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How Do I Preserve Turkey Trophy Parts?

gobblerI recently shot a big gobbler, and I wanted to preserve its beard, spurs and tail fan. How do I do this? — Ty Worthy, Atlanta, Ga.

Here’s the answer, courtesy of this excerpt from 99 Turkey Hunting Secrets!

Preserving the beards, spurs and tailfeathers of a gobbler lets you relive your hunts all year. Further, it’s easy and inexpensive.

Here’s a brief guide to preserving the trophy parts of your bird.


Slice the beard from a gobbler’s breast, making sure to keep some flesh on the tip. If you pull the beard off, it will eventually fall apart.

Dab the flesh on the beard’s base in borax, and let it dry for about a month. Then, wrap some tape around the dried flesh, and the beard should last forever.

You can display several beards on commercial “beard boards” or simply hang them on your wall.


When you clean your turkey, slice off the lower legs at the joint where the feathers meet the scaly skin. Then, dip the freshly cut ends of the legs in borax, and let them dry for at least a month. The legs will dry and harden. Some experts recommend injecting the leg with formaldehyde to preserve it.

Keep drying legs in a cool, dry area. In warm environments, leg scales might lift up and turn pale or white.

If you don’t want to preserve the entire leg, consider saving just the section attached to the spurs. Using a small saw, cut off portions of the leg above and below the spur, leaving just the small portion of legbone that holds the spur.

Use a pipe cleaner or paper toweling to clean the fluid and tissue from inside the legbone. Then, dust the inside and exposed ends of the legbone with borax, and let it dry for three to four weeks.

If desired, you can remove the scaly skin around the outside of the legbone and bleach the bone underneath. Leave the spur cap on the spur. When spurs are finished in this manner, they resemble bear claws. You can string them together as a necklace, hat band or other form of decoration.

Tails and Capes

To remove a gobbler’s tail, cut along the base where the tail meets the torso. Cut high enough along the back to include plenty of back skin and feathers. Otherwise, the preserved tail will have a featherless spot.

After removing the tail, cut excess fat and flesh from the base. Dry the area with paper towling.

Place the tail on a flat cardboard surface, and fan it out evenly. Use pins to keep individual tailfeathers in place. Also, place a light, flat weight atop the tail to keep it flat as it dries. Cover the fleshy base of the tail with borax, and let it dry for at least a month.
After the tail is cured, brush or vacuum off the borax, and smooth any feathers that are out of place. You can display the tail on commercial wall or table mounts, or simply nail it to a wall.

If you’d like to display more of a gobbler’s back and tail feathers, cape your bird.
Hang a gobbler by its neck, and make an incision where the fleshy part of the head meets the neck feathers. You’ll notice a crease on either side of the back feathers that extends down to a gobbler’s tail. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice down these creases, and then slowly cut the skin and feathers back from the skin. When you reach the tail, remove it using the method described previously.

Lay the cape fleshy-side up, and make sure it’s flat. Pin down the cape and tailfeathers, and cover exposed flesh with borax. Let the cape dry for about a month, and then remove the borax.

You can affix finished capes to small boards and nail them to the wall.


Take time to preserve and display the spurs, beards, tails and capes of your gobblers. It helps spring last all year.

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