For years, the Dr. Rene Vela Trophy Collection remained hidden in an old garage behind Alice Family Dentistry.
He didn’t intend to keep the collection private, but the old garage was the only space large enough to house the massive display.
That recently changed when Dr. Rene Vela decided to devote part of his building to displaying the deer in what can only be described as a museum for one of the most massive displays of antlers and game in South Texas. The collection is now housed in a series of rooms by the dentist office. Each room is hand painted by painter Luis Hurtado to depict the animal’s native habitat.
The collection includes antlers and game collected over the last 30 years by Vela and his hunting buddies Campo Vela, Bo Vela, Dr. Ben Vela and Jeremy Vela.
Vela’s plan is to allow patients at Alice Family Dentistry to view to collection during visits. He said he hopes it even offers some comfort to those apprehensive about visiting the dentist. He wants to make the display available for schools and other groups to visit.
Vela said the collection is the by-product of his passion for hunting.
“People always ask me why don’t I just buy my own ranch and just hunt there?” Vela said. “The reason I don’t is that I hunt for big deer and I don’t kill them all, so I lease here and I lease over there, and I hunt here and I hunt over there.
“I like the 10 to 12 seconds of adrenaline rush that you get. I’m very proud of them. About 95 percent are true trophy-caliber deer. Too be on one location and see them, is pretty amazing.”
The majority of the antler collection are whitetail deer harvested in South Texas. The majority of the deer score over 150 on the Boone and Crockett scoring system. The deer are displayed against a background which depicts a brushy landscape.
Some of the larger antler trophies are mule deer taken in hunting trips to south western Colorado. Against a scenery of the Colorado Rockies is a display of monstrous mule deer. Hunters call them “muley’s” because of the deer's big ears. All of the antlers on display are considered trophies and several of the deer score high on the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
Like the whitetail trophies, all of the mule deer were harvested via “fair chase,” meaning they weren’t “canned hunts.”
“Hunting has changed so much, but these trophies are all wild,” Vela said. “These are not canned and released and then you shoot them.”
The African exhibit displays game animals harvested by Vela in South Africa in 2006. The display includes a kudo, an eland, an impala and a gemsbock. The walls behind the exhibit show a South African landscape.
Any money raised through the exhibit will go to Bo Vela’s Level Up 24/7 and to South Texas military veterans.