Some hunts are just special, which is why many people in the area turn to a taxidermist like Jon Beck of Hixton Ridge Taxidermy in Hixton to commemorate the hunt...and maybe so they can brag a little.
Beck is currently preparing for bear season, which will usually bring in about 30 bears every year for his shop.
“Bear season starts [Wednesday] so I’ll for sure be skinning bears tomorrow night,” Beck said.
The numbers always differ year to year and depend on when the season actually opens, but it’s rarely slow for Beck.
While the bear numbers are nice, it’s nothing compared to the deer season for Beck.
“I usually do about 100 buck heads a year,” Beck said.
He says the introduction of crossbows into hunting has really helped with the number of animals being brought in.
It used to be that gun season always brought in more deer to be mounted, but last year with the introduction of the crossbow, Beck said it was the first time bow season brought in more deer.
“I’m starting to see a few more older men shooting a really nice buck because they got a crossbow and can now get out in the woods and hunt,” Beck said adding that opening it up to other people than just those who can pull back a bow has helped the business and got a lot more people out in the woods.
Beck also said that a lot of trophy hunting is done in Jackson County, and hunters are passing up young bucks to hope they make it another year and become a nice trophy the next year.
Beck started Hixton Ridge Taxidermy back in 2004 and learned the trade from his uncle before then.
Beck set up his shop to do all the hide tanning himself as opposed to sending it out to a commercial tanner, which saves both him and the customers time and money.
“That process itself will take up to six or seven months before you even get your hide back to start working on it,” Beck said. “With me doing it in house, I can flesh a hide, salt it and tan it right away and in seven days I can have it ready to go on a form.”
Bigger pelts like bison or moose do get sent out for commercial tanning, but the staple Jackson County animals are handled in house at Hixton Ridge.
Deer season is the biggest workload for Beck, who said that all of the deer will be out the door and back with the hunters by March or April.
That speed matched with high quality products has built up a successful business for Beck, maybe too successful for one man to handle.
“Last year I thought about hiring a guy for some help and I got real close too,” Beck said.
As things wound down a little bit, he said he felt comfortable he could finish it all on his own, but this year might present him with a similar dilemma.
It’s not just deer and bears that come through Hixton Ridge Taxidermy, as Beck said he also does fish, small game, turkeys, and has done some African game like lions, and even an albino deer.
The animals aren’t the strange part of the business for Beck, it’s customizing mounts that provide a special challenge.
The only thing Beck says he won’t do is dogs and cats, but as far as poses for animals he’ll try his best to make it work.
His clientele has grown pretty sizeable over the past 13 years, and that’s through a lot of word-of-mouth advertising from other hunters showing off the mounts he’s made.
Beck has also done some traditional ads in papers and restaurants, but most of it has been done through satisfied repeat customers who come back regularly.
With hunting season getting going, Beck said he’s ready for the long nights that come with it since he never knows when that bear or deer will be shot.
For those looking to get their animal mounted, the biggest piece of advice he can give is to take care of the animal between getting it to the truck and getting it to him.
If the fur or hide is too damaged or the hunter waited too long to bring the animal in, it might be too far gone for Beck to work with.
“It’s like if you buy yourself a nice steak, are you going to cook it right away or are you gonna leave it out for a few days and show it around?” Beck said.
If a hunter does want their animal mounted they can call Beck at 715-299-5410 or look up Hixton Ridge Taxidermy online.