's a good guy; he just thinks he can get more done than he can. After a while you see him moving from location to location, my personal opinion is this is just how he does business."
Monte Sink called us on Feb. 18 promising that he is going to reimburse everyone who gave him a deposit and return their animals. We'll check back in a month and let you know if Monte keeps his promise.