- Choose a bird with minimal damage to the skin and feathers if possible. Handle the bird with care. Avoid damaging the feathers by carrying a bird by the neck or stuffing it in a game bag. Carry it by the legs instead, or wrap it in a plastic bag with the head tucked under a wing. Place it somewhere where it won't get crushed during transport. Broken legs and wings can be repaired.
- Wipe any fresh blood off of the feathers with a damp rag, especially if blood is on white feathers. If at all possible Do not attempt to gut, skin, or breast out the bird yourself, because I will need the entire body for form measurements, and a wrong incision could ruin the quality of the mount.
- Be mindful of the feathers. Always ensure the bird is handled in a way that will prevent the feathers from being ruffled the wrong direction or accidentally broken. Check your bird for large amounts of blood feathers (aka pin feathers). Blood feathers are the bird's new feathers that grow in after molting, and are characterized by the feather quills at the base of the skin being soft and darkened in color due to a blood supply. These feathers can also be shorter than the mature feathers around it since they are still growing in. Blood feathers have the tendency to easily fall out during the taxidermy process, which can result in a more patchy looking mount. If you do not want to risk having some patchy spots on your mount, choose a bird with minimal or no blood feathers.
- Freeze it! If possible, have a cooler with ice ready for your birds so that they are kept cool during transport. Freeze your bird ASAP!!! - don't let it sit out in the sun unfrozen for more than a few hours. The fresher the better; this is critical in order to have a quality mount. Do not put your bird in pantyhose, because blood may make the bird's feathers stick to the fabric and pull them out. Instead, keep your bird in a stable position so the feathers do not get broken or ruffled, and tuck the bird's head under one of it's wings as described above to prevent the neck from breaking off when frozen. Long dangling feet should also be tucked up near the belly. Put your bird in a sealed plastic bag. Try to remove as much air from the bag as possible, without damaging the bird within. To help keep any long tail feathers from breaking or bending, tape a piece of cardboard around the outside of the sealed bag to provide support - as long as the cardboard is slightly longer than the length of your bird (including its tail), it should help prevent the tail or head from bending or breaking if it gets bumped in the freezer.
- Avoid freezing for too long. Try to avoid keeping your bird in your freezer for more than a year or two if possible, otherwise it may get freezer burned and could be difficult to skin and mount. It is always best to take it to the taxidermist before then, although a nice looking mount is still possible.
- Prevent freezer burn. To help keep things from drying out or freezer burning if it will be frozen for more than a month, wrap a damp cloth or paper towel around the bird's head and feet prior to putting it in the sealed plastic bag. Do not wrap your bird in newspaper, because this could dry out the skin or stain the feathers, even when frozen.
- Dried skins don't work as well. Completely dried skins will not taxidermy as nicely as fresh or frozen skins.
Once your mount is home, refer to the Taxidermy Care page for details on how to care for your bird once it has been taxidermied.