Your Wild Turkey for the Taxidermist
Rob Ramsdale --
If you are thinking about
having a turkey mounted by a taxidermist, by all means,
shop around by visiting professional taxidermists
in your area before you go hunting and get a feeling
for the quality of their work and the prices they
will charge. If you don't have a good taxidermist
in your area do not get discouraged. There are many
excellent taxidermists all across the country and
by asking friends and fellow hunters or doing your
own research, you can find a quality taxidermist.
Spending a little extra money to ship your bird is
well worth it to get an excellent reminder of your
trophy hunt. Mounting a wild turkey is not easy and
if you let an amateur mount if for you, don't expect
The secret to getting
good taxidermy mounts of any animal is 1) Keeping
the animal in as good as condition as possible before
it reaches the taxidermist, and 2) Choosing a qualified
Before the Hunt --
Finding a good taxidermist
is up to you but there are some tips that will help
you get your bird to the taxidermist in as good of
condition as possible. These are some general ideas
and your taxidermist may have specific instructions
on the way he likes to receive birds.
First, make sure and
take on your hunt a large plastic bag and a cooler
large enough to lay the bird in without scrunching
up the tail feathers. Take with you some paper towels,
cotton balls, and either a large plastic bag, a section
of used panty hose, or both. Many taxidermists recommend
using a section of used panty hose cut from the thigh
area as a covering for the bird to keep the feathers
in place. Cut out a section of the hose from the thigh
area and tie up one end. Then after you shoot a bird,
carefully slip the bird into the bag head first, pulling
the stocking over its entire body. This will help
keep all of the feathers in place. You can also just
use a large plastic bag and slip the bird inside it
and carefully carry it out of the woods.
Shooting the Bird
When you harvest a bird,
always try for a clean head and neck shot. If you
want the tail feathers to look good, do not shoot
the bird head-on while it is strutting. The shotgun
pattern will shred through the tail feathers and that
will not look good at all. In fact, it's best not
to shoot a strutting bird period. Tthe best shot to
take is a side shot with the bird's neck stretched
up. This should keep all of the shotgun pellets well
away from the tail and wing feathers. It is much easier
for a taxidermist to replace or repair a shot-up head
than to try and repair or replace tail and wing feathers.The
distance should be around 25 to 30 yards which is
a good distance to aim for any time you are hunting
turkeys. This yardage allows for a clean kill without
too dense of a shot pattern which may cause extreme
damage to the head and neck. If for some reason you
do need a second shot to kill the bird, try and take
it at the head only and from a sufficient distance
to limit more damage to the bird.
After any turkey is shot,
they often thrash around on the ground before dying.
There really is not a lot you can do about this since
picking up a thrashing turkey is not very smart. Your
best hope is that he will drop dead and lay stone
still after the shot which does occasionally happen.
If he does flop around, pick up all of the loose feathers
you can find and send them along with the bird to
After the Shot --
After the bird is dead,
there are three keys to getting your bird to the taxidermist
in prime condition.
- Keep the plumage dry and clean.
Stuff paper towels or cotton balls into the bird's
mouth and anus to keep any blood or body fluids
from soiling the feathers. Also, if there are any
large or bloody wounds, stuff them also to keep
as much blood off of the feathers as possible. It
may be necessary to wrap the head in paper towels
if it is really bloody.
- Limit feather loss and damage
by slipping the bird into either the pantyhose section
or a large plastic bag or both. Be very conscious
of the tail feathers and do not scrunch or bend
them. If the bird flopped around a lot, be sure
and pick up any of the loose feathers.
- Keep the bird cool - As
soon as possible, start cooling the bird by placing
it in a large cooler. If you have to wait more than
several hours to get it to a taxidermist, you will
probably need to freeze the bird.
Also, do not field dress
the bird. Most taxidermists would much rather field
dress and skin the bird themselves.
Storing and Shipping
If you do not have a
taxidermist picked out or you have to store the bird
for a long period of time you will have to freeze
the bird. Just make sure the bird has plenty of room
and do not pile other items onto the bird. If you
need to ship the bird to a taxidermist, contact them
and ask about the best way to do this. They will be
up to date on any airline regulations and can give
you the best methods for safely shipping your bird.
In conclusion, try and
choose a bird in great condition to be mounted and
find a good, quality taxidermist. It's worth paying
a little more up front to have a long-lasting, beautiful
memory of a trophy hunt.
Here's a very good new
book on taxidermy methods for wild turkeys.