Tips on protecting your trophy mounts
- Hunters spend hundreds of dollars to have a bird or deer rack mounted and then search out a place in a den or trophy room to hang that trophy. While many hunters have just a few mounts in their home or office, some big game hunters have trophy rooms filled with mounts from all over the world.
ARTIST AT WORK - Frank Pizzuto is an expert taxidermist and also offers a mobile taxidermy service across the western United States. The above is a photo of Pizzuto putting finishing touches on a mountain quail after he had cleaned up the bobcat of this 20-year-old mount. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC
Now that hunting season has ended, and hopefully guns have been cleaned and stored properly, it would be the ideal time to spend a few minutes checking out mounts in your home.
Western Outdoor News called on Frank Pizzuto of Taxidermicmobile.com to come over to check on this editors mounts and pass on some tips to readers on how to make sure their mounts stay in good condition.
"The first thing that I look for when lightly blowing dust off a mount with a low pressure pump is sign of damaging beetles, which show up on the top of the head of a big game mount or in the feathers of a mounted duck or upland game bird. Sometimes an infestation of this beetle will be evidenced with casings or spent wings on the floor or when the condition is wide spread you will often see little moths flying around the area where mounts are hung," says Pizzuto.
According to Pizzuto blowing off dust, lint and lose dirt is by far the best way to keep your mounts clean and you should always blow in the direction that feathers and fur is laying on a mount. Using a light vacuum cleaner is not advisable as the suction will pull feathers and down up in the wrong direction and fur will not lay naturally. The use of small needle-like tool to straighten feathers up a little is helpful and a small soft bristle hair brush to smooth out the fur works well.
Pizzuto has been in the taxidermy business since 1969 and started his mobile service in the late 80's when he was getting a lot of calls from customers that had problems with mounts and had no way of getting damaged trophies to his shop.
"Things just kind of evolved. I guess a lot of it was "word of mouth" but my mobile business grew and customers were happy with the way their trophies looked after I spent time cleaning and repairing them," said Pizzuto.
Pizzuto took a break in the interview to check out one my mounted valley quail. He meticulously moved feathers around, repaired one broken wing feather, cleaned up the eyes and feet with the aid of a small artists paint brush; making that little quail look like it had just been picked up from his shop.
WON asked the talented taxidermist to pass on some tips about how to field prep game and where to hang a mount. "The first thing you want to do is make sure the bird or game is properly taken care of in the field. As for a bird, look to see if it has any missing primary flight feathers, try and keep it dry, tuck its head under one wing and place in a zip lock bag. Some blood is ok as it can be washed off. Get it into a freezer as soon as possible, where it can be stored for at least 6 months if need be. Don't use a nylon stocking unless you are very careful with feather placement. Often using a stocking will bend feathers and make good mounting more troublesome. The proper care of a game head is a little more difficult, as you don't want it to slip so getting the cape, head and rack to a taxidermist as quickly as possible is a good idea," added Pizzuto.
When it comes to picking out a place to hang a mount, Pizzuto suggests that you don't put it near the kitchen where feathers and fur can pick up fine oil particles in the air and never place a mount on a wall that gets direct sunlight. Make sure that you have a good earthquake proof bracket to hang it on, especially for those of us living in an earthquake zone. As for those who smoke, don't hang a mount too close to a smoking area, as smoke will turn white feathers and some fur yellowish from smoke in the air.
If during the inspection of a bird or small mount you find evidence of the infestation of a the beetle, place that mount in a plastic bag and put it in a big freezer for a couple of days and that should kill the larvae stage of the beetle. You want to avoid having that beetle grow into an adult and then be able to fly off to lay eggs on other mounts. Seems that larvae eat away feathers, skin and can even move their way up into the horns of big game animals where they become a huge problem. When dealing with bigger trophy mount problems it's probably a good idea to talk to a taxidermist to determine how best to handle the situation at hand.
Checking on your mounts regularly is a good way to prevent extensive damage to a bird, head or rug of the trophy. Often it will take a closer inspection to determine any damage or the presence of beetles, which would entail taking the mount down and looking it over completely while blowing off dust. If you don't have a small paint brush to clean off the glass eyes using a q-tip dipped in a mild glass cleaner solution does a good job. Pizzuto suggests using Pledge on a soft rag to wipe down the horns or antlers, but says that you should not touch the bill of a waterfowl mount with anything, as often the bill has been painted and touching it can sometimes wipe off some of the paint.
There is no need for a hunter to throw a damaged mount away or store it away in a box in the garage or storage shed. According to Pizzuto most all mounts can be cleaned up properly and repaired, even if the mount has fallen off the wall and broken. "A good taxidermist can to do wonderful things with a damaged mount. We have the ability to work with materials and glues that will make for permanent repairs and being able to touch up a mount with proper paint will enhance the trophy."
Pizzuto has done cleaning, repairs, detailing and restorations on all kinds of mounts and has been called out on jobs for: Hidden Valley Nature Center, Idyllwild Nature Center, Rubidoux Nature Center, Bass Pro Shop and Las Vegas casinos to name just a few.
When asked about his service and the need for taking a mount into a shop the master taxidermist had this to say, "One of the most outstanding features of our cleaning service it that we clean your mounts on location right on the wall. In most cases, it is unnecessary to remove the mounts from your trophy room wall."
Mounts should be checked often for excess dirt and lint and evidence of beetles, the loss of feathers or fur falling off the mount. Most of these indicators can be spotted with just a visual inspection. If you feel that you have a problem with one mount, and you have more in close proximity, the likelihood of the infestation or problem having spread to other mounts is possible. (Editor's note: Over the years I have had problems with mounts and now inspect all my mounts every six months. In addition I have placed Pantry Pest strips (available at Lowe's and Home Depot) in a number of rooms where there are mounts and in the kitchen pantry.)