Trent Welfel never thought he would own a taxidermy business.
Now, the 23-year-old is one of the state’s burgeoning animal hide artists, making his home in Goliad County. Outside of Fannin is where Welfel resides as the proprietor of Mid Coast Taxidermy, a result of 10 years of experience for the exuberant tradesman.
“I’m honestly surprised it blew up this fast,” Welfel said a little over a year into his new shop location. “To have a real good taxidermy shop, good name for myself out there, (I’m) trying to just stay hard working to keep that.”
The pursuit of the animal preservation craft began as a middle-school student in Goliad, said Welfel. When he was 14 years of age, Welfel began “messing around a little bit” with the art under the tutelage of longtime area taxidermist Brian Pnacek.
Welfel worked under his teacher until Pnacek’s semi-retirement, first getting the opportunity with his business at 21 years old.
“(It was) well, find another career or open up your own.”
Customers coming into Mid Coast will see a collection of drying animal mounts, mainly deer heads. Welfel can provide services for “global” wild game, and also holds several bobcats in the shop, among other wildlife. His portfolio also extends to water fowl.
When a customer brings an animal to the shop, Welfel begins by “caping” the soon-to-be mount. This is a skinning process, which on deer, would be from the nose to just behind the front shoulders in length.
After a trip to the tannery, hides are ready to be prepped for mount, which includes setting of the eyes and ears on a customer’s chosen creature.
“Whenever they come back, you can’t just slap it on a mannequin and roll with it,” Welfel said.
Preparation also includes trimming of excess skin, “flushing out” the hide “to where it’s easy to work with” and not “too bulky.”
“That’s a real hard thing to do, especially if you’re picky,” Welfel said. “(I’m) making sure everything’s perfect every step of the way, because that’ll reflect on (the) end product.”
Once hides are attached to mannequins and properly mounted, the end product will dry for approximately one week before further drying with epoxy in facial creases.
The final piece is the airbrushing of the mount, getting the color “you desire,” with each taxidermist having his or her own preference.
Welfel says he is always trying new things to keep up with modernization in an “always-evolving” industry.
“It’s something you gotta do five days a week to stick with it and learn it, master it.”
Mastering his domain as a professional taxidermist involved tasks that separate the hobbyists with the elite in their field. For Welfel, this was the actual business side of his passion.
“I had done some of it, but (I’m) dealing with a lot of paperwork side of it instead of just mounting the deer. It’s a legitimate business, it’s nothing run out of a garage. Keeping up with taxes … so you don’t have anybody knocking at your door. It’s fun, I like it.”
His clientele is mainly local, due to the hunting haven that is southern Texas. During the fall hunting season, a product can take around eight months to return to a customer. At the end of white-tailed deer season in February, a backlog may take a mount one year to complete.
Welfel’s youthful energy has also translated to some out-of-state business, via families vacationing in the region. Social media has aided in the process, but the young pro states that his “best friend” is word-of-mouth advertising.
“The word travels through the grapevine like wildfire whenever you’re talking about taxidermy. Everybody likes to get their animals preserved, and they want somebody that’s reputable, stuff looks good, that’s how I get a lot of my business.”
In a world associated with an older audience, the 23-year-old hopes to start a fire under his peers.
“It’s kind of starting to come around with some of the younger people in the bigger cities finding the knack for it … kind of nice to be this young and already have about 10 years of experience, so whenever I do get to be (older), I’ll have a lot of knowledge.”
For more information on Mid Coast Taxidermy, call 361-649-1342.