The Right Stuff – Kristen Ottea is a Model Turned Taxidermist
Kristen Ottea is a model turned taxidermist who takes great pride in her art and her sport.
Hometown: Bulverde, Texas
Kristen Ottea (o Tee uh) got an early start in taxidermy by watching her dad, Mike, at the family business, Ottea Taxidermy, in San Antonio, Texas. A detour into the world of modeling took Kristen all over the world, but five years ago when her father retired, she came home and took over the business with her husband, Jared Offtermatt and is proudly carrying on the tradition her father started over 40 years ago.
When and how did you get started hunting?
I started hunting at about 13. I started a little later than most kids who hunt because I didn’t like the sound of the gunshot at first. It took me a little while to get used to it, but once I did, I couldn’t stop! My father got me in to it. I started hunting on our ranch in south Texas.
Do you remember the first animal you ever shot?
The first animal I ever shot was a feral hog. I dropped that sucker. I’ll never forget that one—I was so excited! My mom took pictures of me running out into the field to see it. It was a big ole sow.
You run your father’s taxidermy business. How did you learn taxidermy?
My father started in taxidermy when he was 17. He opened Ottea Taxidermy in 1975. When he retired five years ago, Jared and I took over running the business. I’m an only child, so I am the girl and the boy.
My dad taught me taxidermy, just like someone taught him. There was a lot of trial and error. Lots of people go to school to learn, and schools for taxidermy are fine, but learning from someone in the business is the best way to learn in my experience. I still learn things every day. You never really stop learning. I taught my husband as well. I sculpt the face on every project we do. We do about 650 shoulder mounts a year, 90 percent of which are whitetail deer, and I work on every one. Jared oversees the game processing side of the business.
What animals are your favorite to work on? And what’s the most exotic project you’ve had?
I like working on whitetail because they’re easy for me. I’ve done so many; it’s like second nature. I like getting African safaris in. I had a serval cat last year that was exciting. Doing any type of African game is pretty neat.
You’re an avid hunter and gun enthusiast. What’s your favorite thing to hunt and favorite gun to shoot? I like hunting everything, but my favorite hunt to go on is in Africa. All my African hunts are memorable. I also shot an elk six years ago in Grand Junction, Colorado. We were on top of a mesa, and a blizzard had come through. Oh my goodness, it was cold! My favorite caliber gun is a 30 aught 6—it can take down just about anything you hunt, from whitetail to elk to just about any big game.
Being a Texan, what are your favorite things about Texas?
The first thing is the Mexican food; it’s to die for. Also everyone here is friendly downhome good people. I love that you can hunt just about anything here. The countryside is so pretty, and I like the weather. I grew up in the hill country, and it’s just beautiful. And I love big jacked-up trucks. My first truck was a big F250, jet black, with a six-inch lift and huge tires. It was a big-boy truck, and I loved it!
You’re also a model. How did you get into that?
I got into modeling around 13 or 14. I’m tall—5’91/2”, and I’m super thin. People would always say, ‘you should be a model.’ But I can’t walk in heels, and I don’t like dresses, and I’m not girly at all. But finally my mom and I went into an agency in San Antonio, and they liked me and signed me. Then I ventured to Houston and New York. I traveled abroad to London and Singapore. I went to Miami and Los Angeles as well. It kind of took off. But when I took over the business, I had to mostly stop modeling. I have to be here.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in modeling and what did you like the most?
I absolutely loved the travel. I did a national Marshall’s campaign in Glamour Magazine. But my favorite shoots were for Academy Sports and Bass Pro because I was in my element, and I got to wear camo.
There are a lot of fishing pictures on your Instagram. When did you start fishing, and where is your favorite place to fish?
I’ve been fishing my entire life. I was so young, just walking. I had a little tiny rod. My family has a house near Port Aransas, Texas, on the coast. I go fishing every weekend from May 1st through September. I look forward to fishing so much. I have only ever really fished in Texas—a lot of redfish, flounder, and drum. But I want to get into fishing more. I just want to travel around the states and fish. I did fish in Alaska, which was very cool. It was a four-day trip, and I caught silver salmon, halibut, and rock fish.
How can you encourage other women and girls to try outdoor activities?
I just drag people along with me. If they’ve never really done anything before, I say start with a hike. It gets you out in nature, but it doesn’t require any special equipment. You’re just out in God’s creation enjoying the beauty. When I get stressed, going out and sitting in nature is the best thing. I take people with me and show them how fun it is.
What are your long-range plans?
We’re going back to Africa for the third time in May 2021. Otherwise, I’ll probably still be here running the taxidermy business. We’re building a house in Spring Branch, Texas. I want to travel as much as I can and see other cultures.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I’d be at the beach. I’d wake up and make a huge breakfast; I love breakfast. I’d go fishing. Just be a beach bum. I love the water. I love the ocean. If I could go fishing every day I would. I’d end the day sitting by a campfire under the stars.