‘It’s just a hobby – but’
Gene Wilfong, of Buckeye, is known for his work ethic and his attention to detail when it comes to new construction and remodeling as Gene Wilfong Builders.
And those same attributes are coming to the forefront in his latest undertaking.
Wilfong, an avid hunter, took that interest to a new level this past summer when he attended an eight-week course at the Western Pennsylvania School of Taxidermy, where he learned a lot and got to keep all of the mounts that he worked on there.
“There is a big difference between commercial and competition taxidermy,” Wilfong said. “The difference is the time and the extra steps involved in competition. A deer mount for competition can take up to 80 hours, but it takes only 12 hours for commercial taxidermy.”
He gave as an example that a bear mount for competition needs to be perfect.
“Where you normally leave the animal ‘as is’ for commercial, for competition taxidermy you would remove parts and put them all back in, making it perfect,” Wilfong said. “I have no desire to do competition. You can’t make a living doing competition taxidermy. I want to do a good job, but I don’t want to go hungry doing it.”
Wilfong has gotten a lot of advice from fellow county taxidermist Rick McCarty, and it was McCarty’s work that inspired him to go to school.
“Well, you see that trap?” Wilfong asked. “Rick McCarty had that trap for three years, and I thought if there is a demand, there might be a place for me in it. When I went to school I wasn’t sure I would like it. But the more I do it, the more I like it.”
And since he likes it, Wilfong decided to get his license so he can do work for other people. What started out as a hobby is quickly turning into a second business for him.
But he has discovered that it is not a cheap undertaking.
Having invested $9,500 in tuition, $4,000 in equipment and missing out on two months of construction work, Wilfong said he has between $20- and $30,000 invested in his “hobby” so far, and hasn’t cleared a red cent.
“It’s a big investment,” he said. “In school you are learning the basics. Rick has been a big help to me since I got back. He has an open door for questions, and he’s been a big influence. I haven’t called my instructor, I just call Rick.”
Part of Wilfong’s investment is in an auto-tanner, which has a 100 percent guarantee of a perfect tan with no hair slippage.
“Hair slippage is the number one problem with the tanning process,” Wilfong said. “Rick has used one [auto-tanner] for 13 years and he has not lost one hide.”
With good equipment and good techniques, Wilfong said he is ready to tackle whatever comes along.
What began as a hobby, is now taking on shades of a business.
“I will be glad to answer questions,” Wilfong said. “Hunters are welcome to call me, and I will tell them how to skin the animals. I can give advice and assistance on skinning them for mounting.”
Wilfong is ready to take on some mounts other than his own, and he may be reached at 304-653-4970.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com