Perhaps one of the prettiest mounts that a hunter can possess, is that of a beautiful spring gobbler displayed in full strut. The quality of a turkey mount solely depends on the care that is given to the bird at the moment the trigger is pulled. However, preparation begins before ever stepping foot in the field.
Part of your preparation as a turkey hunter is getting calls ready, practicing with those calls, making sure gear is good to go, and ensuring shotguns are patterned. Turkey vests are often filled with a plethora of calls, decoy stakes, and other turkey hunting paraphernalia. However, every turkey hunter should carry a Ziploc bag with some paper towels and rubber bands in it. These items are essential to ensuring a clean bird for a quality mount.
As soon as the trigger is pulled, preparation procedures begin. The first thing a hunter needs to do is minimize the amount a bird flops on the ground after the shot. Significant flopping can result in damaged feathers and blood getting all over the bird. To prevent this damage, carefully grab the bird by both feet, paying close attention not to grab the spurs. Hold the bird away from your body and let him flop until he expires. For those hunters too timid to grab a flopping bird, place a foot on the turkeys head and pin it down until it is dead. Should any primary or secondary wing feathers fall out, pick them up as they can generally be re-set in the bird by the taxidermist.
Once the bird has expired, pull out the plastic Ziploc bag that has the paper towels and rubber bands. Crumple up a piece of the paper towel and shove it down the bird’s mouth. This will absorb much of the blood that runs out of a turkey’s mouth. Take the remaining paper towels and wrap them around the turkeys head. Take one elastic band and place it around the paper towels on the birds head. Lastly, take the plastic Ziploc bag and put it over the turkey’s head and secure it with the other elastic bands.
Carrying the bird out needs to be done carefully. If at all possible, carry it out by the legs and try not to damage any feathers. Do not gut the bird and do not try to clean the bird in any way. If blood should get on the feathers, wipe it off with a cool, damp paper towel. Blood has a negative impact on turkey feathers. Unlike most taxidermy specimens, blood on a turkey is not good. Blood will mess up the feathers, and keep them from returning to their natural, locking state.
Once the bird is home, the best thing to do is get it right to the taxidermist as soon as possible, to ensure the best mount possible. However, if that isn’t practical the bird must be prepared for the freezer and placed in there as soon as possible to cool it, preventing spoilage.
If the plan is to freeze the bird, smooth the feathers out in their natural position as best as possible. Take the bird’s covered head and pull it back against the body and tuck it under his wing. Next, take two pieces of cardboard and lay the tail feathers flat in between the two pieces and tape the cardboard to protect the feathers. The final step is to place the bird in a large plastic bag and secure it. Place it immediately in the freezer to ensure it cools properly.
While many hunters never intend to mount a turkey that they harvest, there is always that possibility of shooting a trophy bird, worthy of being displayed forever. For those lucky hunters connecting on a once in a lifetime gobbler, following these steps will ensure a quality turkey mount for many years to come!