Thursday, December 17, 2009

Head Case!

As mentioned in a previous post, I think there are lots of reasons that a well-constructed full-mount decoy out-performs all other types of deeks.  But it all boils down to realism, and one of the principal components in making a decoy look life-like is the head. 

Thrill Kill Decoys are built using cast heads, as opposed to freeze-dried heads.  We do this simply because we feel the cast heads are more durable and thus last longer.  They're also fairly easy to repair (when your niece puts holes in them while gunning down her spring longbeard).

A finished hen head and an unpainted tom head

Taxidermists that use cast heads can purchase pre-painted heads, or choose to paint their own.  For me, it takes about 90 minutes to complete a paint job, start to finish.  (Full-time taxidermists can probably cut that in half.)  Comparing the value of my time and materials to the added cost of a pre-painted head (about $25 more than an unpainted head), I feel I benefit financially from doing my own painting.  But more than that, using an airbrush to recreate a head color scheme that fools live birds is professionally rewarding, and that's hard to put a price on.

An unpainted head comes to the shop as an essentially white casting, with ultra-realistic glass eyes pre-set.  We prep the head to insure our laquer-based paint will readily stick, and then begin the painting process.  When we've finished, we clean the eyes of overspray and let the head dry before spraying a sealer on it (normally about 24 hours post-painting).  It's amazing how a decoy head "comes to life" once the overspray has been removed from the eyes - another reason why full-mount decoys are so much more realistic than cheap plastic birds.

A wide range of paint colors are needed to paint a turkey head - tom or hen

A small "hobby" compressor will easily drive an airbrush

If you have any artistic ability, you might want to give head painting a try.  If nothing else, you can use an airbrush to repaint the heads on your plastic deeks.  After all, plastic decoys are mass-produced, which means they are "fast-produced", and in the overseas shops that most deeks are made in, quantity, not quality, is the objective.

After all, if you were a wary old gobbler (or hen), which one would most likely fool you?

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