I began my first duck yesterday, a pen raised mallard. Everything went extremely well through the skinning phase (only one small hole). However, things went down hill at 100 mph after that. I scissored all the visible pieces of meat and globs of fat off. I was then told by an experienced bird taxidermist that I needed to remove all the fat between the feather quills. How in the world is that possible?! I tried both with a serrated spoon and with a fine wire brush which left several holes. I finally decided that I had put enough holes in the skin so I began the degreasing step. Washed with Dawn twice. When I went to rinse the skin I noticed that every small hole and grown 10x the size and there were several large holes that I hadn't noticed prior to putting it in the Dawn. Needless to say that skin is now in the dumpster. I have read the past archives on fleshing ducks and the different methods, but I can't find anything about how much fat to remove. Do you have to clean all the fat out between every feather quill or do you simply remove the meat, the large globs of fat, and the membrane that lays over the rest?
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First of all you really need a wire wheel to defat your birds.It consists of a single shaft motor that spins a soft wire wheel. Gently work the skin along the wheel and it shoots the fat and meat off. You should be able the get all the fat off the duck with a little practice. If you dont properly defat the bird then it will leak out all over the mount, ruining it.You can defat a bird skin by hand with a sharp scissor but it is a lot harder.Once you get the hang of the wire wheel, it is definetly the best investment in bird taxidermy.Be patient and have fun with it. Good Luck.
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You can get the fat off by scoring the membrane which lies over the fat deposits with a cross hatch pattern of cuts THROUGH THE INNER MEMBRANE ONLY which will expose the interstitial fat. Scrape the fat off carefully with the side of a spoon or plastic knife. You can use a toothbrush or nail brush to assist the process........apply borax frequently to soak up the fluids. ALWAYS scrape from the tail toward the head and be careful not to tear the skin or loosen the feathers.....It really isn't all that difficult, once you get the hang of it. The wire wheels make de-fatting easier, but for a single duck or a dozen ducks, the hand method will work well. Wire wheels have been in broad use for only about thirty years, give or take a couple. Before that, zillions of birds were done just as well by hand. There is no need for you to purchase and learn to use a wire brush in the beginning. In fact, doing a few by hand will teach you a lot about the process - AND you will surely appreciate a wheel IF and when you get one.
Don't give up, Chris. It sounds like you did everything right. A pen-raised mallard is one of the most tender, thin-skinned ducks you are ever likely to encounter. Your description sounds about par for the course. You are right. Any little hole will try to expand in the wash and thin spots will blossom into holes as well.
It just takes practice ... lots and lots of practice. On a positive note - if you become proficient at domestic mallards you will be unfazed by teal and wood ducks. (also known for being tender.)
Chris, you will probably have many more holes to come so you might as well do like the rest of us and learn how to use a needle and thread. With a little practice you will be able to save what you thought to be a lost cause. I have closed up some pretty good holes so far. LOL.
I just mounted my first duck a month ago and had simular problems except I screwed up much bigger. While skinning out the neck to the head, I pulled a little to hard and the whole thing pulled in two. I didn't have time to thaw out another duck, so I decided to work on it up to the point of mounting it then throw the whole thing away. When I degreased it, it looked like it would be pretty easy to sew back on. I sewed it on, and patched two pretty good sized holes made from fleshing and then mounted it.
It turned out really well considering that I pulled it's head off. The feathers don't lay down perfectly in that area. But it was an ugly shot up duck when I started, so some of it is problems were unavoidable.
I have five more ducks in the freezer, and I hope to get it right before the last one, which is a specimine pintail.