TikTok loves Berks man’s pet stag in suits

Tristan Kochel’s quirky short videos of his pandemic pet deer have garnered 1.4 million followers and 66 million likes on TikTok.

Kochel, 21, is a business student at Albright College where he is on the baseball team as a pitcher and infielder. He graduated from Gov. Mifflin High School.

He said his family had been feeding wild deer outside his home when they joked he should have a pet deer. Then COVID hit and the idea seemed more appealing. They got fences and contacted a few captive deer farms.

“TikTok was a surprise to me,” he said. “The first video I posted was a huge surprise. I never thought I would get to the point of having 1.3 million followers. That’s crazy money for me. I started to post and people started responding.

They called him “the deer guy”.

For context, China-based TikTok has over a billion users worldwide. The K-Pop group BTS has 44.9 million followers.

The best TikTok accounts have tens of millions of followers. One million is considered a desirable threshold in terms of marketing and can lead to sponsorships and other ways to earn money. Most TikTok users play in front of a much smaller audience.

Kochel’s July 2020 video of a bleating baby deer playing hide and seek reached 7.1 million likes. Well, Kochel was hiding and the baby, named Belle, was looking around in her kitchen in Union Township.

Days later, he posted a video dancing with Belle to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” commenting, “To all the people who reported me to the gambling commission…I still got my stag!” Also, thanks to all the reports the game warden is following me #deer.

He went on to chronicle the adoption of other deer, Lily and Daisy. (He now has six) The only video of a deer eating Cheez-It crackers has gained 2 million likes. Yes, he is allowed to own pet deer and must report to authorities every year.

Feeling the love from the fans, Kochel started putting costumes on Lily, like a bumblebee. Basically, he said the costumes are children’s costumes that he or his mother, Lisa Kochel, find on sale.

Yes, they may look like generic deer to some viewers, but Kochel knows them well.

“The way I set them apart is their personality,” he said.

Some are clumsy or shy and some are friendlier while others are finicky with others.

@pipkochel

Which deer is your favorite? #deer #cute #viral

♬ No Roots – Alice Merton

Kochel lives on approximately 4.5 acres with her parents and siblings. Deer live in a fenced area. They eat clover, grass, and a special food mix he buys from a mill. They also like bananas, apples, melons and other fruits and nuts.

“A lot of people don’t understand the importance of keeping deer,” Kochel said. “It’s not a bad life for them. They are safe. They are not hunted. They are pets like any other pet.

The Department of Agriculture checks the deer every year, inspecting to make sure they haven’t added or released deer from their herd without approval. It has several different permits for them.

He’s starting to gain recognition and now he’s bringing his deer fame to a new food truck venture. It’s called Pip and Lily’s loaded tater tots. The logo is Lily, the costume-wearing deer, in a chef’s hat.

  • (Courtesy of Tristan Kochel)

  • Tristan Kochel's food truck inspired by his famous TikTok costume...

    (Courtesy of Tristan Kochel)

    Tristan Kochel’s food truck inspired by his famous TikTok costume wearing the pet deer, Lily. (Courtesy of Tristan Kochel)

The food truck may be the most surprising thing the deer has brought into his life, but Kochel remains surprised when people recognize him. At a food truck event, a few kids demanded to take pictures with him.

The challenge is to keep coming up with video ideas and following trends on TikTok. He tries to post once a day.

“They are definitely my favorite animals,” Kochel said. “Being in the French Creek (State Park) area, there are a lot of them. I think they are the coolest animals.

@pipkochel

The glow #deer #cute #virall

♬ Alex and his girlfriend are racist – ✌︎︎

@pipkochel

If you wonder what a 24 hour deer looks like go ahead #deer #quarantinepet #cute #viral blow it up

♬ original sound – Pip Kochel