A properly cared for bird will make the mounting process easier and produce a much higher quality display and mount. Following is a list of helpful guidelines that the author has compiled over the last 40-years. They have been field-tested and proven to work. If you have chosen a nice trophy, these guidelines will assist you in delivering your prize to the BIRD STUFFER without doing further damage or possibly destroying your future mount.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER!  KEEP THE BIRD WET AND FREEZE THE BIRD AS SOON AS YOU CAN. DO NOT USE PANTY HOSE OR NEWSPAPER.


(NO NEWSPAPER or PANTY HOSE)

Newspaper acts as a sponge drawing moisture from the skin at a rapid rate. The new frost free freezers can also dehydrate and damage bird skins. Combined a frost free freezer and newspaper can destroy a skin in as little as a month. Panty hose offers no protection to the skin from freezer burn. Blood soaks into the panty hose sticking to the feathers. Ask yourself this question. When you purchased meat from your grocery store, was it wrapped in newspaper or panty hose?

******************************************

Once you have chosen your trophy, place a small ball of cotton into the mouth. This will protect the feathers from fluids. Once you have done this, set it aside where the air can circulate around it to allow the body heat to fully escape. When you arrive home, wrap paper towels around the feet and head of your bird.  Secure the paper towels to the bird with string or rubber bands. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Dip the bird in a bucket of water or use a water hose to thoroughly wet the paper towels and bird. While the bird is dripping wet, immediately bend the head over the back and place it in a large garbage bag. Then put the bird into your freezer.
******************************************

Get the birds to the taxidermist within a few days of the hunt and allow the specialist to continue its care, storage and mounting.  Retrieve the birds yourself (do not let your dogs retrieve birds) to prevent any damage to the body whatsoever.

******************************************

GOAL #1:

To choose a colorful bird that is not missing a lot of wing feathers or that has any bald spots. THE BIRD STUFFER, Kermit Cartwright, uses artificial heads and can reproduce or repair shot holes to feet. Don't be too critical in your field evaluations. What may seem like a disaster to the untrained eye may only be a minor and easily correctable situation to the specialist.

GOAL #2:

...To cool the bird down as quickly as possible! Heat of any kind is the major culprit to bird skins. Decomposition begins immediately and heat accelerates this natural process. The first areas to start decomposing are around the eyes and rectum. This is due to the high levels of moisture and bacteria. To thrive, bacteria needs moisture and heat. Take away the heat and you will slow down the decomposition drastically.

There are a couple of things that you can easily do to cool the carcass down fast. The first thing is to dip the bird into the lake water. This will not only help dissipate the body heat, it will also help to prevent blood clots. Dip the bird underwater and gently part the feathers on the chest area with your fingers. This will allow the cold water to reach the skin. Next, place the bird in the back of your truck as you drive home. Be sure that it is in the shade because the sun will heat the bird to an even higher temperature, defeating your purpose.

I never recommend putting a fresh killed (warm) bird in a plastic bag. The birds own body heat will cause bacteria to develop causing decomposition around the vent (Rectum )area.  If for some reason you must place the bird in a plastic bag make sure that you have ice on hand and place the bird:
(BELLY SIDE DOWN).

GOAL #3:

Properly freezing the specimen...There are some obvious reasons that a bird cannot be delivered immediately to the taxidermist. Some of these are financial, maybe the taxidermist could not be reached. For these reasons, you need to know how to properly freeze the bird without totally destroying it. The most important thing that you need to know is: DO NOT USE NEWSPAPER to wrap a frozen bird. Newspaper acts as a sponge, quickly drawing moisture out of the feet and head area which causes freezer burn.

After the body heat has cooled down, (approximately 1 or 2 hours), place it in a garbage bag to  prevent bending and damaging the feathers. One note here: Stay away from using panty hose. Nine out of ten sportsmen do more damage trying to get the bird into the panty hose than it's worth. The garbage bag works perfectly every time and it's simple. When placing the bird in the freezer, bend the head back and let it rest on the back of the bird. NEVER place the head under the wing.  Bend the neck and place the head on the back of the bird. There are two important reasons for doing this...

...The first and most important is that the head is one of the first parts of the body to thaw. If the head is under a wing, it might be 7 or 8 hours before the head can be uncovered and skinned. This means that the head sits there decomposing for 7 or eight hours.

...The second reason is that blood can leak out of the mouth into the downy feathers of the side pockets. The side pockets to a mount is what mice wheels and tires are to a luxury car. It's important not to damage these areas.

*****************************************

THE HAZARDS OF BLOOD

When blood dries, it forms into a clot. Feathers are very delicate. Blood and feathers are not compatible at all. The blood on a specimen needs to be removed or saturated with water. But becuase of the time factor, not having enough experience and a million other reasons, it is impossible to remove all of the blood.

I have access to a number of formulas and chemicals on the market to remove blood. Like every other thing, some are excellent and others are junk. I have an excellent track record for removing blood from my client's mounts. However, to be perfectly honest, a lot of feather structures are damaged in the process of removing clotting blood. Blood clots do slow down the mounting process some what. Even though time is a factor, i am mostly concerned with the finished product.

Let's make a comparison. just imagine that you met the world's best portrait artist. He has offered to paint (free of charge) a portrait of your one-and-only child: the most cherished thing on earth. The only thing he asks is that you bring him a high-quality canvas on which to paint. When you go to purchase the canvas you quickly realize that they range in price from 200 dollars to many thousands. As you're shopping, you discover a damaged canvas with a hole in it. You haven't done your homework by reading up on canvases such as the sportsman would do if he were contemplating a mount. You take the canvas to the artist and he mentions the hole but you start complaining about how expensive canvases are. A couple of months later he calls you up and when you arrive at his studio, you are amazed at the beautiful, realistic painting he has created of your child. The colors are vibrant and the composition is perfect. But right in the center of the subjects forehead is this obvious and distracting hole. A dried blood clot on your bird's skin is to me what a hole in a canvas is to the painter.

When you first retrieve your bird, start by immediately washing the surface blood away by gently splashing water onto the bird. For a short period of time, the blood will continue to seep out onto the surface feathers. Because of this, keep the bird as wet as possible. Now, think about this. If there is blood on the surface, it has to be coming from the mouth or from the shot holes in the body. When it comes out of the body, it has to travel through downy feathers to get to the surface. This is the blood that when clots can seriously effect the overall mount. A blood clot in the plumage of a beautiful bird is no different than a wad of chewing gum stuck in the long flowing hair of a beautiful woman.

******************************************
SUMMARY OF FIELD CARE

** Keep bird wet**

1. Broken wings, feet and shot holes can be repaired.
2. Don't let your retriever get the bird.
3. Place cotton ball into mouth and gently poke into
    throat area.
4. Let bird lay in water to cool before placing it into
    plastic bag.
5. Don't place bird on hood of car.
6. Keep bird out of sunlight.
7. Cool bird as quickly as possible.
8. Carry by feet only - never by neck or wings.
9. Wrap the legs & feet with wet paper towels or
    gauze.
10. Pour hydrogen peroxide on shot holes and bloody
      areas.
11. Place Ziplock sandwich bag over head and bend
      head over back.
12. Submerge bird one last time in water and wrap it
       in (2) large garbage bags, freeze immediately.

Let me share some interesting information with you. Bird skins are very fragile. A small shot or pellet hole in the bird has a tendency to get larger during the mounting process. When the skin is ready to mount, one pellet hole may be the size of a dime or nickel. Two pellet holes side-by-side, could be as large as a quarter or half-dollar.

Bird skins have approximately one-half-inch of fat on them. This fat is removed by a wire brush attached to a high-speed motor. Once the fat is removed from the skin, you could easily read a newspaper through it. Some bird skins, such as woodducks and doves, are as thin as the skin that peels from your back after a severe sunburn. Years of practice developing manual dexterity and a sense of touch are required when working on bird skins.

Skins are washed numerous times in solutions containing sufficats that actually makes the water "wetter" as to fully hydrate the skin. Here, at the BIRD STUFFER facilities, we use a syntrifical-force hydrator that I have developed. This is the reason our mounts are so clean and natural in appearance.

We cast each bird's skull so that we get an exact fit. The skull and the bill are then cast in a mold using a long chain polyurethane chemical. Some taxidermist still use the old outdated method of using the original skull and bill. Not only does the bill shrink using this method, but, it is impossible to clean the skull of all meat, tissue and ligaments. This can lead to infestations of dermestid beelles, commonly known as carpet beetles, into the rest of your collection.

*****************************************

FIELD (or GAME) CARE actually begins the DAY BEFORE the hunt. You must make sure you have your gun, ammunition, waders, etc. Why not take 5 minutes and put together your FIELD CARE KIT that will surely assist you in producing a much higher quality mount.  (SEE FIELD KIT ITEMS ABOVE).

When choosing a bird to mount, look for the following features: primary wing feathers. Are there missing feathers? Have some been shot off? If some are missing, the bird may be more suitable for a standing mount. Again, don't be too critical here. Let the BIRD STUFFER evaluate the bird.

Tail Section & Feathers: I have had birds brought to my studio that only had one tail feather. This bird wasn't suitable for mounting but with only a few tail feathers missing, this problem can be solved.

Shot Hole or Missing Feet: This is not usually a problem.

Shot Holes to the Bill: No problem! We'll reproduce the head and bill at no extra charge.

Feathers Missing and Bald Spots: These can be a problem, but sometime they can be fixed/ The BIRD STUFFER has mounted thousands of birds over the past 40-years and more than likely, he has the solution.

******************************************
A FIELD CARE STEP-BY-STEP WALKTHROUGH

Okay, so now you're ready to go hunting and you're sitting in a swamp, or rice field duck blind, and all of a sudden you shoot a beautiful pintail at a really long range and all you can see are feathers falling from the sky. What do you do next? Do not let the dog retrieve this bird. As much as you love and believe in your dog, there is still a chance he will chew holes into your bird. I've skinned thousands of ducks that were retrieved by extremely valuable dogs, and it still looked like the birds were frog-gigged. The dog will most likely ruin your bird. So, unless there are alligators nearby, let the bird lay in the water and cool off. Once you have the bird and you have decided that "it's the one to mount", use a pencil, ink pen, or a twig to gently poke one or two cotton balls down the bird's throat. This will prevent further leaks of blood and other fluids onto the bird's feathers.

During this whole process, until it's time to put the bird in a freezer, remember to KEEP THE BIRD WET.

When you're ready to go, remember to carry the bird by its feet and not the neck, bill head, or wings. The structure of a feather is very delicate and by carrying it in your hand or pocket could change a beautiful mount into a so-so mount in the end.

When you get home or back to camp, find a container that you can fill with cold tap water and large enough for the bird. Use the paper towels or gauze to wrap the legs and feet. Then use the rubber bands or string to secure this material onto the legs so it will not fall off.

Now, look for blood on the bird. Start at the chest. Use your thumb and push the chest feathers up so that you can look into the downy feathers next to the chest skin. If you see any blood in the down, pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto the blood.

The next areas to look at are the head and neck. this is very critical and crucial on waterfowl species. A blood clot here can turn a good mount into bad because of the feather density and the fact that these areas truly stand out most on your mount.
 
The next area to examine is under the wings. Sometimes in this area, there is a lot of blood due to compound fractures, (bone protruding through the skin). If you see blood under the wings, cover it with peroxide and keep this area wet.

In fact, always keep your bird wet. Now would be a good time to dip your bird into water again.

Now is the time to prepare the head for mounting. Place the head in a Ziplock sandwich bag or the plastic bag your newspaper comes in. Any other plastic bag will work for the head. I chose these because they were small and easy to carry.

It is best to bend the head and neck around and onto the back of the bird because if you left the neck outstretched it could easily snap after freezing: like snapping a frozen banana. The other reason to place the head onto the bird's back (and not under the wing), is to prevent fluids from leaking out of the mouth and shot holes of the neck and onto the bird's side pocket feathers underneath the wings.

The last and most important reason to place the neck and head onto the bird's back is, so that the head can be skinned out first. If the head is frozen under the wing, it might take the bird six to eight hours to thaw out enough to even get to the head. And since the head and neck tend to thaw out in only an hour or so, it would begin decomposing before the body fully thawed out. The first place on a bird's body to start "slipping" (feathers & skins coming off and decomposing), is around the eyes and rectum due to the high concentration levels of bacteria and bodily fluids.

Once the Ziplock sandwich bag is over the head, zip it up very gently without pulling feathers out. This will keep the bag from falling off the head.

Open a large garbage bag and have it ready so that the bird can be placed into the bottom of the bag but be sure to dip the bird one last time into water and place the dripping bird into the garbage bag right away. Keeping the bird on its back within the bag, begin rolling the bird up in the bag very gently. It does not have to be very tight but try to remove excess air from the bag while wrapping. For extra protection, use 2 garbage bags and freeze your mount immediately and contact the BIRD STUFFER for your mounting specifications.

By law, the FEDERAL MIGRATORY BIRD TAG below must be printed and attached to EACH bird to be shipped. Print and fill out all of the information accurately then "twist-tie" the tag to each bird.

Federal Migratory Bird Tag - Right Click to Print Tag