“It Is What It Is”

Duck season doesn't start until October this year, but Jeff Davis still goes out when he can during deer hunting season to scope out the habits of ducks in his local hunting grounds in Oxnard, Calif., Friday morning, July 26, 2013. Davis hunts primarily in duck season but does enjoy using his bow and arrow during dear season. (© Ashleigh Mower 2013)

Duck season doesn’t start until October this year, but Jeff Davis still goes out when he can during deer hunting season to scope out the habits of ducks in his local hunting grounds in Oxnard, Calif., Friday morning, July 26, 2013. Davis hunts primarily in duck season but does enjoy using his bow and arrow during dear season. (© Ashleigh Mower 2013)


 

It Is What It Is


Born and raise in Oxnard, California, Jeff Davis has lived 43 exhausting years, and wouldn’t have it any other way. When I first met Jeff, I saw a tattooed man who enjoys hunting and taxidermy. But like many first impressions, my view of Jeff changed dramatically after spending time with him. With a warm human nature, I took to Jeff’s personality and life story with fascination and inspiration.

Jeff has many tattoos, but the ones on his arms are the most meaningful. They resemble his childhood and how he transformed from tragic events. On his right forearm he has a portrait of his mother and the letters “S and “D”, which stand for “strength and determination”. He also has an intricate Japanese Hannya Mask, which represents the dark scorn of a woman while also highlighting passion and courage. His left forearm features a portrait of his father along with the letters “M” and “F” which stand for “merciless forever”. Like the mask by his mother’s portrait, he has an Oni Mask to represent his father. In traditional Japanese folklore, an Oni mask is the demon associated with evil and distressful emotions. These demons are said to lurk around the dying, rushing in to pull souls down to hell. As a young 3-year-old boy, Jeff’s mother shot and killed his father, in an act of self-defense after many years of domestic violence. Being the strong person Jeff is, he describes the incident as; it is what it is and life goes on.

On Wednesday afternoon, June 19, 2013, Jeff Davis uses a special clay epoxy to seal the seams of the eyes, nose and mouth of a buck at Ojai Valley Taxidermy, Ojai, Calif. The clay is used to prevent bugs, dust and humidity from getting past the skin and into the structured mold. Davis has been an apprentice to Testa at Ojai Valley Taxidermy, Ojai, Calif. for almost a year. (© Ashleigh Mower 2013)

On Wednesday afternoon, June 19, 2013, Jeff Davis uses a special clay epoxy to seal the seams of the eyes, nose and mouth of a buck at Ojai Valley Taxidermy, Ojai, Calif. The clay is used to prevent bugs, dust and humidity from getting past the skin and into the structured mold. Davis has been an apprentice to Testa at Ojai Valley Taxidermy, Ojai, Calif. for almost a year. (© Ashleigh Mower 2013)

Growing up with two brothers, six years his senior, Jeff was a troublemaker. More involved in racing car accidents, broken bones, and pranks than schoolwork, Jeff likens himself to Johnny Knoxville in Jackass. But he’s never really grown up. A 16-year-old boy trapped in a 43-year-old man’s body is something you notice about Jeff the more you get to know him.

After graduating high school Jeff had and eclectic mix of jobs in roofing, construction, auto mechanics, and fast food management. No job could quench his thirst for adrenaline. Three years into a Technicolor DVD distribution job, he left his white shirt and tie for a tattooing apprenticeship. He perfected the craft by practicing on his stomach.

After growing up in a broken family, Jeff too had a broken family of his own. His first wife was a drug addict, which introduced his eldest son to drugs. When Jeff filed for a divorce, he took custody of his youngest son Zac (now 24 years old). Although out of touch with his ex-wife and eldest son, Jeff has been with his current fiancé, Blanca, for 4 years and looks forward adding his to-be stepdaughter, Gia (12 years old) to his family.

Since childhood, Jeff has been interested in living from the earth and harvesting food. He began fishing at age six and continues to this day. Because of the incident with his mother and father, people warned him to stay away from guns. It wasn’t until his 39th birthday that his friend introduced him to duck hunting. Now one of his favorite pastimes, he even takes. At 12 years old, Gia has her own hunting license for this coming duck season in October. While hunting, Jeff finds a spiritual connection with God and nature unlike any other. Jeff finds the silence of a 4 a.m. sunrise chilling. Duck hunting is a part of who Jeff is and he couldn’t imagine his life without it.

Just over one year ago, Jeff caught a 12lb fish and called Ojai Valley Taxidermy to figure out how much it would cost to have the fish mounted. It was then that he met the YouTube famous Chuck Testa. Chuck educated him about the standard prices, and Jeff couldn’t afford it. He told Chuck, if you teach me how to mount this fish myself, I will tattoo you for free. After Chuck observed Jeff’s “natural talent”, he said he would like Jeff as an apprentice. Now at Ojai Valley Taxidermy, they are heading towards the big screen. In the past 6 months, a slew of film crews and producers have been in and out of Chucks backyard filming a pilot episode for a reality TV series.

For the future, Jeff plans to marry Blanca, have a successful hunting season in October, keep his fingers crossed for the success of the TV series, and continue to live through the minor pains in life. After all the things Jeff has gone through in his life, losing his father and then his first family, he does not have bad bone in his body. He finds joy through the little things in life. He explains he will be forever married to pain; a new pain of getting older and a lingering pain of emotional torments. Once again, he told me “it is what it is”, and that life is more than just tolerating pain, but finding a positive outlook and understanding that through faith, pain is only a small part of the much bigger picture in life.