During the past few months I have been reading hundreds of articles submitted by everyone in this forum along with reading as much as I could on waterfowl taxidermy. During this period I have been learning what wasn't readily learned from books or articles until I actually did it. I figure I have a debt to repay from all I have learned here to date (Not much compared to the real pro's here, but it's a great place to start..) so here's my input to help repay all the great learning I have had from you all that might help someone like me that is learning.
1. Start on sea duck or diver ducks. The skin on Mallards was thin, but eiders and old squaw was pretty tough. Took a lot of my mis-handling like a champ.
2. Go slow and don't make any holes when skinning. My first duck I made so many holes it's embarrasing to even say.
My 2nd thru 5th were only 1 hole at most added to them from my skinning.
3. Get to a website or book and learn bird anatomy. This was a great tip for me. It helped me skinning and in re-construction a ton because I understood how the bird was "put togethor" which made it easier to take apart...
4. Even though the pros say to start with the real head, I think they say that because they had to go through the hell of using one,
so newbie's need to feel the pain too. I did 3 with natural heads. 2 with artificial heads. I cannot even say how much simpler the artificial head was to use...
5. My first duck took 5 hours from start to degreased. My second took 3 hours. My third took 1 hour. My fourth and fifth were 1.25 hours total because I was getting the feather tracks and use of the wheel down pat better. I say this not to make the pros laugh (although that too is good!) but to let people know it takes time but the learning curve is pretty vertical the more you do.
6. Don't try to eat the entire elephant in one bite. You can freeze the duck after any phase just about. I learned through this site that at any time, I could throw the bird into a 1 gal ziplock, fill it with water and freeze it till I was ready. once I learned this, I got better, because I could stop, think, take a break, play with the kids and start again when I was ready.
7. Never forget that each bird in the freezer is part of your posession limit. Especially when bragging to your friends you are starting taxidermy at home. One of your friends could be a warden too, so let them know upfront.....
8. I bought a 3" wire wheel, used a ratchet strap to hold it on a plastic packing box I keep books stored in. Then put a cardboard box that was only about 10" x 2' x 2' up to the wheel, cut a hole in the back to let the wheel through and then bungee'd it down to the plastic box too. (My portable work area") I had a $3 degreaser that worked great. When I got done each time, I just threw out the box with no cleaning. (Hope I explained this well enough to understand.)
9. Don't buy manikins by species/name. Do it by carefully taken dimensions. The skin fits great this way, but REMEMBER to estimate the darn fat you take off also, especially on sea ducks in January or you may come up short...
10. I find it easier to pre-make the double-wire 12gauge wire holes used to mount flying ducks. Getting the first one through the mount almost ruined it I felt because the wire just didn't want to push through the really dense body foam.
That's all I have for now. Any other newbie's that have other tips for us learning this trade, please feel free to add your tips to help me out too!!!
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...