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.