Pro-staff Contributor: Zach Raulie
Spring turkey season in the south has come to an end and in a few weeks most other states will close the books on their seasons. It has been an unforgettable and very successful season in many different ways for my wife and me. My wife got her first kill and I witnessed many great things in the woods while enjoying time with the new and veteran turkey hunters in my life.
The question then arises: now that we’ve harvested birds, and hopefully you have had success as well, what do we do with your trophy to preserve the memory? Here are a few post season projects I enjoy working on.
This seems obvious but a single, well-shot photo can tell an amazing story of a successful hunt. Digital photography is great, but I still like to print out the best photos and on the back of them write down the location, date and time of the hunt, conditions and bird’s measurements. Maybe you guided someone to harvest their first bird or it was your child’s first hunt. Encapsulate that memory with a framed photo for them as a reminder of a great experience with you.
2. Preserve the Tail Feathers, Beards and Spurs
I love taxidermy and preserving the trophies of spring. There are many mounts available out there by extraordinary artists. But full-body turkey mounts aren’t for every hunter (or their spouse) or budget. There are multiple ways you can preserve your trophy yourself with a little creativity.
Many turkey hunters keep the beards, spurs and shotgun shell from their harvest. Don’t just toss those in a drawer once you clean them. A friend of mine likes to write a quick description of the hunt and the bird’s measurements on a piece of paper, then roll it up and place it inside the shot shell to revisit those memories another day. A lot of us emphasize the use of the shot shell and glue the beard to be displayed in it. I have kept the beards and spurs from my successful spring hunts to hang for display.
I also keep every set of tail feathers, if in good condition, after a hunt. I have some of the more memorable fans displayed in our home while others I save for use in next years decoys. I am currently working on a framed shadowbox display of my wife’s first turkey (fan, spurs and beard). I will blog about how to build one of these once I’ve completed the project.
3. Wing-bone Turkey Call
Years ago, my Uncle David made my father a turkey call out of a wing bone from the turkey he had killed. It wasn’t until last year that I attempted to make one of these. Surprisingly it was fun and very simple to make!
1. While cleaning the birds from our hunt, we remove the three wing-bones key to making this call.
2. Boil the bones and remove any excess meat from them.
3. Using a dremel tool or small saw, cut the pieces to the desired size.
4. Dry fit the pieces. Then use a 2-part epoxy to affix the bones together and let dry.
5. Sand the calls down to finish them off. Date the call and location of hunt.
6. Finally, add several coats of high gloss to really finish the call off nicely.
I can’t say I use this call much for hunting, even though it can be surprisingly effective in the woods, but it serves as a great memory of the hunt! The project can also be a fun thing do with your kids. Don’t be afraid to experiment when you make these either—the first wing-bone call I made was a little crude—but after that prototype, the calls I’ve created for friends are much nicer.
I hope you enjoyed all of these ideas and try a few out! These projects are a great way to extend your season and pay further respect to the bird you harvested. As many have said, it’s not about the kill but preserving the memory of the hunt that is most important.
Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida. He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests. You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year. You can contact Zach at email@example.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/zraulie).