In the first two parts of this series of articles explaining how to get your turkey trophy safely to a taxidermist, we covered pre-harvest handling tips and materials needed in the field. Now we will cover weather and other factors that need to be dealt with to avoid excessive damage to a bird.
Weather can play an important role in keeping a dead turkey in good condition. Try to avoid the rain. A wet bird is a messy bird and when feathers get wet, they get heavy and their ability to collect dirt and debris increases. Sometimes you just can’t help it if it rains, but try never to shoot a wet bird on wet ground with rain falling. It only creates a giant mess that most certainly will cause damage that would never have happened in dry conditions.
If you do shoot a wet one, get it to a dry cool place right away and lightly daub it with paper towels to remove moisture or mud. If possible, lay the bird on its back and use a blow dryer set on cool and wave it over the wettest spots until the feathers are only damp. Turn the bird over and repeat this process. Blowing a bird will get that weight off the feathers, but do not blow the feathers dry because if the feathers are dry, that means the skin below the feathers is also dry.
Dry turkey skin that has not been tanned or preserved will tear easily. It is only about as thick as toilet paper in some places, so drying out the feathers on a fresh bird is a no-no. Remember, make them damp not dry.
Another killer of turkey flesh is heat. Always avoid heat in all harvested animals, but turkeys require special attention due to their thin skin. Heat causes bacteria to grow and underneath a dead animal’s skin is a lot of moisture, and when heat and moisture are combined, bacteria explodes and spreads. This will cause a bird to slip. Slipping occurs in all animals with hair or feathers and it means literally what it implies; hair and feathers will simply become detached from the healthy skin that was holding it and slip off causing bald spots.
Most feathers that fall off cannot be re-attached to the skin. Re-attaching is only possible on large, prominent feathers that are easily identifiable. If you cannot escape heat, then get a bird in the shade and try to create some airflow over the body which will accomplish some cooling.