After you have been turkey hunting for a while, you’ll accumulate a lot of birds, as well as lots of memories and gobbler souvenirs.
I’ve taken 88 longbeards so far, and hope to reach 100 before I go to that big bird paradise in the sky.
Whether it’s a full-body mount, a turkey tail preserved in a fan, a spur necklace or beard collection, if you are like me, you like to keep a little something from each bird instead of throwing away everything except the precious meat.
Since I already have a flying gobbler mount (proudly done by myself), and just about every type of turkey memento you can think of, I have a quick, easy way to keep track of my successes in the form of a shadow box filled with beards and spurs.
The box is displayed in my home, and I can easily add to the collection through the years.
Turkey fans and improperly cleaned beard bases are two of the worst ways to invite dermestid beetles into your trophy room. These are the same beetles specialized taxidermists use to clean animal skulls. They grow wild and can destroy your mounts.
These little insects will eventually find anything containing even the tiniest traces of fatty tissue or flesh. Since turkey tails and beards are usually do-it-yourself projects, they are rarely cleaned sufficiently, and are often where dermestids start.
Once these pests get into your trophy room, they can ruin your mounts, moving from mount to mount in search of more places to eat and lay eggs.
You can tell if you have them if there are small body shells resembling Rice Krispies at the base of your turkey tails, feet and beards, or around the eyes, nose, ears or backs of your game heads. It’s wise to inspect your trophies every year.
I have a foolproof way to peel off a turkey beard without any attachment of meat or fatty tissue.
Hunters tend to use a knife to remove the beard, but this leaves a lot of flesh, which will have to be painstakingly removed.
First, lay the turkey on its back. On the bottom side of the beard, tightly pinch the flesh next to the beard with one hand, using the other hand to peel the beard’s base toward the beak.
This will remove the beard with no skin or flesh attached, leaving a boney casing to hold the strands together. Even though virtually all meat is gone, rubbing the end with Borax or coating with hot glue is still a good idea.
If you search Pinterest or other places on the Web, you’ll find a million creative ways to hang your beards using beads, leather cords, shotgun shells, copper caps, driftwood and feathers.
I’ve seen hunters display beard collections with turkey feet, fans and too many decorative plaques to describe.
I simply hot-glue a 1-inch piece of cloth to the base of the beards, wrapped around and tucked over the top, then I run a wire through the cloth and thumbtack them to my velvet-lined shadow box, along with the spurs.
For the spurs, I cut just above and below the spur, using a plastic straw to blow out the bone marrow. Then I use my Dremel tool with a wire brush attachment to clean the bone completely. I run a string through them and hang them on the beard.
Again, search the web for other ways to display your collection — just remember this super easy way to cleanly remove beards from your gobblers without inviting unwanted beetles into your trophy room.
–Photos Courtesy Dave Graber
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