skin tore easy

Submitted by mike on 7/15/01. ( )

Hi guys and girls
Last december I shot a hen Mallard she was a fully matuared bird.I took her home and started to skin her right away.The skin tore so easly I think if you looked at it it would get a hole in it.Any thoughts on why it tore so easly and what I can do in the future to prevent that from happing again would be great.Thank you very much Mike p.s. I did finish mounting her but it was a lot of extra sewing thank you again.

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Be Careful

This response submitted by Art on 7/15/01. ( )

I've found Mallards to be a pretty tough bird, except for the area of the back,
just around the tail. If you breathe heavy on that part it will tear...I just sew up the holes
and stuffit!

Maybe TOO Fresh

This response submitted by George on 7/15/01. ( )

Fresh killed birds tend to be more tender than those "aged" in a freezer where their skin dehydrates somewhat. Just a thought.

My method of skinning...

This response submitted by RickJ on 7/15/01. ( )

Heck, I thought you were SUPPOSED to tear holes in them! I was feeling pretty good at my "mallard ventilation technique"! I absolutely hate tearing holes in a perfectly good bird, but you can bet a week's pay, I'll do it every time. AFTER the bird is skinned, you can apply a generous dose of salt to the skin side and it'll toughen it up considerably. I skin with the leg to leg incision, pull the feet/legs and inject, then hang to dry. Then I salt the skin and freeze until ready to mount. (I learned this from this site recently, and it works) This may not work for you, but fits my schedule as long as I can plan a week in advance. If you're like me, I just have to accept the fact that I was born to sew the tail end of ducks! :) ...RickJ

Skinning Greenheads

This response submitted by CUR on 7/15/01. ( )

If you are having trouble with mallards, never try a quail or a dove or other, more fragile species. George is right, birds that "age" a bit in the freezer are easier to peel than a bird right out of the field. Now I am not sure of the method taught today, but I use and have always used a hook gang (Third hand, sky hook, whatever ya want to call it.) to support tthe bird after the initial incision has been made and the tail freed by cutting just behind the pelvic girdle.

There is no substitute for a sharp and efficient scapel when separating the skin from the connective tissue along the back. Once the "drumsticks" are cut free, The back can be carefully peeled forward, toward the base of the neck, slicing with the scapel as you work SLOWLY through this portion of the process. You need to study and memorize the bird's anatomy to keep from making stupid mistakes like severing the skin at the tail base, or nicking it as you remove skin from the back. Sure, accidental cuts and hacks can be repaired, but they will remain at a minimum by exercising care and patience.

A bird's skin is not an elk hide. Care and caution while skinning will reward you with a skin that has only the abdominal incision that you intentionally made, and not look as if it had been manipulated by a first day student at a barber's college.

some birds are evil...

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 7/15/01. ( )

I have said this before, and I'm only kidding a little bit. Mallards can definitely fall into the evil category. Not all of them, but once in a while there's one that seems to have forgotten to include skin between its feathers and its fat. More seriously though, George has a point. A very fresh bird is super easy to tear. Warm ones are the worst. [I was after the MEAT more than the skin on those, luckily]
Don't get discouraged. I haven't tried the salt idea yet, but it sounds logical. After several thousand ducks, I'm just used to their ways. ...The little fiends!
Nancy M.

I also recommend freezing.

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 7/16/01. ( )

If possible it is always better to freeze a bird before skinning it.
The reasons are at least seven fold:
1). The blood has completed clotting - that is not to say that blood will not excape and soil the plumage, it is just that it will not flow as freely as a freshly killed bird. If you wait long enough after shooting the bird, it will clot by itself, except that during this period decomposition can progress, sometimes at an unbelievable rate.
2). Freezing separates the layers of the tissues. The individual parts of a bird are often layered by (I think) the lympth system, and allowing the bird to freeze, allows the fluid to freeze as a unit and spreads the individual components. This includes individual muscles that make up the body as well as the skin/flesh border. Anatomical dissection of a non preserved vertebrate is better frozen that fresh.
3). The fat has "jelled" after being frozen. Bird fat by itself is liquid at room temperature, only the connective tissue holds it to the basic consistency that it is. If the bird is fresh the likelihood of getting fat on the plumage is much higher.
4). Ditto with the alimentary tract contents - they don't spill out as much. If a bird is frozen, then it can be thawed to the exact condition you wish it to be when skinning it. I prefer the body proper to still be frozen at its' core. On a duck I work on the head first as the bird is still thawing along and then go on to the body. If the carcass is still a bit frozen when skinning is finished, then more accurate bodies can be carved or wrapped.
5). Immediate, or as soon as possible, freezing can cut down on decomposition of the surface, since it is the first to freeze, and after all, the only parts preserved by the taxidermist is the surface.
6). My favorite reason for freezing a bird is to cut down on human transmitted diseases. While I have never contracted a disease from a bird, and the likelihood of bird-human transmittal is much less than mammal-human, it allways pays to be prudent. The bird itself does not have to be diseased, even the ticks, lice, or other parasites can cause problems.
7). After a long day hunting, if you come home with that prize mallard, why skin it when you are tired. Toss it in the freezer and get it out to be ready in the early morning just after you've had your morning coffee.

In short - freeze them if you can!

And, as a side note, IF you use the salt method to dehydrate the skin surface be sure to wash out all salt prior to mounting. Otherwise the salt will wick up moisture in humid times and will create a situation favorable for decomposition of the finished product.

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