As we all hunker down and try to keep our distance, here’s a great way to spend some time creating taxidermy art from current or past gobblers.
Whether it’s this springs gobbler or one you stashed in the freezer, it’s a great time to create and display your success stories from past seasons. Round up your beards and spurs and create a beard board to remember those hunts. With just a few simple tools you can create an interesting piece of taxidermy art for your trophy room.
Here’s what you will need:
- A good knife
- A Dremmel with cutting wheel and grinding disk or a hacksaw and sandpaper
- Borax (or powdered taxidermy preservative)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Green, brown or leather shoelaces
- Your empty shotgun shell (if you saved it – otherwise do some target practice)
It’s really quick and easy to preserve your turkey beard. Trim the excess fat off the base being careful not to take too much off. You’ll need to leave enough on there to dry out and hold the individual beard fibers in place. You can use a knife or scissors for this. Better to leave a little excess on than to take too much off. Take the fatty trimmed area and rub it down good with borax or a powdered taxidermy preservative. Work it into the tissue and leave some excess on there.
If your beard is a little bent up, place it between the pages of a good sized book, making sure you leave the tissue end exposed outside of the book. This will allow it to dry out nicely. You can add a couple other books to press down firmer on the beard to straighten it out. Let it dry this way for a couple of days and then reapply some more borax and let it dry for another day or two.
Using your dremmel with the cutting wheel or a hacksaw, cut your spurs off just above and below where the spur meets the leg bone. You’ll be cutting right through the leg bone. I think it works best to let the legs dry for a few days or put them in the freezer and cut them frozen. Once they are cut you can use a sharp knife to trim off the scaly skin right down to the bone. Use a Q-tip to push out the bone marrow in the hollow leg bone. Coat the bone in borax and let it dry overnight. Once it’s dried out you can use your dremmel and a sanding disk to smooth out your cut or even take a little more leg bone off if you want. Plus you’ll clean up any tissue remaining. Sandpaper works fine too.
In a plastic container pour about a ¼ inch of hydrogen peroxide and place your spurs in it – balancing them so the points of the spurs are up. Add more peroxide so that it covers the bone area but does not touch any of the spur (it will whiten the spurs so keep it below them!) Allow them to sit in the peroxide overnight but not longer than that. Don’t cover the container either – that can also discolor your spurs. Once the spurs have soaked in the peroxide long enough pull them out, wipe them off and let them air dry.
While the spurs are soaking, take your empty shotgun shell and trim the plastic from the brass. The dremmel works well for this. Use a center punch and punch out the primer. Drill a hole slightly larger than the primer into a small block of wood and set the shell on it with the primer over the hole; you can easily punch out the primer. Make sure the open side of the shell faces up so the shell is supported except where the hole is under the primer. Now cut a piece of lace about 3 inches long and thread your spurs onto the lace – one on each end. Now push both ends of the lace through the primer hole. Let the ends just barely poke into the inside of the shell. Using the glue gun, fill the brass shell top about half full of liquid glue. Be careful not to burn your fingers.
Quickly insert your tissue end of the beard into the brass shell top while holding the laces and spurs with the other hand. Keep the shell level and if needed, add a little more glue. Hold it level until the glue starts to set. Now you can place it on your work bench keeping the beard straight up until the glue solidifies (which is just a few minutes). If you use epoxy instead of hot glue you will have to balance the beard so that it can dry in the correct position. Now you can hang your beard and spurs on a beard board. Many different things can be used as a beard board to help you remember the hunt. I use a sharpie pen and write the date and state where I harvested the bird on the brass part of the shell. It’s a great way to make a nice looking collection and you can get creative using antler sections or feathers if you want.