Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

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Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Mr. Taxidermist » Sun Oct 14, 2007 10:35 am

The question of how to care for birds that are going to be mounted is asked quite often, so, I have decided to post a thread (as a sticky) that can be used for future reference.

First of all, no matter how great a taxidermist is, the quality of a mount will first and foremost be determined by the quality of the bird and the manner in which it was handled before being taken to the taxidermist. That being said, when selecting a specimen for taxidermy, I advise people to select mature, late season birds with the least damage possible. Obviously, a kid's first bird, a dog's first/last retrieve, etc can't be chosen and you have to make the best of it. Late season, mature birds make the best mounts because they usually do not have pin feathers (which fall out during mounting) and have the best colors.

Now on to the field care...
When you shoot a bird that is a candidate for taxidermy, I generally recommend retrieving the bird yourself if possible instead of allowing a dog to retrieve it. However, I mount numerous birds that are retrieved by dogs each year. Some dogs will basically ruin a bird and some birds you can't tell they've been in a dog's mouth. If the bird is still alive, the best way to dispatch it that I have found is to open the bird's mouth and stick a small pocket knife through the roof of the mouth into the duck's brain. This causes instant death and I feel is much better than drowning or squeezing a bird as some other recommend. Just make sure that you don't get rough and stick the blade through the top of the head. DO NOT wring the bird's neck.

When carrying the bird, always try to carry it by the feet instead of by the neck. Don't use a game strap if possible. Basically, you want to handle the bird just like you would handle the mount.

When you get the bird back home or back to camp, rinse off any blood/dirt/etc with COLD water. Be gentle with the plumage as you rinse it. You will hear all kinds of advise about putting the bird in panty hose and stuff like that, but you really don't need to do that. At this point, all you need to do is to gently place the bird in a plastic garbage bag with the head folded against the body (not stuck straight out. With the bird at the bottom of the bag, roll the bird up in the bag so that the air is forced out the top. If you have a bird with a long tail (oldsquaw, pintails, etc) take care not to bend the tail. Place this inside another garbage bag, get the air out, and seal it up. Freeze the bird until you can get it to your taxidermist. Birds frozen this way should keep at least a year in the freezer if you have taken care to get the air out of the bags before freezing. If you plan to take the bird to your taxidermist the same day or the next day, you can bag them up and place them in the fridge. I would keep a bird in the fridge no longer than 48 hrs.
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Postby duckhunter052002 » Thu Oct 18, 2007 12:35 pm

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: good advice

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Thanks!

Postby RunNgun870 » Sun Oct 28, 2007 1:52 pm

Just got my first bird out of my new boat and was looking to find out what to do to prep it right for the taxidermist. Timely advice, thanks!! :thumbsup:
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Postby duxrus » Tue Jul 29, 2008 2:42 pm

I always suggest keeping 1.5 gallon ziplock bags in your blind bag or truck so once a trophy bird has cooled off it can be bagged in the safety of a ziplock.

Another no-no is laying a potential mounter on nice COLD metal...aka a boat bench to have it freeze to it causing the loss of many a feather when prying it loose.

I am always amazed at the lack of care taken by some clients when they hand me a Wal-Mart bag filed with blood, mud, and glob resembling a duck.......or the answer of "it is in great shape" to later thaw and find out it has been winged followed by waterswatted at close range by the entire blind. Funny how our definitions of "great shape" differ.

GREAT tips.... :thumbsup:
Last edited by duxrus on Tue Jul 29, 2008 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby duckhunter052002 » Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:06 pm

:thumbsup: I carry ziplock bags and cotton balls, I carry two different sizes, one for the bird and one for the head after i insert a cotton ball in the bill.
i have suggested to clients to do the same thing, the better they care for it the better the mount.

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Postby Botiz630 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:45 am

this may be a stupid questioin but do you leave all the guts inside? never had a bird mounted and would like to get one done this season. dont know a thing about it so go easy on me if it is a dumb Q.
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Postby Pete-pec » Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:25 am

Yes, leave all the guts inside. Just get the bird cooled as soon as possible, then freeze whole.
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Postby GotDuck » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:00 pm

Hi,
Let's say you shot a bird at first light and the bird you shot is a good candidate for mounting. What care can I do to the bird that I just shot if I'm still hunting for the rest of the day ? This could be another 8 hours.
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Postby Pete-pec » Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:42 pm

If it's warm, then you may have a problem, but if it's relatively cool, then freeze it when you get home. I will also turn the bird if it was real warm, while it is freezing, to stop the chance of feathers slipping. The anal area is a good place for slipping to occur first if it's extremely warm. The only time I ever saw slipping, is when the bird was from Texas, and it had been exposed to the heat of the day for quite a long time. Also birds that are shipped improperly. So the best advice, is to freeze as soon as possible.

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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby TripleDub » Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:09 pm

Dumb question. I want to mount my first bird but don't want to waste the meat. Can I take the breast out and still have it mounted?
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Pete-pec » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:30 am

Yes, but I don't do it. Once a bird hits my work bench, I call it done. I'm not going to risk getting sick over some breast meat. If you are personally mounting the bird, and are going to try and salvage the meat, make sure you have some clean paper down on the bench, skin as you ordinarily would, measure the carcass so you have the correct (size) form for mounting, then remove the breast meat. Again, My scalpel has been through too many birds that I want to risk it.

If you are taking your bird to a taxidermist, my bet is that he will refuse to save the meat for you. I don't think he is going to risk liability of you getting sick by returning the breast meat either. This topic has come up on another forum, and the vast majority of taxidermists that responded, replied that it was their policy to not return meat for consumption whether it be fish, game animals, or game birds and waterfowl.

Chicken is cheap. Go buy a couple chicken breasts! :wink:

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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby TripleDub » Sun Apr 19, 2009 1:43 am

I was just wondering if I stripped the breast out of a duck and iplocked the bird and sent it packing to the taxidermist is he going to mount it? Will he have a problem mounting it? Or should Ijust not worry about the meat, I just don't want to waste the bird and look at him and know i killed em to just have him on my wall.
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby WisconsinWaterfowler » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:18 am

TripleDub wrote:I was just wondering if I stripped the breast out of a duck and iplocked the bird and sent it packing to the taxidermist is he going to mount it? Will he have a problem mounting it? Or should Ijust not worry about the meat, I just don't want to waste the bird and look at him and know i killed em to just have him on my wall.


First of all never pluck a bird if you want it mounted Im assuming you meant skin it though. Second if you breasted it out and gave it to him it would be unmountable becasue they have to make a mold of the size of the breast. Just ignore the meat and dont feel bad that you killed him just to go on the wall its not like your throwing him away.
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby deaner » Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:35 pm

Waste the bird!? Dude, you're putting him on your wall for(if well taken care of) GENERATIONS to view and admire. Is that wasteful? I'm all about being responsible with waste as well but I think mounting a trophy anything is a complete honor to the animal.
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Re:

Postby carolinagreenhead » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:48 pm

duckhunter052002 wrote::thumbsup: I carry ziplock bags and cotton balls, I carry two different sizes, one for the bird and one for the head after i insert a cotton ball in the bill.
i have suggested to clients to do the same thing, the better they care for it the better the mount.

lee

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What is the purpose of putting cotton balls in the bill? Never heard of this.
Also, is using ziplock bags not a good thing or is it ok?
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby duxrus » Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:17 pm

Some people stuff the cotton down the birds throat to stop potential bleeding out the mouth.....I don't because blood will usually come right off during the wash process anyway but a clean bird never hurts.

Ziplocks are all I use on ducks. The head and neck fold up nicely against the body when dropped in one. If I plan on mounting a bird but looks like it might be awhile (year +) I will wet about 6 paper towels and wrap the duck with them to add an ice barrier around it...especially the head and feet. I freeze the bird first, then a day or so later go back and add the paper towels once the bird is solid and easier to wrap without things flopping around. :thumbsup:
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby basseagle83 » Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:40 am

thanks for the info guys. you sharing your experience makes me feel confident enough to think i can save and have my next woody taxidermied. I love how beautiful my occasional wood ducks are. staring at my downed birds is as good as bird watching could get and i think that is my favorite part of bird hunting
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Oklahoma Greenhead » Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:34 pm

any tips or tricks when it comes to taking care of a bird AFTER it has been mounted? I want to be able to tell my grandchildren about the "one that didnt get away"!
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby The Waterfowler » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:00 pm

Don't hang it in direct sunlight and also prolonged exposure to UV light will fade the feathers also. Hanging in fromt of an AC or heater vent also will harm one. Don't rub a mount with your hands or let anyone "pet" it as the oil from your hands is a dust magnets. I use lambs wool dusters to remove dust from the mounts, but feather dusters, make-up brushes, etc. work well also. Ultimate protection is to have them under glass, of course.

Touching on a few other things already mentioned. Cotton balls aren't that necessary as when the bird hits the freezer or cools down it won't bleed any more and any competent taxidermist can remove blood. I have see numerous birds damaged by well-meaning clients trying to get blood off the feathers. Don't worry about that. Mud is another problem and rinsing with a spray nozzle in the sink doesn't hurt, but we have ways of taking care of rust/mud stains as well. As said, get it in the freezer with the head turned back or tucked under the wing and don't wait till next season to remember it is in the freezer and take it to a taxidermist after is has sat all year. Many taxidermists skin them to make more freezer space and freeze them in water. Will last for years that way. Gutting and breasting as said is a no-no and I know of no waterfowl hunters that are that hard up for the meat. Never x 100 freeze them in paper bags or newspaper and panty hose can damage them also, is not necessary I don't care what you have read or heard. I use plastic bread bags, newspaper bags and large zip-locks being careful not to zip the feathers up in the seal. Sealing as air tight as possible is best and if you use a food saver put them in an unsealed plastic bag first to prevent the texture of the vacuum bags from becoming imprinted on the feathers.
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby RBurg44 » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:59 pm

What's the purpose to tuck the neck up against the body... By the time I get it home and cleaned regor has set it and it pretty stiff (4-5 hours) what's ur suggestions
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Pete-pec » Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:37 pm

RBurg44 wrote:What's the purpose to tuck the neck up against the body... By the time I get it home and cleaned regor has set it and it pretty stiff (4-5 hours) what's ur suggestions


It's really not needed, but it will help defend against the neck breaking along with skin and feather. Once the bird is frozen, and the neck is sticking straight out, it would be more apt to have an issue in the freezer. Even after rigor mortis has set in, you can still bend the neck towards the breast, and then stick it in a freezer bag towards the corner, and it will freeze in this manner instead of straight out. I very seldom actually tuck it under a wing.
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Cougar125 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:25 pm

Any thoughts on vacuum sealing birds for the taxi?
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby Pete-pec » Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:43 am

I think vacuum sealing is fine. I would first freeze it in a ziplock and water, then vacuum seal the frozen ziplock once it is solid. The reason is, the water will be drawn out of the bird as you pull vacuum, and will hinder the sealing point. If the bird is already frozen in a ziplock, there will be no water hindering the seal. Vacuum sealer plastic is very heavy, and I would think it would help as a barrier to. Now this method is in reference to a skin (fleshed or unfleshed).

There was some discussion about the tiny little impressions that could be left behind from the vacuum sealer plastic itself. I never had a problem, but some people claimed that they saw a diamond shaped pattern on the feathers themselves when freezing a whole bird, where the plastic made direct contact with the feathers of the bird. If you are going to freeze a whole bird, I would first freeze it in a ziplock, then vacuum seal it. I also want to mention one thing about those vacuums. If the bird is fresh, it will draw blood out of the wound channels as you suck the air out of the bag. Also when thawing the bird, you want to make sure you cut a slit in the bag. Same deal, under vacuum, the wounds will bleed, making for a bloody mess. I think blood will normally wash out, but why make for unneeded work if you can simply avoid it by freezing the bird first?
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby alanwebfoot » Tue May 29, 2012 5:40 pm

great advice about throwing your bird down on a metal boat seat floor etc. a guy I know also doesn;t allow them to touch the ground [once retrieved] for fear of them freezing to the ground and leaving feathers behind.
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Re: Field Care of Birds for Taxidermy

Postby phishbum » Sun Dec 16, 2012 11:51 am

When using newspaper bags, has anyone ever experienced residual ink rubbing off onto feathers?
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