*One of the best things you can do to ensure a quality mount is to properly freeze your trophy. Carefully place the bird in a large freezer bag or double bag in a hefty trash bag. The key is preventing freezer burn, think of how you would take care of a prime steak and take the same level of precautions with your trophy bird.*
A trophy bird can mean different things to different people but there are some things to consider when mounting a bird. If possible, make sure that your bird is a good mountable specimen. This includes several things:
- Pinfeathers – these are the undeveloped feathers that all birds have after going through a molt. Your taxidermist can help determine the “mountability” of any bird but generally pinfeathers are best avoided by bringing in later season birds. Some birds such as teal do not fully feather out until late December or even January while others such as wood ducks are generally OK by late October.
- Maturity – A mature bird makes a better mount. First year birds often do not have the coloration of a mature bird.
- Damage – Shot, dogs, or improper handling can result in damage to your bird. In the field try to handle the bird as little as possible, separate it from the other birds, and handle by the feet. Keep the bird as cool and get it properly bagged and in the freezer as soon as possible. Never handle a bird you want to mount by the neck or put it on a game strap. Keep it clean, cool, and separate and you should be fine.
- Repairs – Depending on where a bird is damaged may limit the poses that the bird would look good in but the bird could still be mounted. Be willing to work with your taxidermist on the best way to present your mount.
- Exceptions – We can’t always pick our trophies. A child’s first bird, a dog’s first retrieve, or a rare once-in-a-lifetime duck may not always be in prime condition but you still may wish to mount the bird. Again, work with your taxidermist to determine the best way to preserve your cherished memories of the hunt.
A quality taxidermist will not want to produce poor work anymore than you want to receive a poor mount. The better care you take of your birds before they get to a taxidermist, the better product they can return to you.