Being able to combine my love of hunting with my passion for arts and crafts is one of the most satisfying and enjoyable things I do. And I’m always up for new ideas on how to decorate with nature in mind, which is why I called my friend, Jim Casada.
Jim, a former college history professor who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles as well as numerous books on hunting and fishing, takes a special interest in using everything but the gobble and the grunt to create beautiful handmade items.
Check out Jim’s 23 suggestions for making wildlife related handicrafts.
Trimming with turkeys:
- There’s a world of potential for making things from the parts of a wild turkey, Jim said. For example, a gobbler’s leg with spur intact can make an excellent knife handle. If the spur fits between your middle and ring finger, this sturdy joint will act as a perfect stop to help you keep your grip.
- Use the wing bones from your turkey to bring another one to the gun by making a suction type caller. Learn how to make a wingbone yelper at NWTF’s website: http://www.nwtf.org/tips_adventures/tips.php?id=287
- You can make unique jewelry with wild turkey spurs including earrings, pendants, necklaces, tie tacks and more.
- The crafty uses for wild turkey feathers is almost endless, Jim enthused. Being that he spent his boyhood fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, it’s no surprise that using feathers to tie flies was on his list. He recommends using primary wing feathers to tie flies that resemble grasshopper patterns.
- Those hunters and shooters who use archery tackle can fletch their arrows using wing feathers.
- Capture the iridescence of breast feathers by making a pair of earrings. Check your local craft store for beads, ear wires and other metal findings.
- Tail feathers can be fashioned into a wreath or bookmark, while breast feathers covering a Styrofoam ball make a lovely Christmas tree ornament.
- While it’s easy to pound out an email and hit send, there’s something endearing about a hand written note where the sender included a colorful breast feather as part of the correspondence.
- Hanging a wild turkey cape on the wall of your office, work room or cabin is as pretty as a picture. It’s really not that hard to do. Get step-by-step instructions at the NWTF’s website: http://www.nwtf.org/tips_adventures/tips.php?id=10192
- If you’re lucky and have two turkey fans, you can arrange them to create a circular centerpiece for your table, which then acts as a perfect foil for a cornucopia or other decorative items. Depending on the season, spruce it up with colorful shotgun shell hulls, gourds, and more.
- Feathers and spurs can be used to make dreamcatchers. You can attach feathers to the circle with rawhide from your deer. Spurs also can be glued to it. Or adorn a giant dreamcatcher with your turkey beards.
Decorating with deer:
- Before the West was won, Native Americans tanned deer hides and made them into clothes, bedding and more. Today, the leather can be used in the same way, which would be a neat touch for those who attend muzzleloading rendezvous, Dutch oven gatherings and other events celebrating our country’s history.
- Deer hooves positioned on a wooden plaque make an excellent rack for cradling your favorite firearm.
- Don’t blush, but a whitetail’s scrotum is the right size and malleable enough to make a superb possibles bag for carrying black powder accessories or other supplies.
- Deer tail fur is perfect for tying flies and tipping jigs for crappie and bass fishing.
- The uses for antlers are endless, only limited by your imagination. The tips can make lovely pieces of jewelry, including bolo ties, pins, pendants and key chain holders, just to name a few. You don’t even have to be a hunter. Finding sheds is a hobby all unto its own.
- Handy with a drill and a hacksaw? Sections of antlers make interesting napkin holders. And belt buckles.
- Dine on venison with utensil handles created from deer antlers. Or pop the cork on a bottle of wine with an antler corkscrew.
- Antlers also make beautiful and functional handles for fixed blade and folding knives.
- Once you get the hang of it, you can drape almost anything from deer antlers. You can make racks for coats, hats, even rolls of toilet paper.
- Open doors with deer antlers. They make neat old-timey door latches as well as pulls for cabinets, drawers and ceiling fans.
- You can add decorative touches by creating antler centerpieces for your table as well as unique picture frames and wine bottle and candle holders.
- As a turkey hunter, I love this suggestion. With a bit of leather lace and a piece of the main beam, you also can fashion a turkey tote so it’s a snap to transport a boss gobbler out of the woods. Drill two holes in the antler a couple inches apart, thread the leather thong through the holes and tie the loose ends together.
These projects are not only personally rewarding, the concept of using your animal to its fullest extent is an important factor in the acceptance of hunting by the general public.
Back in the day though, using the entire animal wasn’t just nice, it was necessary, Jim said.
“I enjoy working with my hands and part of that stems from growing up in a family that didn’t have a lot of money. Our family motto was ‘make do with what you’ve got.’ I was also influenced by literature about people who relied on their ability to use their hands,” Jim said.
Jim was moved by one book in particular, “People of the Deer” by Farley Mowat. It provides a window into a remote Inuit tribe in Canada’s north and how at one time their survival depended on using the caribou they killed for the meat as well as tools, clothes and other necessities. Another favorite of Jim’s is, “Heart of the Hunter” by Laurens Van der Post, which is a tribute to the Kalahari Bushmen and their ability to survive in the desert by cunning and craftsmanship.
Learn more about Jim and the books he loves and sign up for his free monthly newsletter at: http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com/