Turkey season is over and luckily you have successfully filled your wild turkey tag. Now you wish to preserve the memories of your hunt with a taxidermy mount. Most taxidermy mounts require a certain set of skills but there are a few taxidermy projects like a turkey tail fan mount that are easy and perfect for the DIY person.
You will need these supplies:
- Tail feathers
- Shallow wide container
- Dish detergent
- Mineral spirits
- Straight pens
Carefully remove the tail feathers from the bird. Gently grab the base of the tail, which should feel like a bulb or joint where it connects to the body of the turkey, in addition to the long tail feathers be sure and keep some of the smaller tail feathers attached as well. With a sharp knife carefully cut the base away from the body. At this point do not worry about any excess skin or flesh on or around the bulb. It is easier to cut away the excess later rather than try to fill in a sparsely looking tail fan. Also it is worth noting these feathers can be stored in a freezer until you are ready to begin. Just wrap them in a freezer safe baggy.
With your knife gently scrape any excess flesh still attached to the base, be careful not to cut into the base or cut the tissue which holds the individual tail feathers in place. If you want to include the beard on your mount follow the same directions for drying.
Gently soak the tail feathers and beard in warm soapy water such as mild dish detergent for 10 minutes. Be careful not to bend or break the quills of the feathers. Rinse several times in clear warm water. Finally, let the feathers/beard sit for a few minutes in a mixture of ¼-cup of mineral spirits for every gallon of cool water; this will help draw out oils and remaining suds. Gently shake off excess water.
While the feathers are still damp, gently spread the tail fan on a large piece of cardboard. Secure the base of the fan with straight pins then gently open out the feathers. Place straight pins at various places on each side of the quills; do not skimp on the number of pins you use. The goal is to completely expand and pin the tail feathers to their natural full strut fan shape.
Let the drying process begin. Some feathers may need a little extra attention in order to make them look their best. A soft toothbrush and blow dryer set on low works well to style the feathers back into place. Be extra gentle and take your time.
Generously cover the entire tail base with Borax. Borax is a cheap powdered detergent, found in the laundry aisle. The Borax will dry out the base and excess flesh. This process may take a week or more too completely dry out the raw base. Check on the process every day and gently scrape off dried excess flesh at the base. Always keep the base (both sides) completely covered in a plenty of Borax during this process.
During the drying time, the feathers should begin setting in the shape you created with your straight pins. After the base is completely dry, you can no longer safely remove any flesh; this is the time to carefully remove the straight pins. The fan should hold its shape, if it does not; it is not completely dry yet. Replace the pins, add more Borax and wait a few more days. If you are drying the beard cover the flesh tip with Borax. Also, use a few pins to hold the beard straight as it has a tendency to curve while drying.
When your fan is completely dry and holds its shape, gently shake off leftover Borax. If needed use a dry small brush to clean any debris or Borax off the feathers.
It is time to finish the mount and there are numerous pre-made wall plaques available; most are an inexpensive and most work the same way. Carefully insert the dried tail fan and beard into the plaque of your choice.