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Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Upland game bird club winter planner

Field care of game birds for mounting
New flocks of big puddle and diving ducks are arriving daily in this portion of the Pacific flyway and many of these birds are mature adults with nearly full feather plumage. On a duck hunt in Prado Basin this past week this shooter was fortunate to harvest a big drake widgeon out of a flock of some 20 birds as they departed a pond at lift off. This bird was so feathered up that that its green top-notch glistened in the early morning sun in contrast to an ultra-white feathered chest. This duck was as pretty as any shot in the past few years so a call to Keith Hopkins, owner of Trophy Room Taxidermy, was made. Over the years, Keith, and his now retired father Ron, have mounted many of our family’s ducks, upland game birds and big game trophies so the short drive over to his studio in Riverside was appropriate.

PROPER FIELD CARE OF GAME BIRDS IMPORTANT — Bird hunters who harvest a mountable duck, goose or upland game bird need to take care of that bird in the field prior to taking it to a taxidermy studio. Make sure you have a nylon stocking, ball of cotton and Ziploc bag in your ditty bag. Pictured above is Keith Hopkins, owner of Trophy Room Taxidermy, putting the final touches on a Canada goose he just finished mounting. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Keith was just opening shop when I pulled in and talked about how busy he is.

“These four months are my prime time of the year. Hunting is going on all over the west and down in Mexico and having my shop located right off the Hwy 91 freeway makes it easy for hunters to drop off mountable game at the shop. With advance notice, I can meet hunters coming in from successful elk and deer hunts in adjoining states most any time of the day or night. It makes it a lot easier for hunters to just drop a rack off here compared to having to make multiple trips on crowded freeways.”

There were many heads and bird mounts in different stages of unique taxidermy, so while Keith was busy touching up a greater Canada goose it was a good time to talk about the proper care of waterfowl and upland game birds in the field.

“From now until the end of the hunting season lots of hunters will be harvesting birds that are fully feathered and in prime plumage. I would suggest that anyone going out to a duck or upland game bird hunt to put three things in their ditty bag. Cut off the legs of an old pair of pantyhose or a single nylon stocking (if you can find one), have a small ball of cotton handy and make sure your kit includes a Ziploc bag. This is all you will need prior to getting a mountable bird to a taxidermist and neither of this items will take much room and can last for the entire season before being used,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins went on to add, “One of the most important things to consider about proper field care of birds, I can deal with some blood on feathers, but sticking a small ball of cotton in the beak of a bird will keep any blood from seeping out and help make for a prime mount. Another consideration is to try to keep the bird as dry as possible and handle it carefully. While the bird is in your hand try to arrange the feathers so they are not bent and then try to tuck the head under one wing before dropping the bird into a sock. If a sock is not available, then just place the bird in a Ziploc bag, let the air out and roll the bag around the bird, while attempting to keep the bird flat while being transported. It is also very important to try and keep the bird as dry as possible.”

WON asked Hopkins about keeping a bird frozen until it can be taken to a taxidermist.

“If a bird is properly packaged in some kind of plastic bag it can last for up to a year or more in a good freezer, but the sooner you get a bird to a taxidermist the better chances are that the feathers and feet will be in mountable condition. Exposure to excess water is one of the worst things that can happen to a potential mount and you don’t want a bird to thaw out prior to getting it to a taxidermist,” said Hopkins.

Trophy Room Taxidermy is a USDA government approved taxidermy studio and can accept big game and birds from around the world. According to Hopkins, once an animal or bird clears customs at the border or is out of quarantine at a government clearing office, arrangements can be made to ship it directly to his shop.

There is always California Fish and Wildlife paperwork to fill out at the shop as records of animals brought in are sometimes checked. Depending on how busy Hopkins and his staff are the time to mount a bird can vary from a couple of weeks to months. Of all the bird mounts that this taxidermy studio has mounted, some dating back to the mid-seventies, none have ever had to be replaced. There was one issue that I did have with an Alaskan brown bear rug. The elder Hopkins had told me to never let my male dog urinate on the fur as it will cause it to slip. While away on a hunting trip, one of our dog sitters wasn’t watching our male Lab very well and it lifted its leg on the back of the bear. Upon our return, it began to smell so off it went back to the shop. The cost of having new backing for the rug and cape cleanup was more than the original cost of having that trophy brown bear mounted.

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