Show 'em your hooks: Turn your wild turkey spurs into works of art.
Most turkey hunters can agree there are four special reasons chasing gobblers can easily become a lifelong obsession: strutting toms, ground-shaking gobbles, long beards and big ol’ hooks.
If you’ve harvested a mature tom, then—beyond the delicious table fare—you’ve earned yourself a “trophy” in all senses of the word. Gobblers possess stunning physical characteristics, making them one of the most beautiful game animals on the planet—and that means awesome mounts!
Many turkey hunters go with the traditional tail fan mount, and often the beard will be included. It’s a common display because it’s easy to create. But personally—and I know I’m not alone—I get real fired-up over spurs. There’s nothing like walking up on a freshly killed limb-hanger.
If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself asking, What can I do to show-off a tom’s spurs? After several successful seasons in the turkey woods, I’ve managed to get the spur-finishing process down to somewhat of a simple science.
From The Field
You’ve finally tagged a gobbler. The victory photos have been snapped. You’ve hauled him back to camp (or home) and trimmed the prized meat from every possible bone. At this point, you’re free to claim some trophies to honor your bird forever. Cut his beard and colorful tail fan off for display. If your bird is at least 2 years old, chances are he’s got some spurs worth claiming, too.
Remove the bird’s legs at the first leg joint above each spur. You can do this with a sharp knife, but a bone saw is ideal. If you have a small brush saw or clippers, those will also likely do the trick. You can freeze the legs for later spur removal, or you can get right to it if you have the time and proper tools handy. I’ve found it’s easiest to complete the entire spur-finishing process while the legs are still “fresh.”
Gather Your Tool
No project ends desirably without starting with the proper tools. Thankfully, for finishing spurs, you don’t need much to get the job done. You probably have many of the necessary tools lying around somewhere. The basic list is as follows:
- Small, strong, scissor-like cutting tool (Wire cutters work great.)
- Small, long needle-nose pliers
- Small wire brush
- Clamp (I recommend a bench vice.)
- Bone saw (An electric Sawzall makes life much easier.)
- Sanding tool (You can use basic sandpaper, but a bench grinder is nice.)
- Long metal nail
- Safety glasses
- Warm water and sanitizing dish soap
- Cup of bleach
- Clear nail polish
- Fishing line or thin string
- Rubber gloves and respiratory mask (These are optional, but nice.)
If you haven’t already done so in the field, you’ll want to remove the spurs from the turkey’s lower legs. This is the first step toward an awesome spur display.
(Tip: If you opted to purchase rubber gloves, wear them now. Also, wear safety glasses.) Clamp each leg against your work bench surface, or between the jaws of your bench vice, one at a time. Don’t clamp the legs too tight, or you risk breaking the bones. Allow each leg to hang over the edge of the work bench surface for sawing.
Take your bone saw and cut the spurs off each leg, leaving approximately 1 inch of leg bone on each side of the spurs.
Leg Flesh Removal
Once the spurs are removed from the turkey’s legs, it’s time to eliminate all the surrounding flesh and tendons, and also the marrow from the center of the leg bone. This is the dirtiest part of the spur-finishing process, but well worth the effort.
Take the metal nail and run it through the center hollow bone channel to push out the bone marrow.
You’ll notice there are actually three hollow channels. The only channel you want to keep is the center one, which is surrounded by solid leg bone. When the spur-finishing process is final, you’ll be able to feed a string through this center channel for displaying your spurs.
Use the cutting tool and needle-nose pliers to remove all the flesh surrounding the center channel.
Use the wire brush the brush off remaining pieces of flesh from the bone. (Tip: Grasp the spurs with the needle-nose pliers while brushing.)
Now that all the unnecessary fleshy parts are removed from your spurs, you’re able to start visualizing the final product. But you’re not “off the hooks” yet.
(Tip: If you decided to purchase a respiratory mask, now is when you should use it. You’ll be grinding bone, which can create some unpleasant dust in the air.) Use the abrasion of your sanding tool, sandpaper or bench grinder to shape and smooth out the hollow bone that holds each spur. Be careful to not grind all the way through the bone. Once you’re satisfied with the length and shape of each bone, you’re finished with the dirty work of the spur-finishing process.
This step will help to sanitize your spurs, thereby killing bacteria and eliminating most unpleasant odor.
Soak your spurs in warm water and sanitizing dish soap. Lightly scrub each spur to remove any remnant bits of flesh. (Tip: When you look at a turkey’s spur, you’re actually seeing an outer spur “cap” that covers a smaller spur bone. If for some reason a spur cap falls off, simply dry the spur bone and spur cap after the sanitizing step is complete, then glue the spur cap back on to the spur bone.)
Pour a small cup of bleach. Carefully, one at a time, grasp each spur by the sharp ends (not the hollow bone ends) with your needle-nose pliers. Submerge each hollow bone (not the entire spur) in the bleach for at least 1 minute; this will help whiten the bone and finalize sanitization.
Allow your spurs to completely dry. You can pat them with towels, use a fan or both. Once dry, you can immediately proceed to the final step.
This is the final step in the spur-finishing process.
Thread your fishing line or thin string through the hollow leg bone channel. Tie each end of the line to two separate objects, allowing the spurs to hang freely in the air.
Apply one or two coats of clear nail polish to each leg bone/spur. Allow the polish to completely dry.
You’ve now officially finished your cherished wild turkey spurs. Proudly show them off for years to come!