Plan ahead for turkey trophy

The hunt is over and it’s time to preserve that trophy. A few things are to be remembered before a hunter heads to their taxidermist.

Fifteen-year member of the National Wild Turkey Federation John Hoover of Forksville, an active turkey hunter and part-time taxidermist of Kings Creek Taxidermy, took some time out from hunting and work to give some tips on what to do and not to do after the harvest

“I really appreciate what the NWTF stands for, and what they do for the wild turkeys, and the habitat in the state of Pa., and around the country,” he said.

He said it starts in the field, where a hunter can help preserve a turkey for a mount.

“First things first — after you have harvested your bird, try to get to it as quickly as possible to keep it from flopping around too much and damaging, or losing too many feathers,” Hoover said.

Stay away from the legs, he said, while it’s still flopping to keep from being injured by the spurs.

“Try to grab it, or pick it up by the fleshy part of the head, or just let them flop as long as they aren’t in the brush where feathers can get damaged. A few feathers will be lost while he is flopping but it is usually pretty minimal, ad won’t affect the mount,” he said.

“Next, and very important, do not field dress the bird. Keep it whole, and take it to your taxidermist as soon as you can. If you are not able to take it to the taxidermist right away, make sure you gently, and neatly, place the bird in a plastic garbage bag and freeze it until you are able to get it to your taxidermist.”

Improper handling will damage feathers and make the bird harder to mount.

“The biggest mistake people make is that after shooting the turkey, they either run up and stand on its neck and head, or they grab it by the neck and hold it up until it is done flopping, and this can really damage the feathers around the neck area,” Hoover said.

He added that the better you care for your trophy in the field to minimize damage, the better the quality of finished trophy you’ll have hanging on your wall.

There are a number of mount options, from traditional to unique.

“There are several different options, and factors involved. First, how much do you want to spend, or how much are you able to spend?,” Hoover said. “Second, do you want a full mount, breast mount, or just the tail, spurs, and the beard on a plaque? Do you want it strutting, standing, walking, flying? Do you want it on a pedestal, or on a limb? Do you want it gobbling, or not?

“And remember, just because a taxidermist is expensive, doesn’t always mean he is the best one for the job — see what kind of work they do for yourself, and decide who to go with from there,” he said.

Pick a spot to hang it, or set it out of the way so it doesn’t get accidently bumped or knocked over.

“And as far as care of the mount, just use a feather duster to lightly clean it off every so often,” Hoover said. “If it gets too dusty, you can get a product at Tractor Supply called Magic Shine (it’s a spray people use for horses manes to make them shine for shows). Spray a light coat over the entire bird, then let it dry, and use either a paper towel, or the feather duster again and lightly wipe it down. This will make your mount shine like new again, it also works well on other mounts as well. Taking special care of your trophy should help ensure it lasts a lifetime.”

A taxidermist since 2013, Hoover takes in a limited number of animals each year.

“I really enjoy the art of taxidermy, and giving my customers back animals that they are proud to display on their walls, or in their trophy rooms. I plan on doing this full time at some point when I am done traveling and working for the phone company,” he said. “Taxidermy has always been an interest of mine since around the late ’80s. I just didn’t act on my interest until the spring of 2013 when I called Marc Jordan from the Western Pa. School of Taxidermy and signed up for the eight-week course. I couldn’t have picked a better teacher or person in general. His knowledge, and thoroughness in the taxidermy field is bar none, one of the best around.”