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Prepare Your Turkey for the Taxidermist

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From field to freezer to fan, caring for your trophy is important if you want a turkey display your friends will go wild over. So we consulted award-winning taxidermist Cally Morris, who shared pointers on how he prepares birds in the field for a trip to his shop in Green Castle, Mo. Morris and his team at Hazel Creek Taxidermy make works of art out of 900 to 1,000 wild turkeys each year.

Bringing the bird from the field

  • Field care starts immediately after you shoot the bird.

  • Treat the turkey delicately. Grab the turkey by the legs or handle its body. Never grab it by the head or drag it to the ground. Keep the feathers from getting bent or dirty. When transporting the turkey, lay it on its belly, not its back.

  • When you're ready to package the gobbler for shipping, lay it on its back. Keep as much blood as possible from dripping on the feathers. Blood that spatters should be washed off immediately.

Preparing the bird for freezing and transport

  • If the head is bleeding, put paper towels in the turkey's mouth. Click here to see how.

  • Roll the head in paper towels. Fold towels over the head and tape them closed. Click here to see how.

  • Tuck the head inside the wing.

  • Fold the wings tightly against the turkey's body. Click here to see how.

  • Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the tail feathers and feet. Do not tie the feet and feathers together for any reason inside the cardboard. *This is one of the most important steps because kinked tail feathers are difficult to repair. Click here to see how.

  • Put the turkey headfirst inside a large garbage bag. Roll the bag over in a teardrop shape, handling the turkey by only its legs or main body. Tape the bag. Click here to see how.

  • Fit the cardboard around the tail feathers and feet. Tape or staple the cardboard into position. Click here to see how.

  • Lay the turkey in the freezer on its side. In 36 to 48 hours, the turkey will be frozen solid and ready to ship.

  • Take the turkey from the freezer and wrap it in bubble wrap.

  • Place the turkey headfirst in a box. The turkey should fit tightly to prevent a lot of movement. You can usually find a box at a grocery store or moving company. If there are old labels on the box, tear them off, or mark through them with a black marker. Click here to see how.

Shipping Tips

  • Always ship your turkey to the taxidermist on Monday if possible. Never on a Thursday. When you send it later in the week, there's a chance your turkey could get misdirected and sent to a terminal over the weekend, causing it to thaw and ruining your prize. A wild turkey takes about two days to thaw completely.

  • When you ship the turkey, expect to pay for packing supplies and shipping costs.

  • Ship only to a street address.

  • Include in the box your name, address and phone number, and be ready to discuss the pose of your mount.




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