Turkey Fan Mounting
Fan mounting a wild turkey is not only beautiful, it's easy to do with just a few household items.
As we all know good taxidermy begins in the field, as soon as the bird is harvested. Care should be taken not the let the bird flop in the brush, dirt, mud, or wet grass. Also attempts should be made to keep any blood off of the feathers.
After taking photographs of your prize, bring out a sharp knife and locate the base of the tail feathers; a triangle-shaped lump of flesh which holds all of the tail feathers plus a few rows of feather closer to the front. Cut this part off and also remove the beard and legs. Now cut the legs 3/8 in above and below the spurs, if you wish to include them and clean the tendons and morrow out of the bones.
If your tail is ruffled or muddy or bloody now is the time to correct it. The tail can be washed in regular dish detergent to remove stains and the feather tracks can be straightened. After washing the fan it can be dried with a blow dryer on low heat and the feathers can be smoothed.
If you are not ready to proceed the fan can be placed in a refrigerator for a few days or frozen for long term.
If you are ready to proceed, the tools that I use are shown in Photo 1 and the feather base is shown in Photo 2. Lay the tail down on cardboard or paper and begin the skin the feather base from the flesh toward the tail feather on the front and backside. As you do this, you will begin to expose the knob of flesh and bone that holds all of the tail feather quills.
When you have reached the point where the skin has been skinned to the base of the quills, it is time to begin to remove the fleshy piece. See Photo 3 for the angle to cut the bone and do the same thing on both sides and trim until the flesh is removed as in Photo 4.
Photo 5 shows the feather quills with the flesh removed, however, all of the fat and remaining flesh on the skin and quills must also be removed. If it is not removed, the fat will break down into grease and the flesh will rot. The skin can be preserved but not flesh and fat.
Cleaning the skin and quills is the hardest part. Begin by separating each quill with the small scissors and trim all of the fat that you can and also cut between the feather tracks (Photo 6) then remove the flesh and fat from here as well. When you have removed all that is possible, take a small stainless steel brush and begin to scrape and brush the fat from between the quills and off the skin until it begins to look like Photo 7.
In Photo 8, you can see the oil port where the bird gets preening oil. You will notice that there are several rows of feathers saved in front of the port while the actual tail feather and the next longest row are behind this port. This is done so the front feather will protect the longer feathers while you clean the fan and handle it.
Photos 9 and Photo 10 show the final cleaning of the quills and the removal of all unwanted, flesh, fat and bone. Photo 11 depicts the fan soaking for about an hour in Coleman Camp Fuel (white gas), which will de-grease the skin and quills. From here they go to a soak comprised of a total saturation solution of dry preserve as used in taxidermy or you can substitute Borax (powdered is best).
This brine will soak into the skin and preserve it against invasion by mites and other insects. It should soak for about and hour or until all of the fat and grease is dissolved. When ready, the skin and quills will look like Photo 12.
We are now ready to begin the mounting process. The first thing is to rub Borax into the skin and around all of the feather quills, like in Photo 13, on the front and back sides.
We are now going to lay out the feathers and tack them out into a fan shape (Photo 14) and remove any of the shorter feathers that are not necessary parts of the finished mount. At this point, you will cut away the feathers to the front of the oil port if you only want to display the longest two rows of feathers.
In Photo 15, long brads (1 1/4 in.) are put on each side of the center feather and worked around. Since we have removed all of the flesh and bone, there is nothing to naturally align the feathers in the fan shape and there is nothing left that could spoil and attract insects, or smell.
If you are blessed with an 18-feather tail, you will even be able to hide broken or shot feathers since you align them as you wish. Work your way from side to side as you come down each side, and make both sides even and uniform (Photo 16). When you are satisfied, cover the feathers with paper to keep airborne dust, dirt, or some other malady from happening (Photo 17).
This should dry for about two weeks, but you can proceed with some of the other steps while you are waiting.
The next parts to prepare are the beard and spurs, if you intend to include them, and the actual fan mount base. All of the materials you will use are available at craft stores, boot and saddle shops.
In Photo 18, there three steps visible starting from the left. A piece of leather is cut similar to the shape illustrated. Be sure the piece can be rolled into a cone so the beard will fit into it and leave a small opening in the opposite end for the lace to fit.
Tie a knot in a 24-inch length of leather lace and lay it on the leather piece. Roll the cone with the lace sticking out on both ends, and super glue the leather piece into the cone shape. Now, pull the long end until the knot goes into the cone, and then super glue the beard into the cone. Thread the other end of the lace trough the hole in the bones of the spurs and then tie a knot (Photo 18).
The next thing to prepare is the piece of leather to actually hold the fan. The piece of leather that is recommended is fairly heavy (boot-saddle leather) and is 6 X 11 inches. A pattern is made to mark the cuts for the leather (Photo 19) The rough side of the leather is used here, but you use the side you prefer.
Next, I prepare the board that will hold the mount. Photo 20 shows the boards in varying steps. The bottom board shows the angle of the holes drilled for the hanger. The hanger is the U-shaped piece of wire shown, which is hot glued into the board and then bent to the outside.
We are now ready to complete the mount, but we must be able to attach the feathers. The way that we do this is to mix a small batch of Dyna-Lite Putty (or Bondo), and cover the quills and feather shafts. Repeat this same process on the front and be sure to work the putty in and around the quills. Caution: this putty sets up quick so be ready!
Since the smooth side of the leather is attached to the inside, the putty will not stick to it. The leather is used as a mold after doing the back side. The fan is placed on the leather in the desired position and the putty is added to the bottom edge, as well as the front top quills. Next, fold the piece of leather up. This molds the putty to give a smooth uniform shape (Photo 21).
After the putty sets for about and hour, drill a small hole through the putty, fan and leather. Use a flat washer and a drywall screw to attach this to the wooden plaque (Photo 21).
The fan is now secure in a piece of leather formed in the shape of a taco shell and is screwed down tight to the board. Now, turn the fan right side up and see if every is aligned to your satisfaction. Visualize the point from which you would like the leather laces to exit and hang down displaying the beard and spurs. Make a small mark at this spot and drill a hole through the entire fan mount and board with a 1/4 in drill bit (Photo 22). If you should hit a feather quill, it is of no concern since the putty is holding everything in place.
Then, take a large sewing needle and a length of string and thread this through the board from the rear, out the front, over the lace (Photo 23) and then back out the rear. Take both ends of the string, and, pulling from the rear, pull the lace through until you can reach it (Photo 24). Now pull on the loop of lace until the beard and spurs hang out of the front to suit your taste. You can hot glue the lace in the hole but usually the fit is so tight that it will not move.
The next thing to do is to shade the leather. Use an airbrush and black dye but you can do the same with flat-colored spray paint in flat black brown or walnut colors. Make a stencil that fits behind the leather of the mount, and make sure you cover all of the feathers when you paint. Using these items protects the feathers from accidents with the paint or dye. Part of the stencil set up can be seen in Photo 25.
If you are using spray paint, then be sure to cover all of the feathers. Practice on a piece of cardboard to get your distance correct, and monitor the size and density of your spray pattern. A good tips is to let the paint go on as over spray, so the color and density do not build up too dark and too quickly. Also, hold the beard and spurs out and away from the mount, so that they do not block the flow of paint and cause light color lines on the leather. If you make a minor mistake, you can take the edge of a knife blade or a small metal bristle brush and ruff up the suede and sort of erase small errors. Go slow and be patient.
Photo 25 shows the stencil removed in order to reveal some heavier shading to the outside but still a total darkening. Compare the color with Photo 22 and Photo 23. When you are happy with your shading, allow the paint to dry. Remove the paper, blow off the dust with your lung pressure and check the feathers for any needed adjustments (human preening). Smooth the feather tips, and make sure to call your friends to come see your handy work. Photo 26 and Photo 27 show the finished product. Have fun.