I, Toby Hogan was born January 16, 1946 in Yoakum, Texas. I was six years old when I saw my first mounted deer head. My school friend's dad had a mounted deer head hanging in their living room over their couch. My friend and I would climb on the couch and look at that mounted deer...Just amazed at the beauty of that animal. I told my friend, Forrest Reese, that when I got old enough, I was going to mount deer heads. In 1952, when I was in the first grade, we lived in Edna, Texas. As I grew up, we moved around a lot, and at the age of ten, my brother and I were spending the summer with my grandparents. I saw an ad in a sports affiliated magazine which read, "Men and Boys, Learn to do Taxidermy Work". This was an ad for a correspondence course offered through the mail by the Northwestern School of Taxidermy, located in Omaha, Nebraska. The entire course was for $20.00. Being a young child, this was a large amount of money for me at that time. It promised to teach how to mount deer, birds, fish, and small animals. I thought, "Wow, just what I was looking for.", but where was I going to get $20.00.
That summer, we were staying at my grandparent's house. My Uncle Kenneth...Uncle Bubber, as we called him, was taking care of my grandparents at the time, and living there as well. That afternoon, as soon as Uncle Bubber got home from work; my brother, Jim, and I bombarded him with the taxidermy ad in the magazine. We told him of our hopes of getting a $20.00 loan from him. He agreed to loan us boys the money. But, we had to work it off by mowing the yard for the rest of the summer. We agreed, and quickly ordered the course. In the few weeks that followed, we were mounting everything our BB guns could take down.
At the end of our summer stay with my grandparents and uncle, my family moved to El Campo. There my brother and I enrolled in El Campo schools. While I was there, I participated in my first science fair where I presented a mounted Field Lark, and won third place. I was a happy young man.
The next year, we moved back to Yoakum, Texas. As you may have noticed, most of the places we lived were in the country. So my brother and I had a lot of time to hunt and fish in the surrounding woods. We had a great time hunting and fishing, and had an even better time mounting our animals and birds. We hunted and mounted squirrels, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, crows, owls, hawks, and even eagles, when they were still legal prey, and not protected. We generally mounted these animals for friends. The first deer we ever mounted, we got a whole $10.00 for. But $10.00 bucks was a lot of money back then. As far as I know, that mounted deer is still proudly displaced in our friend's home.
I joined the Navy from 1964 through 1968. Even though Navy life changed my routines dramatically, I would still find time to visit different taxidermy shops and museums of natural history wherever I was based, or in the ports that we visited. My love for animals and taxidermy has never changed. When my tour of duty was up, I moved back to El Campo and opened up my first taxidermy shop in my garage. I took in many birds and animals that were in season at the time. I worked full time in the construction business for a local company, and wound up working for Brown & Root Construction, out of Houston, Texas. I would do my taxidermy work on the weekends, and use my vacation time to catch up on my taxidermy projects. I was getting a lot of jobs, working on deer, ducks, geese, fish, bobcats, hogs, and even some exotic animals.
Each year, more and more work would come in; finally to the point that I found myself not being able to handle both jobs. At that point, I decided to go into the taxidermy business full time.
By 1979, my reputation and the quantity craftsmanship of my work spread throughout Texas. This happened in part due to some advertising, and of course locating in the best and easily accessible locations to hunting and fishing hot spots throughout Texas.
But the main reason for my success was the word of mouth following I had. It was amazing; of course, being younger and a restless soul in my early years, I had a tendency to move myself and hence my business from different town to town in search of a place I wanted to eventually settle down in and call my home. My clients didn't mind where my business was located. They would seek me out and travel to my new location in order for me to personally immortalize their latest hunting and/or fishing trophies.
They all knew my main goal was to create a lasting trophy that they would be proud to display in their homes, lodges, and places of business. They also knew my second goal was to build long term friendships and working relationships with each of them. Besides, it was good for repeat business. I would love, and still love to catch up with each of them, year after year...as they proudly bring me their latest prize catches. And of course they couldn't wait to sit down and tell me of their latest hunting and fishing escapades.
Due to this reputation for honesty and quality workmanship, my business had gotten so good that it was time for a major expansion. So I opened my first large storefront there, in El Campo, Texas. With the new larger shop size and added capacity, my business grew and grew and became extremely successful. During my years there, I taught many people the taxidermy skills and trade I cherished, and was so proud of. I trained many apprentices in how to conduct quality taxidermy work. For the ones that were interested, I carefully consulted them on how to setup a taxidermy business.
After that, I moved to Edna, Texas for a while. I had a very nice studio there for five years, before settling into, hopefully my last location in Simonton, Texas over 10 years ago. There I opened our current location, naming it, New Frontier Studio. You can find me and an occasional apprentice there every day, except for an occasional Sunday...As when I get a chance, I like go out to my favorite hunting and fishing haunts to bag my own wild game.
I have a bi-weekly hunting and fishing tips column in Texas, in the Wallis News-Review under the new heading of, "Have Fun Outdoors!". There you can always follow my adventures and stay up on the latest tips and tricks. I always like to share a few stories and tall tales along the way. Many of these, taken from my hunting and taxidermy friends and associations over the past 50 years.
I still consult and teach apprentices to this very day. Stop by and see our work. Fifty years seems like no time at all, but I'm ready for the next fifty.