Here in Idaho, our spring turkey season ends later this month. We’ve had an awesome time hunting on weekends, and like many of you, we are admiring our trophies. Unfortunately, as many of you that have been hunting turkey for years have noticed, unless done properly after time your prized beards will begin to fall apart. Some of the beards we don’t mind letting go of, but some (like the beard from our very first tom) are ones we would like preserved for the sake of good memories. Luckily, we’ve found through trial and error (as well as hunting forums) some fool proof ways to help elongate the life of your beards so that they can remind you of memorable hunts for years to come.
Our Favorite Method
The most popular (and our personal favorite) way to not only preserve, but display, a beard involves borax, silicone, leather (or rawhide), and clear coat. First, you place your beard and spurs in Borax (or salt) until any fleshy leftovers are dry. Drying usually takes a few days, so you can get everything else ready while you prep your beard and spurs. For the second step, grab a shot gun shell of whatever size you prefer. Carefully separate the plastic and the shell, dump any pellets, and remove the primer. If you’ve also got the spurs, and have treated them with borax, spray them with clear coat. Once they are completely dry, you can run one on each end of the leather and you can also add in beads if you want this beard and spurs display to be extra fancy. Once this is done you have two options: you can simply hot glue each end your strip of leather or rawhide to the top of the shell, or for those of you who have a steady hand and a lot of patience, you can drill a small hole through the center of the shell, push each end of your leather strip through (making a loop) and knot it. Once knotted, we recommend running some hot glue around the knot to keep it secure. Once your beard is dried, stick the skin side into the shell and fill it with silicone (or if you don’t have that hot glue). Wait a day or two for this to become completely dry, and then spray the whole thing with clear coat. Once you’re finished, you should have something that looks like this:
A Simpler Option
If that idea seems a bit too complex for your tastes, you also have the option of simply drying the beard in salt or borax, then wrapping the skin end in twine, leather or another preferred material and then dipping it into paraffin or bees wax. This will preserve it for some time, and as long as the beards are held in a place with fairly consistent temperatures they should last a few years. If you like the simplicity of this method, but want to ensure the beards will have a longer life; we recommend that you place them in a clear glass display case. The less the air and elements touch the beards, the longer they will be able to maintain their hairs. If you prefer to keep your beards, but don’t want to necessarily display them one sure fire way we’ve found to preserve them is to dry them in salt or borax, place them in a plastic container, and pop them in the freezer. This method, while effective, may cause concern for those unfamiliar with the importance of preserving a Tom’s trophy beard. Therefore, it is always good to make sure either A. your family is aware of the importance of said trophies and that their presence in the freezer needs to be overlooked, or B. that the beards are placed in a secondary freezer that is either used as a main freezer overflow, or for meat.
Lastly, if you are lucky enough to not only get the beard and spurs, but to maintain the integrity of your bird’s tail feathers, you can make a fan mount. Fan mounts are a beautiful thing when done correctly, but they do take precision and time in order to make sure they look balanced. For this project you will need a mount (either one pre-cut with slots for the beard and spurs, or one that you alter on your own), small knife, borax or salt, hot glue, and a heck of a lot of patience. In order to make a fan mount, take your beard and spurs and place them in Borax or salt (like you would for any f the previous options). Remove the fan by cutting it off; make sure to take enough meat and bone to make sure that all feathers remain attached and to also give yourself some room to work. This next step is the one that is a doozy and requires methodical concentration to make sure it gets good results. Once you have the tail removed, you then need to go in with a small knife and follow the shafts and large tail feathers in order to remove any extra flesh as well as any smaller feathers. Once this is done, you will (surprise!) borax the ends of the fan. Once they are dried, you will now artfully arrange your feathers into a nice fan shape on your mount. Once you have achieved the desired shape, go back in and remove some of the shorter tail feathers (somewhere between 7-10 seems to be good); set these aside because you’ll likely want to use them later. Tack down the rest of the fan to the mount. Once is has dried completely, carefully arrange the smaller feathers you plucked out to cover the tips you glued down on the large fan. Once all glue spots are covered to your liking, lock the small feathers in place with small dabs of hot glue. Once the feathers are dried, you can place your beard and spurs across the remaining area or in the designated slots on your mount. If you want to ensure your hard work will look great for years to come, give it a quick coat of clear coat. The end result should look something like this:
So, there you have all of the various ways we have found that do a good job at preserving, as well as presenting, your trophies from your turkeys. We hope you guys like them! Do you have a different way to preserve them? Then let us know!