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10 Steps to Beautiful Turkey Tails

June 10, 2010
By Ralph Scherder, Hunting Editor
So you killed a nice spring gobbler but don’t want a full mount. Still, you’d like something by which to remember the hunt. Fanning the tail can be the perfect solution. Simply fanning the tail without treating it, however, will result in a tail that will call up more moths than memories, and soon find its way into the trash. A properly treated and fanned turkey tail will last a lifetime.

Step 1. Before you can fan a turkey tail, you must have a turkey tail to fan. Once you’ve accomplished that feat, you’ll find that actually fanning the tail is easy.

Step 2. Remove the tail from the bird and begin trimming meat and fat from the base of the tail. Most of the fat can be cut away with a pair of scissors or wire cutters. Be sure to get the yellow fat between quills. A wire brush works well for this. Try to remove as much fat as possible.

Step 3. Soak the tail in a mixture of luke warm water and a liberal amount of Dawn soap. I like to squirt a thick stream of soap the length of the tail and then swish it around in the bath. Let it soak for 20-30 minutes. The Dawn soap (or any name brand equivalent) will help cut the grease from the any remaining fat around the quills and clean the feathers.

Step 4. Remove from soapy bath and rinse with cold water. Be sure to rinse tail completely of soap. Always rinse tail with the grain of the feathers. Rinsing against the grain will cause feathers to split. Once rinsed, allow excess water to drain.

Step 5. Place tail in a container large enough that the tail can lay flat. Ideally, I like to use a container large enough to allow the tail feathers to fan out. Add enough Coleman Fuel or white gas to completely submerge the tail. Swish the tail around to make sure that the gas works into all parts of the tail. Let soak in fuel for 30-40 minutes. Be sure to do this step outside. Coleman Fuel is extremely flammable and so are emitted fumes.

Step 6. Remove tail from Coleman Fuel and let excess fuel drain. Find a nice, clean table to work on. Now that tail is completely clean, it’s important to keep it that way. A piece of plywood can serve as a great work table. Use a hairdryer to dry tail.

Step 7. Once tail is dry, sprinkle Borax onto the quills. Borax works as a dry preservative and bug-proofing agent.

Step 8. Find the center tail feather. This center tail feather will serve as the focal point of the presentation. Fan the tail out evenly on either side of the center tail feather. If feathers are missing from the tail, adjust other feathers so that the gaps are not noticeable. The most important aspect of an appealing tail is symmetry. The distance from the center tail feather to the end feather on each side should be the same. A few well-placed pins can help hold the feathers in position.

Step 9. Slide a small square of cardboard (a cut up square of milk carton also works well) underneath the base of the tail. The cardboard or milk carton will prevent the epoxy used to set the tail from sticking to the table. Apply epoxy to the base. Cover the quills completely to create a solid base for the feathers. Five-minute epoxy or any two-part epoxy works well for this. The epoxy may be completely hard after a few hours, but the skin holding the feathers together won’t be. Therefore, I like to let the tail sit for at least a couple of days before moving it.

Step 10. Once the tail is completely dry, remove the cardboard or milk carton from the back. You now have a properly fanned and treated turkey tail that will last a lifetime.

Article Photos

Once the tail is completely dry, remove the cardboard or milk carton from the back. You now have a properly fanned and treated turkey tail that will last a lifetime. Photo by Ralph Scherder

Fact Box

Once the tail is completely dry, remove the cardboard or milk carton from the back. You now have a properly fanned and treated turkey tail that will last a lifetime.

 
 

 

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