Joe Halko (Deceased) grew up a student of nature of a ranch south of Great Falls, Montana. He learned the habits of the fox and the skunk, the crafty ways of the crows who nested in the same tree year after year, and whether the storm clouds held precious rain or dreaded hail. He built toy trucks and tractors out of leftovers from his father's shop and sculpted with clay out of the creek bank using ranch animals as models. He learned the basics of taxidermy from an uncle and so began his serious study of the anatomy of game birds and animals. Halko's first formal art education was Art Instruction, Inc. of Minneapolis, a correspondence course.
After graduating from high school, he worked as a taxidermist in Great Falls and studied art at the University of Great Falls before he was drafted into the US Army. With that commitment complete, he took the train to New York to study art at the Fisk Studios and to work as a commercial artist for a Long Island advertising agency. He spent his free time there at the Museum of Natural History sketching the taxidermy mounts and the backgrounds. The school, work and big city museums were new and rewarding experiences, but the busy city was not where he wanted to be.
He returned to Great Falls and earned his bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry - hoping for a career with the Forest Service or the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department. Through all of this Halko had been studying painting and sculpting, and spending as much time as possible in the out of doors. As it turns out the taxidermy and the biology degree were solid preparations for Joe's career as a wildlife sculptor.
His first serious sculptures were done as aids for painting - to study shadows, dimensions, and foreshortening. As he did more of these sculptures he found that he really enjoyed the sculpting, and it came easily for him. He continued his day work as a sought-after taxidermist doing sculpting on the side until 1976, when he turned to sculpting as his full-time occupation.
He has been fortunate to have lived in Montana all of his life. He married Margaret also a Montana native in 1969, and they have two daughters who are now grown. There were many opportunities along the way to move to bigger cities and larger markets, to travel and participate in the so-called big time shows, but Halko wanted to live and to raise his family in the environment they all loved. They spent 17 years south of Cascade along the Missouri River where wildlife and bird life was abundant and much studied. In 1998 Joe and Margaret moved to Choteau, another beautiful spot in Montana. It is a picturesque Montana town along the east front of the Rocky Mountains with easy access to the rugged wilderness and numerous wildlife preserves.