Prepare Your Spring Turkey for the Taxidermist, Part One

While some states are now open for spring turkey season, the ones that aren’t will be soon and that means there is still time to be completely prepared for whatever turkey season throws at you.  For most hunters, one of the most overlooked situations to arrange for is what to do if you kill a trophy bird. Here are a few tips that will help you preserve your specimen in a way that will impress your taxidermist.

The materials needed to handle and transport your bird are cheap and simple. I like to take a roll of paper towels, a heavy-duty contractor’s plastic bag, and a pillow case.  The paper towels are a must have as you can use them to isolate and remove any blood leakage. You do not want blood on your feathers. Blood is corrosive, but more importantly, it causes feather damage as it coagulates and bonds feather fibers together. Although thoroughly washing does remove the hardened blood, damage can occur simply from the washing process. Remember, the less impact on fragile feathers, the better.

The pillow case is a perfect apparatus for the storage of a freshly harvested specimen. It is strong but soft, and it allows air to get to the skin which will reduce the growth rate of bacteria. The contactor’s bag is for use if you need to freeze the bird in the event that you cannot make it straight to the taxidermist. Remember, while air flow is important for retarding bacteria, air is the enemy to anything being frozen, so a heavy-duty plastic bag will help you keep air from drying out and hardening the skin of your turkey.

How long can a bird be kept in the freezer? That is a trick question because all freezers are different and the level of freezing preparation can be as diverse as the people doing the prep work. However, it is technically feasible that a well-prepped bird can be frozen for up to 20 years if kept in an extremely sub-zero freezer that does not need defrosted during that time. Please don’t ever attempt to keep a trophy frozen for that length of time, as 20 years in a freezer is a rare accomplishment. If you can’t afford the full price of a turkey mount, go talk to your taxidermist and see if you can work out a payment plan or offer to perform some labor or skill to lessen that taxidermy bill.

Trophies are important, so be prepared if you are lucky enough to kill one.