So, even though a painted plastic decoy might look really
realistic to us... to a turkey it might not look real at all -
because of the way it reflects UV light (which means Ultra Violet).
That old deke could have the most perfect shape, size and posture,
but if the feathers aren't resembling real feathers to a turkey's
eyes, then he's going to scratch his head and say "man, there's
something about that bird over there that just ain't right!"
So, to prevent this sort of impostor recognition from happening, why
not use the real thing for your decoy? I'm not saying use a live
turkey. And I'm not saying to take your precious full-body mount out
into the field and beat it up. But what I AM saying is to make use
of those feathers from turkeys you harvest that are NOT going to the
Instead, become a taxidermist yourself!
Here's what you do: First, kill a turkey. Second, when cleaning the
bird, take his hide. Start at the base of the tail with your knife
and make an incision all the way up to the underside of his beak.
Then skin him out. Don't worry too much about being surgical here.
If you make some mistakes, no big deal. Just skin him out as best
you can. And if it makes things easier, cut his wings off before you
start skinning. But don't throw them away! You'll need them. Fold
them into themselves and set 'em aside.
After you have your turkey skinned, stretch it out on a big sheet of
thick cardboard and pin all the edges down with, well, pins. This is
the whole bird skin we're talking about now. Head and all (minus the
beak, because you can't skin a beak). If your end result is a Tom
decoy, fan the tail feathers out for the tanning process. If you're
after a hen impostor, leave the tail in the closed position.
[to top of second column]
Once the skin (skin side up) is stretched out and while it's still
wet, sprinkle it very liberally with 20 Mule Team Borax. In a cool,
dark place, let it dry (re-sprinkling it with Borax from time to
time). The drying process takes 2-3 weeks, so be patient.
Once the hide has sufficiently cured and tanned, then go grab your
ordinary plastic turkey decoy. That will be your "form." Consider
yourself the most basic taxidermist who ever lived. Apply contact
cement liberally on your decoy, then wrap your turkey skin over it.
Make it look as good as you can, and don't beat yourself up if it's
not perfect. The live turkeys won't care. It's the authentic quality
of the feathers they're after. After you have the form all wrapped
in the feathery hide, then you can pin and glue on your wings on it.
Boom, you're done.
If you think it's a crazy notion building your own turkey decoy this
way, think again. Those real feathers will do their magic out there
in the field, much better than any painted replica will do.
Remember, savvy duck hunters have used the hides of ducks and geese
as decoys since man developed the wits to hunt with decoys! It's not
fancy, but it works.
Plus here's an added bonus... when you build something to help you
harvest fish or game - whether it's a dry fly for trout, a tree
stand for deer, or a turkey decoy for your next Tom - there's a
unique fulfillment to that. A real sense of accomplishment! Give it
a try. Because really, what have you got to lose except maybe that
Tom who goes running because he saw your plastic decoy and thought
"something about those feathers weren't quite right..."
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow
Babe Winkelman on
Facebook and Twitter.