Tips from the Novice Trenches

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Tips from the Novice Trenches

Postby Wood-E » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:30 pm

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. :oops: 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, :wink: 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!!!
Thanks,
Sean
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby firebird » Tue Feb 05, 2008 9:15 am

Strong post there wood. A couple ideas to add...All taxidermy supply companies can be investigated online and offer a full line of great videos and books for beginners, these are huge help getting started. Several personal recommendations are "Upland Game Bird Taxidermy" and "Gamebird Taxidermy" both by Frank Newmeyer. Also a subscription to "Breakthrough" magazine will be invaluable. Late killed birds are more prime and will mount prettier, may have extra fat or not depending on what part of migration they are in. An attemp in a chukar or hen pheasant is easier than any duck and most game farms have plenty for cheap. I generally skin, degrease and wash a bird one day then mount it the next, that way I am starting one and roughly finishing one every day. The change-up from one task to another keeps boredom away and is rewarding. I've been tearing holes now for 15 years, you get good at sewing! Master the basics, time should never be a limitation. Have fun with it and practice, practice, practice
There is no help for this kind of insanity. I'm just a duck hunter, and should not be held accountable for all my actions between October 1st and freeze-up. Gordon MacQuarrie
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Postby firebird » Tue Feb 05, 2008 9:22 am

I better add something here-With Frank Newmeyer books it is important to ignore the way he shamelessly promotes his own products, they are not the only thing on the market but its his book so what would you expect. Also, for some really weird reason he seems to like working topless and in flip flops...Darned if I know why especially for a book production-but hey the guys a world champion, so maybe I should get undressed and see if it improves my work too...
There is no help for this kind of insanity. I'm just a duck hunter, and should not be held accountable for all my actions between October 1st and freeze-up. Gordon MacQuarrie
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Postby Pete-pec » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:48 am

To make a point on the wires not pushing through the form very easily, is that the steel rod (typically galvanized) will be oxidized, I like to drill a sharp point (to push it squarely into my hand LOL!) and I also take steel wool and polish the wire so it pushes easily through the form. You can take a bit of car wax and rub it on the wire for those stubborn forms like geese and turkeys. I've actually pre-drilled holes to run my wires for wings legs, and for the stabilization wire for the wall on a flying turkey mount.

After reading Wood-E's tips, I can tell he's read the archives on here, because I've tried to make several of these points my own self. Sometimes I fail to answer a question that has been addressed a few times, but if people would take Wood-E's advice, you will probably find the answer you're looking for somewhere in the archives, and if it's a new question to this forum, I;m usually right on it. I also like to keep people from troublesome situations when it comes to the law, so I usually give advice on this ASAP, so please don't feel I'm being a jerk or some kind of know-it-all, just keeping people out of harm's way!

Thanks for the post Wood-E.

-Pete
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Postby Wood-E » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:43 pm

Pete - Now that's what I'm talking about! Great tip that isn't published that I have seen, and with all the other things I'm learning, I hadn't thought of. I will try that on my next bird and see if that stops some of my depression in putting these wires through. :yes:
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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