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.