Women Afield — DIY Turkey Tail Fan Mount

By Lisa Metheny published on in General, How To, Hunting

Turkey season is over and luckily you have successfully filled your wild turkey tag. Now you wish to preserve the memories of your hunt with a taxidermy mount. Most taxidermy mounts require a certain set of skills but there are a few taxidermy projects like a turkey tail fan mount that are easy and perfect for the DIY person.

Turkey Tail Fan Mounting Supplies

A few common household items are all you need to make your own tail fan mount. Photo by Lisa Metheny.

You will need these supplies:

  • Tail feathers
  • Water
  • Shallow wide container
  • Dish detergent
  • Mineral spirits
  • Cardboard
  • Straight pens
  • Borax
  • Knife

Step One

Carefully remove the tail feathers from the bird. Gently grab the base of the tail, which should feel like a bulb or joint where it connects to the body of the turkey, in addition to the long tail feathers be sure and keep some of the smaller tail feathers attached as well. With a sharp knife carefully cut the base away from the body. At this point do not worry about any excess skin or flesh on or around the bulb. It is easier to cut away the excess later rather than try to fill in a sparsely looking tail fan. Also it is worth noting these feathers can be stored in a freezer until you are ready to begin. Just wrap them in a freezer safe baggy.

Step Two

With your knife gently scrape any excess flesh still attached to the base, be careful not to cut into the base or cut the tissue which holds the individual tail feathers in place. If you want to include the beard on your mount follow the same directions for drying.

Step Three

Gently soak the tail feathers and beard in warm soapy water such as mild dish detergent for 10 minutes. Be careful not to bend or break the quills of the feathers. Rinse several times in clear warm water. Finally, let the feathers/beard sit for a few minutes in a mixture of ¼-cup of mineral spirits for every gallon of cool water; this will help draw out oils and remaining suds. Gently shake off excess water.

Turkey Tail Fan and Pin Cushion

Make sure the feathers are coming fanned out before pinning them to the cardboard. Photo by Lisa Metheny.

Step Four

While the feathers are still damp, gently spread the tail fan on a large piece of cardboard. Secure the base of the fan with straight pins then gently open out the feathers. Place straight pins at various places on each side of the quills; do not skimp on the number of pins you use. The goal is to completely expand and pin the tail feathers to their natural full strut fan shape.

Step Five

Let the drying process begin. Some feathers may need a little extra attention in order to make them look their best. A soft toothbrush and blow dryer set on low works well to style the feathers back into place. Be extra gentle and take your time.

Step Six

Generously cover the entire tail base with Borax. Borax is a cheap powdered detergent, found in the laundry aisle. The Borax will dry out the base and excess flesh. This process may take a week or more too completely dry out the raw base. Check on the process every day and gently scrape off dried excess flesh at the base. Always keep the base (both sides) completely covered in a plenty of Borax during this process.

Step Seven

During the drying time, the feathers should begin setting in the shape you created with your straight pins. After the base is completely dry, you can no longer safely remove any flesh; this is the time to carefully remove the straight pins. The fan should hold its shape, if it does not; it is not completely dry yet. Replace the pins, add more Borax and wait a few more days. If you are drying the beard cover the flesh tip with Borax. Also, use a few pins to hold the beard straight as it has a tendency to curve while drying.

Turkey Tail Fan and Beard with Pre-Made Wall Plaque

Finishing off the tail fan is easy with a pre-made wall plaque. Photo by Lisa Metheny.

Step Eight

When your fan is completely dry and holds its shape, gently shake off leftover Borax. If needed use a dry small brush to clean any debris or Borax off the feathers.

Step Nine

It is time to finish the mount and there are numerous pre-made wall plaques available; most are an inexpensive and most work the same way. Carefully insert the dried tail fan and beard into the plaque of your choice.

 Have you ever mounted your own turkey tail fan? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.


Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.

View all articles by Lisa Metheny

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Comments (2)

  • Bert Whittle


    Lisa, Thank you for the turkey tail mounting lesson. I have never tried to mount a tail, I just keep the beard on most turkeys that I harvest but I might try the mounting the next time I get a turkey. Thank You again very much. Bert


  • Bill from Boomhower, Texas


    Come on Lisa, did you really try this yourself, or read it somewhere? Oh, I’m not disparaging your hunting and craft skills, if people learn from it, that’s what really matters, right? I can tell you how I managed it, back in about 1978 or ’79, during deer season, rather than sweating the Spring thing, including box and mouth calls, and the obligatory ghillie suit. I was deer hunting the “pot luck” hunt down at Ft Hood, where you buy a Ft Hood hunting license, put it in a big hopper just before 3am, and at 3am, they start drawing cards and calling out numbers. You wait until they call the number on your license, go stand at a designated spot behind the building with 6 pr 8 of your newest friends, and an appointed guide (person who builds and maintains 3 or 4 dozen stands out in the impact areas) and his driver meet up with you, and load you in back of a tarped troop carrier. Then you ride in the dark for maybe several to 40 or 50 miles, out into the sectors where the military may, or may not be running manuvers, not realizing you’re out there too. (It’s very exciting). They put you on stand, and tell you not to leave it, except to field dress your kill under any circumstances, and to not fire after 9:30am, and they’ll come back and pick you up.
    Well, like I said, I was deer hunting, not turkey hunting. I had a 30.06 with 150gr Rem PSP ammo. I ommited the first four or five of the steps you outlined, when a big gobbler stepped under the corn feeder hanging in a big Live Oak tree some distance away. Man, it looked just like one of those A Bombs, from the cold war, a big mushroom cloud of feathers shot strraight up, well above that Oak tree, and mushroomed. In a perfectly beautiful cloud, and with no breeze, it hung in the air for an almost embarressingly long time. Step 6 thru 9, I had just enough left to have about a watermelon size piece of the breast, with about an 8″ beard, and the fan of tail feathers, which I stretched and nailed to a piece of plywood, and salted it all heavily, for about 3 weeks. Believe it or not, I still have it on my Knotty Pine wall in the Den, and the memory of the mushroom cloud, and all the faces of the guys on the truck when they came for me, in my heart.
    Oh, I’ve since taken several others, one from a tree stand 26′ up, as he was flying from the ground 40yds away, straight toward me, with a 6mm. That one’s got a double beard, a little more than 8″, and I had my Taxidermist do a full body flying mount for my Den. That was back around ’86 I guess. You know, I’ve never Spring hunted them, and never had a shotgun when I’d see one. It’s all memories now.


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