GRINNELL — It started as a hobby, then evolved into a part-time side business. But Mike Beckman has been making a living doing what he loves as a full-time job since 1999.
Mike’s Taxidermy, 607 Monroe, has expanded from a small space in his home basement, then to a garage, then to a large outbuilding next door — which has been added onto for additional space.
His personal showroom is filled with hunting trophies collected locally and abroad. An avid hunter, Beckman travels the world to hunt different game — when he can take a break from work, that is.
“We always hunted and fished and trapped, you know,” Beckman said. “So I just started doing it one day.”
The showroom includes many species of deer and antelope, a bear, bobcats, a variety of birds and a large moose from a trip to Alaska.
“That’s my famous ‘hole in the nose’ moose,” he said, referencing a bullet hole the animal had been living with before his hunt.
The room also is home to many plaques and ribbons the taxidermist has received at state and national competitions. One of his prized possessions is a large white ribbon indicating a third-place win in the World Taxidermy Championships. That award was given for a carefully preserved rattlesnake mounted on native-looking rock.
He also was inducted into the Kansas Association of Taxidermists Hall of Fame last year.
Entering his work in competitions has helped him perfect his craft, he said, as judges are looking for anatomical accuracy and great skill in making the animals look as natural as possible.
Beckman has hunted in Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Alaska. His customers also have ordered his work to be shipped all over the world, including a few current pieces that will be sent to Nicaragua.
While most of his customers are regional, the rural area of northwest Kansas and surrounding area also draws hunters from out of state and even internationally during hunting seasons. Travelers often want a trophy to remind them of the experience, he said.
The shop stays busy enough to employ an additional staff member, Mike Allemang. As of last week, they were working on their 227th order for their fiscal year, which resets in September around the busy hunting seasons.
“It takes a lot of work to make a living at this,” Beckman said. “You’ve got to have 200 to 300 pieces a year that’s gotta come in here, otherwise I might as well go work someplace else as far as that goes.
“But I get to do what I love. I generally don’t have a problem getting up and getting to work.”