James (Jim) Foote was born in 1925 to a family of physicians. At an early age he decided that he preferred to study and work with nature. He began carving duck decoys as a boy as part of his love of hunting and fishing. After enlisting as part of the Navy Air Corps at 17 and serving in World War II, Jim returned home and enlisted as a student at the University of Michigan. He received two degrees from the university: a Bachelors degree in Forestry and a Masters degree in Wildlife Management. He worked then as a biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, quitting after 27 years to devote his time to wildlife art. In his forties he became seriously involved with professional bird carving and entered bird carving contests. He won many decoy competitions in the 1970’s including two from the Ward World Championship Competitions in 1973 and 1975 in the Decorative Decoy Pairs competition. He was a self-trained artist who developed many of the techniques that he used in making his decorative decoys. He is most recognized as one of the first professional carvers to actually add feather texturing to the traditional decoys. He also carved fish decoys as well.
He stopped entering carving contests in the late 1970’s now focusing his talents towards the paintings of wildlife scenes and the production of limited edition prints of his paintings. He captured the colorful wildlife scenes on canvas with oil and acrylic paints. He did still continue to volunteer as a judge at many competitions. He was also commissioned by the Ruffed Grouse Society to create its first conservation stamp and the chapter of the Ruffed Grouse in Lewiston, Michigan honored him by naming their chapter after him.
Jim Foote died in 2004 leaving behind his wife, Joanne, three daughters, five stepchildren and several grandchildren. His works are still highly sought after by many collectors of wildlife art.