Field Care Tips for Wild Turkeys

So you are heading out for a gorgeous day of turkey hunting. Are you prepared for having your turkey mounted by a taxidermist? Many turkey hunters don’t go past the kill part of their planning, they assume they are just going for the meat and are not prepared when a trophy walks into shooting view.

Turkeys are impressive mounted in a home. Here are some tips to help you get your turkey to the taxidermist in the best shape for a beautiful showpiece for your home or office.

Hopefully you have checked out the taxidermists in your area months before hunting season. Not every taxidermist is good at birds. Birds and fish are some of the more difficult specimens to do well. Look carefully at the turkeys in the taxidermy shop you visit. Balance is very important in a turkey mount. Does the bird appear to be ready to fall over or stumble sideways or does it look right for the position it is in? You as a hunter have a pretty good idea of how a turkey should look.

When aiming at your bird, try to wait for a shot that will not damage the fan. This seems obvious but many hunters get busy watching the tail feathers and shoot holes right through their trophy; sort of like hunters watching the racks on large bucks. The head can be replaced if necessary, but the tail feathers are harder to match.

Get over to your bird right away after you have shot it. You will want to prevent any possible thrashing around that may get the turkey dirty or harm the feathers.

Carry the bird by the legs not the neck. Keep it out of the dirt and weeds and if it is still bleeding place cotton or paper towels into the mouth to stop the blood flow.

Cool your turkey completely. NEVER place a warm bird in a plastic bag, cooler or other tightly sealed container. Put it into a cool shady place with a breeze, opening up the wings and legs a bit if possible until it s thoroughly cooled.

Decide what you want to do with your bird. Do you want a full body mount or just a fan display? Full body turkeys are very impressive and showy and one you are going to have mounted in a full body mount really should be kept intact until you get it to the taxidermist; but you can free the breast meat only to use it if you follow these steps.

  • Weigh the bird, so the taxidermist will know what size body to place back into the bird.
  • Place the bird on its back on a clean surface and find the line on the breast just under the beard, where there aren’t any feathers and begin your incision; cutting just deep enough to cut through the skin.
  • Cut with your clean knife facing up downward toward the vent being careful not to cut feathers. Stop your incision just above the vent.
  • With your fingers and gently work the skin away from the breast working your way toward the back.
  • With a sharp knife remove the breast meat only from the carcass and set aside.
  • Place damp paper towels into the bird and place into a bag, keeping it dry and cool.
  • Take it to the taxidermist immediately or freeze it.

A good blind, good decoy, good equipment and technique and you can get your bird.

If you will need to ship your turkey or haul it far then take some cardboard to wrap around the tail feathers or to sandwich the tail feathers, to keep them from becoming bent or frayed.

Save the spurs and the beard of your turkey and if you like the shotgun shell or arrow used to kill the bird also. A fan mounted with the beard is beautiful and the spurs are also a fun bragging piece.

When looking for a place in your home to display your bird, be sure there is no direct heat source such as a fireplace or furnace vent close by or anyway for dogs to get at it.

A finished mounted turkey, handled correctly and mounted by a professional taxidermist makes an awe inspiring display.

Wild Turkey and Rice Soup

  • Two turkey breasts cut into bite sized pieces.
  • 3-4 stocks of celery chopped
  • 1 small can water chestnuts chopped
  • One small onion chopped
  • 1 box or 3 cans of chicken broth
  • 1 tbs. parsley
  • ½ tsp. sage or poultry seasoning
  • ½ tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Dash salt
  • 1 cup wild rice or wild rice blend
  • Dried cranberries, sliced onion and chopped walnuts for garnish

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Saute’ turkey breast, celery and onion together until the celery and onion are transparent and the turkey slightly browned.
Add broth, parsley, sage or poultry seasoning, rosemary, pepper, salt and rice and simmer until rice is tender.
Just before serving add chopped water chestnuts.
Serve in large bowls with dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and green onions as garnish.

Anne Vinnola has written scores of hunting and taxidermy related articles and her first history book ‘Canon City’ to be released March 15, 2010. Jerry and Anne own the Colorado Institute of Taxidermy Training Inc. and Big Timber South Taxidermy Studio in Canon City, Colorado. Look them up at cotaxidermy@gmail.com or phone 1-800-733-6936 for taxidermy and training information.