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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Looking for ways to tan (preserve) turkey or other bird pelts. THe only way I have tried is salt and scrap daily but was wondering if there was a way more like tanning mammal type hides.
 

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I don't know if any way to tan a bird pelt in the sense of tanning a hide. In other words, you'll never get it soft. What you can do is this. Skin the bird and remove ALL fat and flesh from the skin. You can make a decent fleshing tool from an old tablespoon, bending the handle if necessary to form a comfortable grip. When you flesh/scrape the skin, work from the tail to the head as this has the least effect on the feathers. Once all the fat and flesh has been removed, make a solution of fairly warm water and a degreasing soap. Dawn dishwashing soap or something similar works well. Put the skin in and slosh it around for a few minutes or longer. Let the soap work. Once you've washed all the grease out of the skin, remove it and rince it repeatedly to get the soap out. Working from the head to the tail, with the feathered side out, squeeze out as much water as you can. If it's a nice day, hang the skin outside for an hour or so and let it drip dry.

At this point, the skin should still be pretty wet and the feathers should look like you ruined the skin. Get a hair dryer and set it on medium and blow dry the feathers working from the tail to the head. Take your time and get the feathers really dry and fluffy. Once you have the feathers dry, the skin should still be wet and pliable. Get a old shoe box or something similar, put the skin in and pour Borax soap all over it, inside and out. Put a lid on the box and tumble the skin for a few minutes, checking every now and again to make sure that the Borax is getting into every little nook and cranny. This is why it is important that you completely dry the feathers..

Once that is done, get some heavy cardboard and stretch out the skin and pin it in place. Spread and pin the tail as desired. You may want to put another piece of cardboard over the skin and add a little weight to hold everything down after you've pinned it in place. Let it dry in a cool, dry place out of sunlight.

Hope that helps.

Frank
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So when you say it want get soft, will it be pliable enough to say lay over an old decoy, then once removed fold up and not crack and come apart ,like my salt tanned ones do. I should also say that the really nice pelts will not be on decoys.
 

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I've got several setsof Turkey tails, and wings as well as tails with the back skin/cape. All were treated with nothing more than a cleaning and lots of Borax. For the skins and tals I pinned them feathers down on a large piece of carboard then coated the inner skin liberally with the borax. Let it sit for a week or so and it was done.
 
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