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How to Completely Break Down and Mount a Turkey

 How to Mount a Turkey | Turkey Mounting 101

Whether you tagged your first gobbler ever this spring or your 50th bird, the beauty of a turkey never seems to get old. There’s something about the perfect way the feathers all align and how they can camouflage a big bird so well. And there is no denying that the iridescent bronze, green, and purple reflections on their feathers are worth studying over and over again. So if you want to gaze on this spring’s turkey every day, have you considered a turkey mount? Mounting a turkey yourself can intimidate some people, but it’s really not very hard to do. This article will walk you through how to prepare a turkey for a turkey fan mount, including the skull, spurs, and beard on the plaque (like the image below). Cleaning a turkey for this mount can be broken down into the following six steps.  

1. Turkey Field Care

The first thing you will want to do after shooting a turkey in the field is to clean it as soon as possible. It should go without saying, but please be careful to not damage the feathers in any way. This is especially true if you’re going to do a full body turkey mount. The gentler you are on the turkey, the nicer your finished turkey mount will look. If at all possible, bring the turkey somewhere where you can clean it on a table. That will help keep it clean of dirt, grass, or leaf debris. Carry the turkey by the legs so that the head and neck are hanging down lowest, which should keep blood from getting on the other feathers. Finally, make sure to use a sharp knife when you start the cleaning process, as that is the safest option.

 2. Removing and Cleaning the Beard

Removing a turkey beard is probably the simplest thing you can do as far as turkey taxidermy goes. Grab the beard and pull it away from the breast. At the base of the beard, under the skin, you should feel a lump where this connection of beard feathers ends. Use your knife to gently cut below this lump until it separates from the skin. Clean it up by picking away any other downy breast feathers and trimming the excess skin. To preserve it, rub some table salt and borax onto all the exposed flesh and skin (there shouldn’t be much left after cleaning it). This mixture will dry and preserve it, which locks the beard feathers in place. This part of mounting a turkey takes very little effort, and it’s a worthwhile memory to preserve.

3.How to Clean a Turkey Skull

Including a white turkey skull on your mount plaque adds a unique touch to it, yet most people don’t bother with this when mounting a turkey. Locate the base of the skull and remove it from the neck by cutting all around and then twisting the head to detach it. Gently make an incision under the skin lengthwise down the head and peel the skin off to each side. Don’t press the knife blade down too aggressively or you could score the skull, which will show in the final mount. Keep the knife blade flat as you are peeling the skin around the eye sockets so you do not nick them either. After that is finished, you can send it in for dermestid beetle skull cleaning. Cleaning bird skulls can be a tricky if you don’t use the beetles since their bones are much less forgiving than a deer skull. The beetles will clean the skulls nicely, and then we will whiten them for your display. 

4. Removing Turkey Spurs

This part of mounting a turkey is pretty easy as well. It is ideal to have about a one-inch segment of leg bone with the spur attached so it will fit on the plaque, but you can make them as long as you want. Score the legs where you would like to cut them, and then use a hack saw to cut through the bones. They will usually snap clean after several saw strokes, but you can use your knife to cut whatever skin is still attached. These can be sent in for beetle cleaning at this point. The beetles will remove the tissue around the hollow leg bones and then we will whiten them.

5. How to Mount a Turkey Fan

The turkey tail fan is what ties the whole mount together. You can choose where to draw the line, but it usually makes a better mount if you include several rows of the rump feathers to add some more depth, texture, and colors to the finished piece. To remove the fan from the turkey, fold the chosen feathers together so you can hold it in one hand. At the base of the feathers, you should be able to feel a lump, which is essentially where the tail bone is and where the feathers all end. Rotate it around a few times to feel where the rough joint is, and then use your knife to cut along that area until it separates from the body. At that point, you should clean up your workspace so that there is no blood or dirt that will discolor or affect the look of the fan. On the rear side of the fan, remove all the downy base feathers (not the long tail feathers obviously). The goal is to remove as much of the skin, flesh, and feathers as possible until all you really notice is the yellow cartilage, feather quills, and a little of the skin.

As far as how to mount a turkey fan, start by liberally spreading an equal mixture of table salt and borax onto the flesh and throughout the base of the quills on the back side, using your gloved hands to massage it in. This will dry and preserve the tail fan base, which keeps it from rotting and smelling. Spread the tail fan out and place it front-side up onto a premade jig (made of plywood and screws), which will keep the feathers spread until it dries out (in approximately two weeks). Take time to arrange the feathers the way you like them because they will dry in place and it will be hard to adjust them later. Make sure the central tail feather is laying on top and that all the other proceeding tail feathers are behind that one to each side. Dump some more salt and borax onto the front base of the feathers and behind the first row of feathers as well. The final step is to lay a few strips of blue painters tape across the feathers to ensure they stay in place. Don’t use any other kind of tape as they could stick to the feathers and ruin your mount.

Final Steps for Mounting a Turkey

After taking the turkey apart like this, you can mount the pieces onto a wooden plaque with the fan on display behind, the skull and the spurs on the front wooden cap, and the beard hanging below. If you’re looking for some other unique turkey mount ideas, check out this other article. The video below takes you through the whole process of mounting a turkey, so you can see the beginning to end in a very short time.

If you’re wondering how to mount a full body turkey or how to skin a turkey for mounting, you would have to take even more care and delicately skin the full turkey. This cape would then be mounted on turkey taxidermy forms. While a full body turkey mount is definitely a unique mount or one that you save for a trophy turkey, it takes much more work than the plaque mount above. No matter what you choose to do, take care of the turkey from the field until you’ve harvested the meat and removed the various mount pieces, and you’ll be pleased to look at the final product for years to come. 

Contact Us to Beetle and Mount Your Turkey

How to Clean a Coyote Skull | Coyote Skull Mounting

Cleaning a Coyote Skull

Randy Sanders of Beetle Juice Skull Works, a dermestid beetle skull cleaning service, shows you how to clean a coyote skull. Coyote skull mounts are a great way to save another trophy display for that beautiful or giant coyote you recently harvested or trapped.

Want to preserve a skull? Dermestid beetles are the best way to clean a skull, and results in a perfectly intact, white skull mount!

Look At Skull Prices Here

Check Out Our Process Here

Learn More About Dermestid Beetles Here

How to Clean a Bobcat Skull | Bobcat Skull Mounting

Cleaning a Bobcat Skull

Randy Sanders of Beetle Juice Skull Works, a dermestid beetle skull cleaning service, shows you how to clean a bobcat skull. Bobcat skull mounts are a great way to save another trophy display for that beautiful or giant bobcat you recently harvested or trapped.

Want to preserve a skull? Dermestid beetles are the best way to clean a skull, and results in a perfectly intact, white skull mount!

Look At Skull Prices Here

Check Out Our Process Here

Learn More About Dermestid Beetles Here

How to Clean a Fox Skull | Fox Skull Mounting

Cleaning a Fox Skull

Randy Sanders of Beetle Juice Skull Works, a dermestid beetle skull cleaning service, shows you how to clean a fox skull. Fox skull mounts are a great way to save another trophy display for that beautiful or giant fox you recently harvested or trapped.

Want to preserve a skull? Dermestid beetles are the best way to clean a skull, and results in a perfectly intact, white skull mount!

Look At Skull Prices Here

Check Out Our Process Here

Learn More About Dermestid Beetles Here

How to Clean a Bear Skull the Right Way

Do You Know How to Clean a Bear Skull?

If you’ve never been on a bear hunt, add it to your bucket list now.. It’s a very exciting ordeal that will get your heart pumpingThen after getting a trophy bear (or any bear you’re excited to take), it’s a no-brainer that you’d want to display its skull somewhere. Looking at that pure white bear skull on the wall takes you right back to that hunt where you can relive it over and over. But before you try doing things yourself, familiarize yourself with the proper method of skull cleaning. It’s not as simple as just throwing it into a pot of boiling water. This is especially true if it is a potential record bear! The first step is knowing the best way to clean a skull, which applies to almost any animal. If you don’t do it right, you can damage and discolor the skull so that it won’t last like it should or won’t look good even if you finish it. So to avoid that situation, read on about how to clean a bear skull.

 Record Bear Skull Cleaning

If your bear is a potential record, or close to the Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett Award then you need to take extra precautions and steps to ensure you are correctly cleaning the bear skull. The Boone and Crockett minimums for the awards are as follows: 

  •  Black Bear – 20 
  • Grizzly Bear – 23 
  • Alaska Brown Bear – 26 
  • Polar Bear 27 

In the world of bear skull scoring every inch,or 16th even, is a big deal! Cleaning the skull the right way after green scoring the bear is vital! Using a boil method to clean the bear could cause the skull shrink past its normal amount during the 60-day drying period. Normally you would want the skull to be stripped of flesh, left to dry for the 60-day period then processed. However, one method of bear skull cleaning yields stunning results without the worry of past normal shrinkage!

Risks with DIY Skull Cleaning

While traditional methods are still effective in some regard, newer practices are proving to be better suited when it comes to skull cleaning.. For example, most DIY or hobby taxidermists would simply throw animal skulls into a pot of boiling or simmering water to strip the tissue and sinew off the skull. Sure, it works when you’re cooking soup and the meat just falls off the bone. The problem is that it’s not the best way to clean a bear skull. Aside from the potential excess shrinking you can get by using the boil method, bear tissue and skulls have a lot of oil and fat in them, which will turn the skull a yellow color when boiled. This discoloration can’t always just be bleached away either. That’s probably not the pristine look you’re going for. Additionally, boiling a bear skull for too long can crack the teeth (especially the canines) and weaken the bone structure. Have you ever made bone broth? The idea is to simmer the bones until they leach minerals out of the bones, turning them mushy and weak. The same thing happens when you boil a skull and it’s definitely not the outcome you want. 

Another problem you may run into can happen when trying to remove all the tissue off of an animal’s skull. While most of the cranium is very sturdy, there are weak spots. For example, inside an animal’s nasal cavity are delicate and thin bones that can easily be broken if you’re not careful. If you try to forcefully remove tissue from this region using tools, you can quickly break them. It might not be a deal breaker for you, but it just won’t look the same as a complete skull. And while you might think you couldn’t hurt the outside of the skull surface, you can actually scratch it if you directly run a knife blade across it. It won’t show very much when the tissue is still covering it, but these score marks will definitely show when and if you get it cleaned off.

Dermestid Beetle Skull Cleaning

So if you’re wondering how to clean animal skulls, especially if you’re hoping to have a brown or black bear European mount on your wall, there’s a better way. What is this golden ticket for bear skull cleaning, you ask? Bugs. More specifically, dermestid beetles, a type of flesh-eating insect that excel at this odd job. Beetle colonies that number in the thousands are needed for most big game taxidermy projects. While adults also eat the tissue, the larvae will actually consume the majority of the flesh off the bone. They do such a thorough job that only the bone is left behind in a very short amount of time 

How to Clean a Bear Skull?

So if you’re sold on this approach, here’s the general process you’ll need to follow. It should go without saying, but the fresher the skull, the better things can turn out. Try to skin and clean the skull as soon after you harvest it as possible. If you won’t have time to thoroughly clean the skull right away, put it in the freezer and thaw it later. It will be much better than letting it rot.

The first step is to sever the skull from the first vertebra using a knife instead of a saw (to avoid damaging the skull with an errant saw stroke). Whether you’re keeping the hide for a full bear skin rug or not, skin the skull carefully. Make sure you keep the knife blade parallel to the skull surface at all times to avoid scoring it. Take special precautions around the eye sockets, since a sharp knife blade can catch the ridges and make small nicks that will show in the final product. While you can send the skull in with its hide still on, try to remove as much meat as possible at this stage to help save on shipping costs (since you pay by weight). To that point, you can also remove the eyeballs and the nostril tissue. If you’ve got a question on what you should be doing or aren’t totally sure how to clean a bear skull, reach out to us for some advice on what to do.

When we receive the skull in the mail, we will clean it up a little more and then place it into the beetle colonies so they can get started. It may only take a single day for the colony to completely clean the bear skull. After that phase, we start the bear skull degreasing process. Degreasing bones is a very important step that should never be skipped, since the oils can slowly turn the skull yellow and dirty-looking over time. As mentioned earlier, since bears naturally have more fats and oils in their tissue and bones than deer, for example, the degreasing process takes a lot longer – up to 30 days. After degreasing a bear skull, it is allowed to dry for a few days. Then it undergoes a two-step whitening process to ensure your skull will look white for many years to come, not just for a few months. At the end of all this, it is thoroughly inspected for any areas that may require more attention before being sent back to you.

Now You Know How to Clean a Bear Skull

As you can see, there’s really not much work on your part when it comes to cleaning bear skulls the right way. Most of the detail work falls on the beetles, and then we can take care of the rest. Your European bear skull mount is awaiting you!