One could call it luck.
Or, one could call it a passionate pursuit of perfection.
Whatever one calls it, one thing is clear; Mike Welch, owner of Trinity Taxidermy in Wiggins, is the People’s Choice as the best taxidermist in the State of Mississippi.
Welch’s mount featuring an adult raccoon and three babies scampering on a tree was selected as the People’s Choice winner in the recent Mississippi State Taxidermists Association annual competition held in Jackson.
“I still can’t really believe it,” Welch said. “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and this was the first competition I’ve ever entered.”
It took encouragement from his wife, DeAnna, to get Welch over his reluctance to even enter the show.
“I’m my own worst critic,” he said. “Even the day of the show, I was telling myself, ‘I’m not even going to do it,’ and DeAnna just laughed and said I had to if I was going to find out what I needed to improve.”
What stood out to Welch, a retired Biloxi firefighter, was DeAnna’s shout of joy when the announcement was made.
Once a mount is entered, the contestant doesn’t see it again until the awards are passed out at a luncheon on the final day of the event.
“I just wanted to have world-class judges look at my work and give me critiques so I would know what to do to improve,” Welch said. “I truly did not expect to win.”
But, win he did, and now he’s been bitten by the competition bug.
Welch intends to enter several mounts in this month’s Alabama Taxidermists Association contest in Muscle Shoals.
He would like to qualify to compete in the world competition which is held every two years.
“There won’t be another one until 2021 and you have to win other competitions to get there,” he said. “It’s by invitation only.”
In addition to the People’s Choice award, Welch earned a blue ribbon in the Habitat division, the Best Mammal award and the Mounted in Alaska prize for the best natural representation.
He also earned a number of red ribbons for his entries.
Those interested in having game or fish mounted can visit Welch at Trinity Taxidermy at 2902 Hwy. 26. The business is open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Welch suggests calling first at 228-326-2655.