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Why This Hooded Merganser is One For The Wall

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October 25, 2011

Why This Hooded Merganser is One For The Wall

By Phil Bourjaily

Save for a couple of European skull mounts I have never had any taxidermy done – until now.

The duck in the picture – a drake hooded merganser – just came back from the taxidermist. To me, the trophy part of any wild game is the meat, so having animals mounted never interested me, especially given the expense. The important part, I’ve always thought, lies beneath the fur or feathers, and it’s free.*

The one bird I always told myself I would have mounted is a hooded merganser. They are pretty much inedible due to their diet of fish. They also have the unfortunate habit of zipping past your decoys early in the morning, looking almost exactly like a tasty wood duck in the predawn gloom. I told myself if I ever shot a hoodie in a case of mistaken identity, I’d have it mounted so the bird didn’t go to waste.

Sure enough, one dark rainy morning in 2006 this drake came over me from behind, I reacted, and when my friend M.D.’s now departed lab, Maggie, brought it back, my “wood duck” had morphed into a merganser.
Fortunately for me it was a perfect mature drake, and it had only a couple of pellet holes in the breast. I wrapped it carefully in plastic, put it in a box and stuck it in the freezer, where it stayed for the next five years until I dug out it out last month and took it to my local taxidermist, Tim Kleinmeyer.

Tim did a wonderful job, I love the mount, and my wife even thinks this duck is cute enough that we’re putting it in the living room.

The only problem is, I have now shot my one lifetime hooded merganser because I don’t want a whole wall full of them. I have to be very careful from here on out.

*wild game meat isn’t really “free” when you add up the cost of hunting gear, licenses, guns, ammo, and factor in the time spent pursuing it, then divide that by the pound. In fact, when you do the math, you find wild game is pretty expensive.

Comments (27)

Top Rated
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from davycrockettfv wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Yeah, but the process of acquiring wild game meat is a hell of a lot more fun than a trip to the grocery store!

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from firedawg wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

If you mistakenly kill another, just go ahead and clean it with the rest of your ducks. Keep it seperate and toss it on the grill after you have taken up the rest of your ducks. Your dog will then appreciate a delicious grilled duck supper just like everyone else. My dog has yet to turn up his nose at a grilled hoodie or a shoveler.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Doc Bob wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

The cost of the meat is a frame of mind. The money on hunting licenses, guns and ammo is already spent. Anything I get after this is "free." I know this logic has multiple holes in it, but I have my wife believing it, so it works for me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

We encountered "hoodies while hunting flooded timber in MS. One guy in our group said that a neighbor was always asking him to bring him a duck so thought he would cure that quickly. Turns out the Korean gentlemen was estatic to get four of them, He marinated them for several days and smoked them, giving a breast back to our friend. He took one bite and then devoured it, said it was fantastic, but never did get the receipe for the marinade. Has anyone ever tried anything similaPS Great mount!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I assume the calculated costs would go down over time (I'm not buying a new rifle each year).

If a person really wanted to get nerdy, they could calculate the savings in health costs if hunting keeps you more fit than a hobby like, say, sitting on the couch watching football!

In the end, I enjoy it, it hasn't cost me too much yet, and my wife wants the meat. I will do all I can to please her!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Firedawg is peeing on our leg!!!!
Blasphemy! While I don't make a habit out of eating Mergansers, hooded, redheaded, or common, I will eat a shovler and after preparation, defy you to tell me whether it is a wood duck or shovler.
It may very well be you are shooting your ducks off a sewage lagoon or some other such area, but here in the Tennessee river valley our shovlers taste just fine.
I tend not to eat coot or ringnecks either,,,,

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mexhunter wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

you kept a dead duck in your freezer for five years?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Merganser=Dog Food.

Maybe after soaking a week in marinade and smoked the heavy fish flavor is hid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Phil,
Hell no, wild game meat ain't free that's what we tell ourselves (and wife) to ease the monetary pain.
Not only is that a good looking bird but the wood it is mounted on is excellent. Fits the duck.
You didn't say where you shot this bird but around here Merganser and Redheads rank high on the mounting list, along with canvasback.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorCal Cazadora wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Bouillabaisse?

Nah. I think you made the right choice. But I hope the taxidermist at least fed some cats with it...

But if I ever get such a stinky duck, I'm going to skin it, remove all the fat, cut the meat off the bone and brine it. That worked REALLY well with a couple really foul gadwalls I found at the bottom of our freezer recently.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mack wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Brine is standard for all kinds of wild stuff...a glass of red wine or a shot of bourbon in a pot of boiling water works well, after brining for really "gamy" stuff. I like Lawry's Hawaiian marinade and a dose of Cajun spice on all kinds of stuff. @ Tom-tom, there's a "duck sauce" on the market, I think it's plum based, probably find it in the oriental food aisle. I've completely spaced on the brand, but I imagine there are several. A guy also about can't go wrong with liquid smoke, italian dressing, or A-1 sauce...just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mack wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Brine is standard for all kinds of wild stuff...a glass of red wine or a shot of bourbon in a pot of boiling water works well, after brining for really "gamy" stuff. I like Lawry's Hawaiian marinade and a dose of Cajun spice on all kinds of stuff. @ Tom-tom, there's a "duck sauce" on the market, I think it's plum based, probably find it in the oriental food aisle. I've completely spaced on the brand, but I imagine there are several. A guy also about can't go wrong with liquid smoke, italian dressing, or A-1 sauce...just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from keithjoyner wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Those "tasty" woodies make a fine mount too. 'bout the most beautiful waterfowl in North America.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Ringnecks? They always tasted fine to us. Don't hunt ducks anymore. The population in my neck of the woods is so reduced that I feel guilty about shooting them anymore. Tragic. Years ago, when we would accidentally kill a merganser once in awhile, I would just fillet out the breast meat and throw the rest away. It tasted OK to us. Maybe the fish flavor common to the diving ducks is mostly in the body? Or our taste buds are dead?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackhawkbill wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I've seen hoodies in the 1.5 acre pond in my front yard. First year was one pair, next year two pair, next 3 pair. They just keep coming. They stay about a week and then on their way. I like seeing them. They are welcomed quest. I hunt but I can't shoot my visiting quests.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Jim in Mo -- I shot the Merganser in Iowa on the Coralville Reservoir. We see some, but not huge numbers of them.
Mexhunter -- Yes, five years is a long time to keep a duck frozen and I was lucky that it didn't dry out or freezer burn. I wrapped it in a plastic bag and kept it in a closed cardboard box.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Palouse wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

And the process of acquiring wild game meat is a hell of a lot less expensive than therapy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Nice looking mount. For my part, I like taking game to the taxidermist, as it serves as a lifetime reminder of a great day in the field or on the water (and, most importantly, my wife lets me do this).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jackster wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Great looking mount, I see boys at the middle school with the same hair style, my son goes with green or blue,and wont wear his shorts that high, almost, as nice as a woodie thanks for sharing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rrudy40 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Need a free hat, question how big of a bore on a black power shotgun to be a Punt Gun

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Neat trick for freezing game/fish:

Use zip lock bags. Upon putting meat/fish in bag immerse in water up to zip lock to force out all air. Zip lock.

Eat a banana. Repeat as necessary.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Phil, when I started reading this I thought you were going in another direction toward sentiment. I have a small 8 pt. rack mounted that most folks would never have considered, but it's a reminder to me to never quit until you have to. A group of us were hunting and a couple of them wanted to drive this one particular ridge. I was tired and ready to head to the truck but went along with one last drive, from which this 8 pt. emerged. Even more important now is the fact that the guy I was with is no longer with us. Thankfully I have that 8 pt., his .257 Roberts, and a host of pictures. Sometimes a mount is not a trophy but a link with times gone by and folks that meant a lot to us.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Nice mount, Phil... Congrats! I also only have one mount but I have saved a few feathers, hides and pelts. Much less expensive and preserves the memories. Besides, a hide or pelt is much better for 'show & tell' than snapshots!

On the matter of expense---"when you add up the cost of hunting gear, licenses, guns, ammo, and factor in the time spent pursuing it"---I've learned to never go there. Practically any non-essential activity in life will fail that test. I don't want to feel guilty about my few "extracurricular" activities, I don't apply that reasoning to others so I don't try to justify the $$$.
Same with a couple preserve hunts per year with my Brittany.... It's not all about $$$. BTW---I miss Ike, too. :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

COOTS, MERGANSERS, RINGNECKS & SHOVELLERS?
There is an absolutely delicious recipe in the old paperback Remington Cookbook for "Braised Coot" Since we had lots of coots and few ducks here years ago, I shot a limit of coots (15) then didn't have the conscience to discard them. My whole family loved the dish, every scrap was eaten! Follow the directions carefully.... :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

RandyMI -- If you miss Ike I must know you, but I am drawing a blank right now. Sorry to ask, but which Randy from Michigan are you?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

My brother in law has a bobcat in his freezer that has been there at least five years. When I was a child I opened a refrigerator we had in the garage to keep soft drinks and there was a cows head in there. I will never forget that moment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I totally agree with you that the real trophy is the meat instead of the animal.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from davycrockettfv wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Yeah, but the process of acquiring wild game meat is a hell of a lot more fun than a trip to the grocery store!

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from mexhunter wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

you kept a dead duck in your freezer for five years?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from firedawg wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

If you mistakenly kill another, just go ahead and clean it with the rest of your ducks. Keep it seperate and toss it on the grill after you have taken up the rest of your ducks. Your dog will then appreciate a delicious grilled duck supper just like everyone else. My dog has yet to turn up his nose at a grilled hoodie or a shoveler.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

We encountered "hoodies while hunting flooded timber in MS. One guy in our group said that a neighbor was always asking him to bring him a duck so thought he would cure that quickly. Turns out the Korean gentlemen was estatic to get four of them, He marinated them for several days and smoked them, giving a breast back to our friend. He took one bite and then devoured it, said it was fantastic, but never did get the receipe for the marinade. Has anyone ever tried anything similaPS Great mount!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackhawkbill wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I've seen hoodies in the 1.5 acre pond in my front yard. First year was one pair, next year two pair, next 3 pair. They just keep coming. They stay about a week and then on their way. I like seeing them. They are welcomed quest. I hunt but I can't shoot my visiting quests.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Doc Bob wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

The cost of the meat is a frame of mind. The money on hunting licenses, guns and ammo is already spent. Anything I get after this is "free." I know this logic has multiple holes in it, but I have my wife believing it, so it works for me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

I assume the calculated costs would go down over time (I'm not buying a new rifle each year).

If a person really wanted to get nerdy, they could calculate the savings in health costs if hunting keeps you more fit than a hobby like, say, sitting on the couch watching football!

In the end, I enjoy it, it hasn't cost me too much yet, and my wife wants the meat. I will do all I can to please her!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mack wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Brine is standard for all kinds of wild stuff...a glass of red wine or a shot of bourbon in a pot of boiling water works well, after brining for really "gamy" stuff. I like Lawry's Hawaiian marinade and a dose of Cajun spice on all kinds of stuff. @ Tom-tom, there's a "duck sauce" on the market, I think it's plum based, probably find it in the oriental food aisle. I've completely spaced on the brand, but I imagine there are several. A guy also about can't go wrong with liquid smoke, italian dressing, or A-1 sauce...just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mack wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Brine is standard for all kinds of wild stuff...a glass of red wine or a shot of bourbon in a pot of boiling water works well, after brining for really "gamy" stuff. I like Lawry's Hawaiian marinade and a dose of Cajun spice on all kinds of stuff. @ Tom-tom, there's a "duck sauce" on the market, I think it's plum based, probably find it in the oriental food aisle. I've completely spaced on the brand, but I imagine there are several. A guy also about can't go wrong with liquid smoke, italian dressing, or A-1 sauce...just my 2 cents.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Nice looking mount. For my part, I like taking game to the taxidermist, as it serves as a lifetime reminder of a great day in the field or on the water (and, most importantly, my wife lets me do this).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Phil, when I started reading this I thought you were going in another direction toward sentiment. I have a small 8 pt. rack mounted that most folks would never have considered, but it's a reminder to me to never quit until you have to. A group of us were hunting and a couple of them wanted to drive this one particular ridge. I was tired and ready to head to the truck but went along with one last drive, from which this 8 pt. emerged. Even more important now is the fact that the guy I was with is no longer with us. Thankfully I have that 8 pt., his .257 Roberts, and a host of pictures. Sometimes a mount is not a trophy but a link with times gone by and folks that meant a lot to us.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Merganser=Dog Food.

Maybe after soaking a week in marinade and smoked the heavy fish flavor is hid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Phil,
Hell no, wild game meat ain't free that's what we tell ourselves (and wife) to ease the monetary pain.
Not only is that a good looking bird but the wood it is mounted on is excellent. Fits the duck.
You didn't say where you shot this bird but around here Merganser and Redheads rank high on the mounting list, along with canvasback.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NorCal Cazadora wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Bouillabaisse?

Nah. I think you made the right choice. But I hope the taxidermist at least fed some cats with it...

But if I ever get such a stinky duck, I'm going to skin it, remove all the fat, cut the meat off the bone and brine it. That worked REALLY well with a couple really foul gadwalls I found at the bottom of our freezer recently.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from keithjoyner wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Those "tasty" woodies make a fine mount too. 'bout the most beautiful waterfowl in North America.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Ringnecks? They always tasted fine to us. Don't hunt ducks anymore. The population in my neck of the woods is so reduced that I feel guilty about shooting them anymore. Tragic. Years ago, when we would accidentally kill a merganser once in awhile, I would just fillet out the breast meat and throw the rest away. It tasted OK to us. Maybe the fish flavor common to the diving ducks is mostly in the body? Or our taste buds are dead?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Jim in Mo -- I shot the Merganser in Iowa on the Coralville Reservoir. We see some, but not huge numbers of them.
Mexhunter -- Yes, five years is a long time to keep a duck frozen and I was lucky that it didn't dry out or freezer burn. I wrapped it in a plastic bag and kept it in a closed cardboard box.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Palouse wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

And the process of acquiring wild game meat is a hell of a lot less expensive than therapy.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jackster wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Great looking mount, I see boys at the middle school with the same hair style, my son goes with green or blue,and wont wear his shorts that high, almost, as nice as a woodie thanks for sharing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rrudy40 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Need a free hat, question how big of a bore on a black power shotgun to be a Punt Gun

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Neat trick for freezing game/fish:

Use zip lock bags. Upon putting meat/fish in bag immerse in water up to zip lock to force out all air. Zip lock.

Eat a banana. Repeat as necessary.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

Nice mount, Phil... Congrats! I also only have one mount but I have saved a few feathers, hides and pelts. Much less expensive and preserves the memories. Besides, a hide or pelt is much better for 'show & tell' than snapshots!

On the matter of expense---"when you add up the cost of hunting gear, licenses, guns, ammo, and factor in the time spent pursuing it"---I've learned to never go there. Practically any non-essential activity in life will fail that test. I don't want to feel guilty about my few "extracurricular" activities, I don't apply that reasoning to others so I don't try to justify the $$$.
Same with a couple preserve hunts per year with my Brittany.... It's not all about $$$. BTW---I miss Ike, too. :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

COOTS, MERGANSERS, RINGNECKS & SHOVELLERS?
There is an absolutely delicious recipe in the old paperback Remington Cookbook for "Braised Coot" Since we had lots of coots and few ducks here years ago, I shot a limit of coots (15) then didn't have the conscience to discard them. My whole family loved the dish, every scrap was eaten! Follow the directions carefully.... :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

RandyMI -- If you miss Ike I must know you, but I am drawing a blank right now. Sorry to ask, but which Randy from Michigan are you?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

My brother in law has a bobcat in his freezer that has been there at least five years. When I was a child I opened a refrigerator we had in the garage to keep soft drinks and there was a cows head in there. I will never forget that moment.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

I totally agree with you that the real trophy is the meat instead of the animal.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Firedawg is peeing on our leg!!!!
Blasphemy! While I don't make a habit out of eating Mergansers, hooded, redheaded, or common, I will eat a shovler and after preparation, defy you to tell me whether it is a wood duck or shovler.
It may very well be you are shooting your ducks off a sewage lagoon or some other such area, but here in the Tennessee river valley our shovlers taste just fine.
I tend not to eat coot or ringnecks either,,,,

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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