BY TYLER FRANTZ
So you’ve just lucked into harvesting a big old boss tom. If you’re like me and you already have some turkeys mounted, adding to that ever-present stack of taxidermy bills for another splurge mount may not be the top priority on your budget list.
Yet you’d still like to honor the memory and striking beauty of the bird you just placed your tag on by displaying his elegant tail feathers on the wall of your den, garage or workshop. I don’t blame you — a fan display can be an excellent alternative to getting a full mount at only a fraction of the cost.
You can pay a professional to do it for you, or possibly order a relatively inexpensive self-mounting kit from a variety of outdoors retailers, but in my opinion, there’s absolutely no need to spend more than $10 on a fan display when you can make one all by yourself using household items you probably already own. What follows are instructions for doing just that.
Here’s what you’ll need to do the job: One empty pizza box, a few thumbtacks, a 50-50 mixture of salt/borax, one sharp knife, one wire coat hanger, an arm’s length of thin string (24-ply butcher’s twine works well), an 8-x-12-inch piece of light cardboard (or one side of a 30-pack beverage box), adhesive glue (a hot glue gun works well), an empty shotgun shell case — primer removed — two turkey wing feathers, tail feather fan and beard.
Begin your project by carefully removing the beard and tail fan with a sharp knife. Be sure to leave a little extra flesh on both to hold the bristles and feathers in place.
If cut too closely, both will fall apart in your hands, so it’s better to be conservative here. You can always trim off the excess after removal.
While you’re at it, pluck out two of the nicer looking wing feathers and set aside for later use. These will conceal the fleshy area and help hold shorter fan feathers in place, and they also add a little extra flash to the display.
After removing and trimming away any unnecessary meat from the fan and beard, coat all exposed flesh with the salt and borax mixture. Spread out the tail feathers into a well-shaped fan and pin them in place on a pizza box with thumbtacks.
Give the fan and beard a few weeks to cure in a dry garage or basement where animals and insects won’t bother them. Then, you’re ready for assembly.
First, using thin twine, carefully tie a loop around the upper end of your beard and add a small dab of glue to secure the string. Thread the string up through the open end of an empty shotgun case and pull the string out through the primer hole in the brass.
Next, tuck the upper end of the beard just inside the plastic shotgun casing to hide the string and add a little more glue to hold it in place. You may want to add a little more glue to close up the primer hole, but this is completely optional.
Now, remove the fan from the pizza box and flip it over. Take the wire coat hanger and bend the open hanging hook into a closed loop, which allows hanging the fan on the wall.
Then, center the hanger on the back of the fan and tie the string to the bottom cross-section of the coat hanger. Adjust the string length so the top of the shotgun shell will hang directly below the middle of the fan where all the feathers meet the flesh.
When everything is lined up, use the adhesive and the 8-x-12-inch piece of cardboard to hold the hanger in place, applying the glue directly to the cardboard and placing it right over top, sandwiching the hanger between the feathers and cardboard. Be careful not to rough up the feathers too much here, but hold it in place until the adhesive bonds, then give it time to dry.
Once completely dry, flip the fan display back over and use a few more dabs of glue and apply the wing feathers in a crisscross pattern over the front of the fan to hide the exposed flesh. Hand-smooth any feathers back into place as needed, and after drying, it will be ready for the wall.
This do-it-yourself turkey fan display is a fun project that costs just a few dollars at most, while providing a long-lasting, attractive showcase of your trophy bird. It will surely bring back memories of the hunt for years to come, and doesn’t even require a payment plan.
Frantz is president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org