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Bears, alligators, warthogs and bucks in Osceola? They are there, you just have to know where to look for them. Osceola resident Larry Whirledge is in his 48th year of doing taxidermy and will process any animal, bird or fish for anyone.
Whirledge and his wife live in a nice quiet house on the southwest side of town. Larry works in his shop with a big TV complete with satellite service. With a quick look around the shop you will notice the many different types of animals and heads, birds and fish hanging on the walls.
As a young man, Whirledge attended South Dakota State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology. During his studies, students were assigned to work with a taxidermist and study their work and the specimen’s anatomy. This required study time piqued his interest in the field. The taxidermist he was with recommended a book, which he purchased and studied. This is how he got his start in taxidermy.
“When I finished my degree, there weren’t many jobs for someone with a wildlife biology degree. So I looked elsewhere,” said Whirledge.
He ended up working at a grain elevator in Bancroft for 46 years. While working full time at the elevator, he worked on the side doing taxidermy. The more he studied the art of taxidermy, the more he did and the better he got, he said.
Whirledge joined the South Dakota Taxidermist Association when it formed. They hold competitions and have judges that will guide you and educate you and Whirledge said it was very good for his experience and improved his work.
As Whirledge’s experience increased so too did his reputation and the word of mouth spread. He has done mounts for customers as far away as California.
“Whitetail deer is probably my favorite to work with. Its also the biggest part of my business,” said Whirledge. The biggest buck he has worked on was a 21 point. He said walleye and perch are a popular fish here in South Dakota.
Whirledge loves competition and feels he learns something at every show. He recently won first place with an entry of a South African nyala. It won in the Best Commercial Mount.
Most of Whirledge’s profit goes toward more hunting trips. He has gone to South Africa and Argentina and many other places.
He is always busy in his shop taking care of his customer’s work, not to get rich, but to someday head out on another hunt.
Posted on 12-24-2018
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