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How to Mount Ducks and Make Money with Taxidermy

Updated on October 13, 2009

 How to mount ducks and make money with taxidermy


Many people often wonder how taxidermists are able to mount and preserve ducks.  It is a secret hoarded by most taxidermists since it is their livelihood, and they wouldn’t want the secret getting out.  The truth is that after most people are told how to do it, they would be so intimidated that they wouldn’t even attempt to try it.  They are truly works of art and a highly skilled taxidermist can really make your jaw drop.  I won’t lie to you, it takes a lot of patience and skill, but with a little practice you can be mounting ducks and actually making money with taxidermy. 


Taxidermy served as my sole income in my latter years of college and allowed me to be my own boss.  In this article I will discuss the important points but the only way anyone will ever be able to make a realistic mount is by actually practicing with real ducks while applying my techniques.



You need to start with a properly stored duck.  A duck that has not been destroyed too badly by the shot should be wrapped in newspaper and the newspaper taped up.


After thawing the duck, you will need to rip the tongue out and skin out the bird.  This is probably the most tedious and time consuming part of duck taxidermy-skinning out, not tongue ripping.  With some pliers, grab the tongue and rip it out.  After tongue ripping, lay the duck on a table breast up.  Part the breast feathers with wet fingers until there is somewhat of a valley for you to cut.  With a sharp scalpel, make an incision from the top of the breast to the butt and try not to cut too many feathers. 


Now you will need to separate the skin from the meat.  This is done by gently pulling up on the skin and cutting at the membrane that holds the skin to the meat.  Practice makes perfect and this will take some time to perfect your technique.  Continue separating the skin until you reach the wing and leg joints. 


With your scissors, separate the wing from the body of the duck by cutting at the joint.  After you cut, there should only be meat holding the two together.  Cut away at the meat until you are able to start folding down the wing.  Easy does it, you will use your scalpel and fingers to separate the wing from the bone.  You should go down the wing as far as possible without ripping.  You’ll usually want to go down two joints.  Cut out all the meat from between the wing bones.  Repeat for other wing.


You will do essentially the same thing for the legs.  Separate the legs from the body by cutting through the joint or bone and fold the skin down the leg until you reach the beginning of the foot. 


After the wings and legs have been skinned out and disconnected from the body, you will need to skin up the back until you reach the neck.  The back skin is very thin so be careful.  When you reach the neck, hold the duck in one hand (it should just be the meat at this point) and pull (inverting it) the neck skin towards the head.  You are trying to expose as much of the neck as close to the head as possible.  Cut the neck off as close to base of the duck’s skull as you can get.  At this point you will have totally disconnected the body from the bird and hopefully most of the meat.  Cut away as much meat from the lower half of the bird as possible.


Make a small incision under the duck’s head from the base of the bill back towards the neck about two inches.  It varies by the size of the bird.  You will use the same techniques to separate the skin from the skull as you used with the breast.  The entire head will need to pass through you small incision.  Be careful around the eyes and skin back until you have completely exposed the skull.  With scissors, cut the back of skull off to expose the brain.  You will need to scrape all the brains, eyes, and most of the meat present in the jaws from the skull. 


You will now have a completely skinned out bird ready to be washed.  Wash in a bucket of cold soapy water for 20 minutes.  After washing and ringing out, soak in a bucket of coleman fuel for another 20 minutes to degrease. Ring out fuel and blow dry until almost completely dry.  This can take 20-30 minutes.


After drying, the duck will now need to be tumbled for about 20 minutes.  You can make a tumbler or buy one.  A tumbler is simply a bucket filled with a drying agent that tumbles by motor or by hand.    A tumbler further dries and polishes the feathers.


After the bird is finished tumbling, completely shake out the entire drying/polishing agent.  You will now need to rub borax (preservative) throughout the entire body of the duck.  Every crack and crevice present will need to have borax rubbed in it.  This is a very important step since no one wants a rotten smelling mount on their wall.


You are now ready to stuff the bird and run wires through the head, feet and wings.  You can also stuff the eye sockets, jaw area, brain cavity and the cut out part of the skull with clay at this point.  You can either buy body forms or make your own with special mounting straw.  I use the straw and try to make it the same size and shape as the breast meat I pulled out.  After making a form, lay it in the breast of the duck.  Check to see if it fits by making sure you can sew up the breast incision.


After verifying the form size, you will need to run wires through the wings, legs and head of the duck.  Don’t forget to add properly sized neck foam on the neck wire.  The wire will be sticking out everywhere at this point and cut later to hide.  To stabilize the wires to the body, you need to run the wire through the form from the opposite end you need the wire to exit.  Make a “U” shape on the wire and fasten it to the form by hot gluing (don’t glue until you are finished working with the wire).  For the neck wire you would enter the form near the butt and push the wire completely through, place your foam on the wire, and push the wire until it exits the skull of the bird.


For the wings and legs, use a similar technique and push the wire through and fasten it to the form.  Push the wire through the wings until it exits at the second joint.  It takes practice to find the channel so take your time.  The legs are a little easier and push the wire through the backs of the legs until the wire exits.  Leave excess wire sticking out to cut later.


After running all of your appendage wires, you will need to place a support wire exiting the bird.  The exit point will depend on the type of mount you will be doing.  If it will be a flying mount where you want everyone to see the back of the bird, then the support wire will exit the belly and eventually be stapled to a board or piece of driftwood to hang on the wall.  Don’t forget to super glue your wire into the bird.


You now need to sew up your bird and stuff any empty cavities (usually around the wings) with cotton.  Be careful trying not grab any feather when pulling your thread.  I always start sewing from the top and sew towards the butt.  After sewing the breast, sew the neck up.


Place the eyeballs in the clay eye sockets and mount you bird in your desired pose.  You can do this now, or you could have done it earlier when claying the eye sockets.  Positioning your duck can be tricky but use whatever technique you deem necessary.  I often use tape to hold down stubborn feathers and clothes pins to hold wings in place.  Bend the wires in the position you want and the duck will dry in this position.  Some people have hot drying rooms, but most ducks will dry and rigor in about 3-4 weeks.  You are now on your way to making money.


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