Days were spent scouting and hunting turkeys. Hopefully, your season went well and you were able to have had a successful turkey hunt . If you were able to be so lucky the question is what to do now.
Taxidermy is not cheap anymore. A quality turkey mount will cost several hundred dollars and that is something that I cannot afford. Over the last few years I have been doing fan mounts for the turkeys my wife and I are able to harvest. They are easy to do and the outcome is a professionally looking project.
For many of us putting the money out for a full-body turkey mount is out of the question. However, it is not too difficult to mount your own tail-fan for a lasting memory of your hunt. The process is not time consuming, nor does it hurt your wallet.
1.) Lay the turkey down on a bench or table and starting about 6-inches or more from the base of the tail, make a cut through the skin on the back and begin skinning down to the base of the tail.
2.) Carefully skin the bird’s back all of the way down to the tail and then cut down through the base of the tail to remove the tail with some of the back skin still attached.
3.) Hay the tail fan off to the side and finish dressing the bird.
4.) Once you have the bird cleaned, go back to the fan and start by scraping all of the flesh off the skin and then proceed to the tail.
5.) The tail fan takes some time to get clean. You want to remove all of the flesh and fat possible by cutting or scraping with a knife and even using a wire brush to get down between the feather quills. You also need to remove the piece of the backbone that is still attached to the tail. A pair of pliers will help you twist the tailbone out which will allow the tail fan to lie flat when you mount it.
6.) After the cleaning is complete, you have the option of washing the fan if the feathers get dirty or were messed up on the tips. If you have ever shot a bird in the rain you know that often the tail feathers are a ragged mess when you get to the bird. They can be fixed, as long as they are not broken, by washing them. Start by dunking the cape, tail feathers and all, into a tub or sink of warm water that has a grease cutting dish detergent mixed in with it. Swish the feathers around really well and work any dirty or greasy spots on the feathers between your fingers. After the fan is rinsed, you can use a hair dryer set on low to gradually dry and fluff the feathers. If you took good care of the feathers on your way on from the field, you might be able to skip this step.
7.) After the feathers are dry, rub the bare skin and tail section with borax. So not skimp on the borax because it will help dry the skin and preserve it so the bugs will not invade it.
8.) Take the treated skin and lay it skin-side down on a board or stiff piece of cardboard. Work your way around the fan pinning the feathers into the position you want them to dry in. This is one place you can actually cover up a broken or missing tail feather by spacing the rest of the feathers out enough to cover the extra space.
9.) The fan should be checked from time to time during its drying period of 3-5 weeks. You may need to add more borax during this time.
10.) Once it is dry, remove the pins and shake off any excess borax. There are many commercial kits for sale with nice wood panels to mount your turkey fan on. You can use a simple wood stand covered in leather to mount your tail fan on.
READY FOR THE TABLE
After weeks of scouting for birds it comes down to one shot to put the gobblers on the ground and soon thereafter on the dinner table. What is the best way to clean a turkey? Skin it? Pluck it? Read my tips below and decide for yourself.
In hot weather hunting conditions, field dressing your bird is a good idea before you clean it for the table. If you decide to field dress your bird, start by placing the turkey on its back. Find the bottom of the breast plate and insert your knife, making a cut to the anus. Remove the entrails from this opening and then reach into the cavity to sever the windpipe, heart and lungs. Cool the cavity by placing ice inside the chest.
BREASTING IT OUT
First if you are not going to cook your bird whole then start by laying the turkey on its back. Remove just enough breast feathers to expose the skin.
Now remove the breast by pulling or cutting the skin back from the breast. Just the skin. Make cuts along each side of the breastbone as well as on the inside of both wings.
Next make a cut down each side of the breastbone. Work from the rear of the breast forward, filleting off the breast by pulling the fillet and using the knife as needed. Repeat this for the other side of the breast. Take your time.
Now that the breast have been removed make a cut through the thigh muscle where it attaches to the back. Then grab the thigh or leg and pull up until you can feel the joint pop. This might take some force. Keep cutting through the thigh until it comes free from the turkey’s body.
Plucking is a perfect way to prepare your bird to be roasted, smoked or whole deep-fried. Before you remove the entrails or field dress the turkey pluck the turkey’s feathers to help keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking it whole. Remove the feathers after dipping the bird in hot water. The hot water (not boiling) helps make the plucking easier. Plucking does take a bit of effort but the turkey will come out much better than just skinning the bird.
Many turkey hunters prefer skinning to plucking. Skinning a turkey allows you to cook the bird by frying or grilling the pieces of meat. You can skin and fillet the turkey breasts, and slice as much meat from the legs and wings as necessary. Make a cut just along on side of the breastbone. Then, it is just a matter of working the skin off the breast halves, down the back and over each of the legs.
Now that your hunt is over, the bird is cleaned using one of the methods I have outlined all that is left to do is enjoy your bounty.
CAJUN-STYLE BARBECUED WILD TURKEY
1 boned and skinned turkey breast
2 cups chopped chorizo or Italian sausage
2 cups chopped bell peppers
Salt and pepper
With a sharp long knife, split the turkey breast lengthwise and open it up butterfly- fashion. Cover the butter-flied fillet with equal portions of chopped chorizo sausage, or Italian sausage, and chopped bell peppers. Reclose the fillet with the sausage and peppers inside. Brush the outside of the closed fillet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a barbecue and cook until lightly browned and tender, basting occasionally with oil. When done, slice half-inch thick across the grain and serve.
Enjoy the success of your hunt with a beautiful tail fan mount you did on your own. And a delicious turkey meal served up with all the trimmings is one of my favorites. Memories that will last a lifetime.