Courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
Most turkey hunts appear to end with a blast of a shotgun and the thrill of harvesting a trophy gobbler, but the reality is that the work is just beginning to legally get that bird home or to the taxidermist.
Legally possessing and transporting a bird is more complicated than grabbing the bird and walking back to the truck.
“It is important the hunter be informed about the procedures after harvest,” said Gregg Powers, managing editor of Turkey Call magazine. “A majority of natural resource agencies require some type of reporting, check in or validation before legally allowing the hunter to possess their game.”
Some agencies also require transportation permits for hunters wishing to export their game out of state.
The last thing a hunter needs is to violate the Lacey Act when shipping their game out of state. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import, export, transport, buy or sell fish, wildlife and plants taken or possessed in violation of federal, state or tribal law.
If the hunter has not properly followed tagging, check in or validation procedures, they will be in violation of the Lacey Act. This means confiscation of their trophy gobbler, civil and criminal penalties, cancellation of hunting and fishing licenses and fines. When shipping a turkey, whether it is through a commercial shipper, or even in a suitcase, here are some tips to keep out of trouble:
Going Cold Turkey
National award-winning wild turkey taxidermist Cally Morris, of Hazel Creek Taxidermy, gave some pointers on how he prepares birds in the field for a trip to the taxidermy shop. His Green Castle, Mo., business receives 900 to 1,000 turkeys each year. Turkey hunters from all over North America ship their trophies to Morris.
To get a wild turkey ready for the freezer before shipping, follow these simple tips:
Bringing the Bird from the Field
- Take care of the bird from the second it is shot.
- Treat the turkey delicately, like a piece of glass. Grab the turkey by the legs or handle the body. Don’t grab it by the head or drag it on the ground. Keep the feathers from getting bent or dirty. Also, when transporting the turkey, lay it on its belly, not its back.
- When you get to camp and are ready to package the gobbler for shipping, lay it on its back and be careful to keep blood from dripping on the feathers. If blood does get on the feathers in the field, it can be washed off in a creek or back at camp.
Freezing and Transporting the Bird
- If the head is bleeding, stick paper towels in the turkey’s mouth.
- Roll the head in paper towels. Fold the towels over the head and tape them closed.
- Tuck the head inside the wing.
- Fold the wings tight against the turkey’s body.
- Pre-cut a piece of cardboard to place over the tail feathers and feet. Do not tie the feet and feathers together for any reason inside the cardboard. This is one of the most important steps because kinked tail feathers are difficult to repair.
- Put the turkey headfirst inside a large plastic garbage bag. Roll the bag over in a teardrop shape, handling the turkey by only its legs or main body. Tape the bag.
- Fit the cardboard around the tail feathers and feet. Tape or staple the cardboard into position without bending the feathers.
- Lay the turkey in the freezer on its side. In 36 to 48 hours, the turkey will be frozen solid and ready to ship.
- Take the turkey out of the freezer and wrap it in bubble wrap.
- Set the turkey headfirst in a box. The turkey should fit tightly in the box to restrict movement. A large box can be found at a local grocery store, retail store or moving company. If there are old labels on the box, tear them off, or mark them with a black marker, so they do not confuse the shipper or receiver.
- Always ship the turkey to the taxidermist on a Monday if possible, and never on a Thursday. If it is sent out later part of the week, there’s a chance it could get misdirected and sit in a terminal over the weekend, thawing out and ruining your prize. A frozen wild turkey will take about two days to thaw.
- Depending on where the turkey is shipped, expect to pay $15 to $20 in packing supplies and $35 to $45 for shipping costs.
- Be sure to have the taxidermist’s proper address. Never ship to a P.O. box. Ship only to a street address.
- Include in the box with the turkey a slip of paper with name, address and phone number, and be ready to discuss the pose of your wild turkey mount.
Visit www.nwtf.org for more information.