Proper Turkey Field Care to Not Mess Up Your Mount
That thrilling moment of the hunt finally came. You were able to call a big tom into range and you harvested him. Besides putting some delicious wild turkey meat on the table, you would like to also save the feathers for a full mount or a simpler tail fan mount. How do you possibly achieve both goals? Most hunters know how to clean a wild turkey for meat, but do not have the first clue when it comes to turkey field care for mounting. Luckily, it is not really a hard process, although it can be time-consuming. While it is very similar in many ways to skinning a deer for mounting, there are obviously some big differences. Feathers are significantly more delicate and can be ruined without the right field preparation. For your taxidermist to tie it all back together in a finished mount, you need to remove the skin the right way so the feathers are not destroyed. Here is how to clean a wild turkey for mounting this spring.
General Turkey Field Care Tips
Proper turkey field care for mounting needs to start right away. Turkeys should be field dressed as soon as possible after shooting for the easiest process. Similar to a whitetail, a freshly killed turkey’s skin peels away from the meat much easier than when it has been dead for several hours. So if you suspect you would like to get a turkey mount done, start skinning it right away just to be safe. If you decide otherwise later, you will have already removed the skin and harvested the meat.
Since turkey feathers are more delicate than fur, you need to pay special attention to keeping them clean and not ruining them. After all, field dressing and skinning an animal is a messy business. Place your turkey on a clean table to skin it, which will save it from dirt and debris. Keep paper towels handy to soak up any blood as you go to keep the feathers as clean as you can. If you have cleaned a turkey before, you also know that feathers have an annoying habit of sticking to the meat. One way to avoid that situation is to use plastic wrap and keep covering the exposed meat as you go. The feathers will not stick to it that way. You can also spray the downy feathers with water, which will help make them more manageable than dry and fluffy ones.
How to Clean a Turkey for a Full Mount
If you are going to get a full mount prepared, you essentially need to remove the skin with all the feathers as intact as possible, which your taxidermist will then prepare and slip over a turkey taxidermy form. At Ohio Taxidermy Supply, our catalog has several different turkey forms, including body forms in walking, strutting, and gobbling positions. We also have various head configurations, legs, and eyes to complete a mount. If you do not know how to skin a turkey, talk to your taxidermist before you prepare anything since each taxidermist has slightly different preferences on how they would like you to process animals.
If you are just learning how to skin a whole turkey, start the process by positioning a sharp knife facing upward and outward. Make an incision between the legs past the vent and start peeling the skin away slowly. If you feel resistance, very carefully use your knife to separate the skin from the meat, but go slowly so you do not cut or push through the skin. Peel both legs around the drumsticks and then cut through the joints to separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Then start to peel the skin away from the stomach and back, working your way up the body. At the tail area, it may be easier to simply cut it away like you would for a tail fan mount (see below) before going any further, just to remove the extra bulk from the process. As you get to the wing area, skin around the fleshy part of the wing as much as you can and then cut through the joint to separate the wing from the body.
Continue to work your way up the body, skinning a few inches of the neck and separating the head. At that point, you will have a skinned turkey that has not been dressed yet. You can remove the breasts and drumstick meat separately without having to remove the entrails. Or you can actually gut the turkey to have a full turkey that you can cook or smoke. To prepare the skin for your taxidermist, roughly arrange everything the way they should be and fold the head gently into the wings. Place the skin (with feathers, head, wings, and legs attached) and the turkey fan into a plastic bag and bring it to your taxidermist as soon as possible, or place it in the freezer for short-term storage.
How to Clean a Turkey for a Tail Fan Mount
If a full body mount is too much for you at this point, a turkey tail fan mount is a good alternative. It is much easier to prepare and does not take up nearly as much room as a full mount. All you have to do is locate the base of the tail feathers and then cut the fan off with the fleshy lump it is attached to. This will help preserve the tail feathers and the first rung of base feathers, which will make your finished tail fan look more complete. If you can bring this to your taxidermist soon afterward, you just need to keep it cold and dry. If it will be a while, you should freeze it first.
To prepare the fan yourself, all you need to do is arrange the tail fan on a piece of cardboard or piece of wood, using pins or nails to keep the feathers spread. Apply borax liberally to the flesh, which will dry it out, preserve it, and lock the tail feathers in place. Continue to tap the excess borax off when it gets wet looking and apply more until it is fully dry. When it’s ready, you can mount the fan to a wooden plaque and you’re in business.
With the right turkey field care, the tail fan or skin you take to your taxidermist should be as ready as it can be for mounting. Even if you have not had to do it yourself before, hopefully, you can now see that it is not that hard of a process. And the result is a beautiful-looking turkey mount that you can look at for years to come.