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Mike Whiteside, an avid outdoorsman, has been experimenting with taxidermy for two decades, gaining skills from professionals. His heated garage has become his workplace, surrounded by the creatures he's preserving for posterity. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Taxidermist Whiteside preserving trophies

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

At a young age, Mike Whiteside developed a penchant for Minnesota's woods and waters.

He arrived from Illinois with parents and siblings to spend summers at his grandparents', Bill and Ada Iles, resort on Lower Bottle Lake, assisting with chores and dropping a line at every opportunity.

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The retired military aircraft mechanic, who spent several years in Japan, began experimenting with taxidermy 20 years ago, completing projects for friends.

When he and his family returned to the area, Whiteside went to work as an aircraft mechanic at the Park Rapids airport. After being laid off in 2009, he decided to take the plunge.

"I'd always wanted to have my own shop. Now's the time," he reasoned.

Training under professionals, but taking pride in being self-taught, Whiteside has opened Woods and Waters Taxidermy at his home at 22870 275th Ave., midway between Akeley and Nevis off Highway 34.

"Now it's my primary occupation," said Whiteside, who's state and federally licensed.

The avid scuba diver and bow hunter's work includes game heads, fish and full body preservation of mammals, such as bobcat and fox.

He works with waterfowl and upland game and has completed exotics, including snakes and bats from Japan.

"It's no fun skinning, but when you're finished and the customer's happy, that's the fun part. I've never had an unhappy customer," he said.

That's likely due to diligence. "Quality is a big thing," he stressed. And he strives to keep prices reasonable.

To view his work and gain contact information, go to www.woodswaterstaxi dermy.com.

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