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Another type of Turkey
In 2019 I was lucky to complete my archery World slam of Turkey finishing off with an Ocellated. I wanted a beautiful taxidermy mount to celebrate the beauty of the bird but the Canadian taxidermist near Barrie, Ontario had other things in mind when he destroyed my bird and I am sure many other items when he decided to screw his customers after coming into a substantial amount of money from a will. What a waste of a beautiful bird. I did eventually get the bird back in pieces and soaken wet as he left it in a soaking solution for several months. Due to time restraints I never pursued the matter any further and chalked one up for the other team.
Later, I was at the Canadian Carving Championships in Kitchener, Ontario when I decided to talk to one of the very talented carvers about the possibility of carving a full-sized Ocellated out of Tupelo for me as my celebration for completing the slam. I have known Jeff Krete through other friends and carvers for many years but had never worked with him on as project but admired his skills and talent. Jeff was up for the idea and when completed the Ocellated turkey would be entered in the top category at the Ward World Wildlife Championships held each year in late April in Ocean City, Maryland.
Jeff started the project with numerous sketches and then from a solid piece of Tupelo for the body and a smaller seperate piece for the head. The turkey would be balanced on one leg and walking across Mayan ruins (carved stone with a partial head-dress of a Mayan King). Flora and fauna and a blue butterfly would add to the piece.
Covid hit and the Worlds were cancelled over and over again. The 2023 show almost never occurred due to the Ward Foundation suffering financial hardship but luckily, due to the hard work of a few the show went on.
Just prior to the show I returned to the jungles of the Yucatan for a two-week hunt (back to back trips) to try to get another Ocellated with my bow. I shot a beautiful bird with shotgun with only three pellets connecting (darn near missed!) which will be a perfect specimen) for a mount. On the last day (Day 11) I did connect on a small Ocellated at 25 yards with my bow as we were making our way back to camp. When we arrived at camp the temperature was 104F! Too hot for this north of the border winter type-guy! Other then the heat it was a great trip shared with many other like-minded hunters. The camp staff, guides and the outstanding chefs in camp at Balam Outfitters were all icing on the cake.
The Ocellated turkey carving finished second in World behind a small Winter Wren carved by Larry Barth, a multiple world champion. I am not a judge and neither were numerous other carvers at the show but it is what it is. The Peoples Choice Award is awarded to the top three carvings at the show from every single category and the attendees and other carvers voted the Ocellated as top carving at the show out of over a thousand entries. I was extremely happy for Jeff who spent a crazy amount of time on this project and I am sure had a bunch of sleepless nights trying to figure out how to paint an Ocellated.
Maybe next spring I will be in Florida with bow in hand for an Osceola which if successful will complete my second World slam but I am pretty darn sure Jeff will say no to a full-size Osceola carving!
Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable 2023 hunting season!
Hopefully I do not mess up some of these photographs. Here is Jeff with one of his sketches.
The large block of Tupelo used for the carving.
I will include a few pictures of the process.
Each feather group is carved and then the individual feathers. Once that is completed the entire bird is wood burned prior to paint.
The detailing of the Ocellated head.
A roll of paper towel comes in handy!
Legs are carved out of tupelo with a steel rod for support.
Placing the leg in the correct position on the base.
The head is painted last.
Looking good for the ladies!
Looks like the loss from your taxi turned into a dream come true. Such talent. Awesome.
At home just prior to the Worlds.
That’s incredible! Silver lining sounds like an understatement. Thanks for sharing.
Wow that's terrible that you lost your bird, but the carving looks awesome!
Wow that's terrible that you lost your bird, but the carving looks awesome!
Yes. It is something I had in my mind for a long-time but figured it would never happen. I took my better-half down to Ocean City this year and we were in awe of the talent out there. I highly recommend a visit for anyone that has a love for wildlife (birds) as there is so many, many beautiful carvings at the show.
Oh my goodness, that is beautiful! Wow!
This is, quite literally, awesome.
I recall helping a bunch of bowsite members getting their taxidermy back from a scrupulous taxidermist. How they can do that with someone's dreams is beyond me.
I am glad you were still able to capture the memory of your slam and in a most amazing way too.
That is incredible. I can't imagine the hours that he has into building that.
"The Peoples Choice Award" is decided by other carvers and attendees at the show and is awarded to the top three carvings at the show. I was so happy for Jeff to be awarded the top carving at the show out of thousands of entries for all his hard work and incredible talent.
Beautiful work of art!
Why do they burn the wood? If it was over 100 degrees, why are you wearing a coat?
Spectacular - thanks for sharing Terry & congratulations!
Hi Medicinemann, They burn the wood to add contrast to the carving. Each individual feather is woodburned to improve the quality and make it look more real. Quality burning is an art in itself.
The camo I was wearing was long-sleeved and hooded and was a thin layer. I also wore First-Lite 100 merino wool - lightweight long sleeved shirts. The sun is intense and the ticks not fun but a few extra precautions such as tucking pants into socks and spraying down made a big difference. I soaked my shirt in ice water and put on before going out in the afternoon to cool my core-temperature down...it seemed to work but after doing that for 11 days I caught a cold!
If it looks like a coat it is only because of the extra pounds I put on with all the gourmey meals I consumed!
Another cool little animal I got. An Agouti....chefs turned him into Tacos!
What the heck. Some Powerball advertisement? Is there a way to delete that?
Absolutely beautiful carving! Is the carving life sized, or a scaled down version?
Absolutely beautiful for sure Terry congratulations, I’m surprised you didn’t take the bird to Advanced Taxidermy. I’ll be your way this week trying to kill a eastern
Wow, thanks for sharing...
Did your bird have long spurs like that, yikes...
Curious - Does the Ocellated gobble? Think I read they do not... If not how do you hunt or call them in?
Crazy talent and a spectacular carving...wow!
What incredible talent! Absolutely beautiful!
Hi Skull, Hope you are doing well and you get a big eastern. I'm right in Toronto now so if you are around give me a shout and if I can free myself up lunch is on me. I'm quite sure Advanced Taxidermy farms their birds out. Tough to find a great bird taxidermist in Ontario. I know two or three south of the border that would do a great custom job for me but then I need the permits to get the mounted bird back across the border.
Wow, that's absolutely beautiful!
Amazing talent there for sure.
Hi Zbone. The bird the taxidermist ruined had 2" and 2 1/16" spurs. A super bird weighing 12 pounds. It had the 2nd biggest spurs of any bird that season at the camp and was the second heaviest of the year. The spurs on the carving are not quite that large as Jeff had them that large but shortened them a bit for better balance/composition. The carving is equal in size to a 9.5 lb. to 10 lb. bird which is a very nice bird in the wild.
I spent one day between the two weeks of hunting and finally got to go to the Calakmul Ruins in the middle of the jungle. It is the largest Mayan site on the Yucatan Peninsula and visitors are still allowed to climb to the top and look over the top of the jungle canopy to the other sites. The hunting camp manager (Ramon) told me the the site is in the middle of a very protected biospere and the road to the site is approximately 40 miles in length. He warned me about is the large number of Ocellated turkey I may encounter on the last 10-15 miles leading to the parking lot...he said that the birds were not like wild birds and were accustomed to vehicles and visitors and were fed by the park rangers that patrolled and protected the biospere. On the way to the site I seen four mature Toms. In the late afternoon on the way out I seen 20! All very, very large old birds! I took numerous photographs and some video. Tried to download a video of one of the birds calling but don't know what I'm doing. The male gobble is totally different in comparison to the other five species of Turkey. It begins with several low frequency "thumps", much like the sound of a small gasoline motor starting.
Hi T-Roy, Carving is full-size of a 9-5 to 10 lb. bird. I seen one bird in the biospere that had hooks over 3" long. My one guide said the longest he seen on any bird was 3.5"
Amazing work!!! So much talent!!! Congrats to you both!! Hunt
That’s so cool. I won the 18 and under back in the day. Such a cool event and better than a mount IMO.
Zbone, Different ways to hunt them. With most shotgun hunts they try to locate a bird in the roost as that is when they usually call. Hunters are then up well before light and in the dark make their way quietly to the roost tree and wait for enough light to see the bird clearly to get an ethical shot. Once they fly down they usually don't talk much as too many predators want to eat them in the jungle. More and more camps are using electronic calls that imitate the male calling and hoist the speaker high into a tree and set up a blind nearby (cut branches in a circular pattern). They usually do this in an active feeding area (signs of scratching on the ground) or a known area for birds - usually the top of a ridge. The call will hopefully bring an agressive Tom in as they are territorial and want to see who is in their area. We also hunted water sources, since it was so dry and the drought was long, most water sources for our camp were man-made. An open plastic rectangular tub of water (think very small kiddie pool) buried in the ground so the top of the water is at ground level) Different animals will use these. I seen numerous species of birds including Raptors and Toucans, Coatimundi, Grey Fox, Greater Curassow and one female turkey while hunting water. Other hunters shot Turkey, Coatimundi and Curassow over the man-made water sources. Seen a couple of brocket deer and was on full-draw on one at 15 yards below me until we got a clear look at her...I was looking for her mate.
Every other hunter in camp over the two weeks was American and some were concerned about safety. Several other hunters cancelled due to the unfortunate incidents that took place near the border. I have been down there 4-times and fly into Mexico City and then on to Campeche or into Merida and van-it to Campeche. Campeche is a beautiful City on the water and the walled area is beautiful with fabulous little hotels and many, many great restaurants. The hunts are now booked through WTA (All American ownership) and I would not hesitate to go if you are thinknig about it. The amount of deforestation going on is sad and in a few years this hunt may no longer be available!
Adam B....a little late in coming (34 years!) but congrats. on the win.
Wow, that carving is simply amazing. What an incredible talent ! You deserve kudos too for the successful bagging of a beautiful bird, from what I read that’s a difficult hunt.
Wow! Very talented and beautiful “mount.” I would much rather have one like that than a real skin mount. I prefer artificial fish as well.
What talent! Crazy how much detail is in the carving. Thanks for sharing with us.
The award bestowed upon the artist tells the story! His attention to detail, skill with the painting process, along with the wood carving and burning certainly puts him in the upmost levels of his Art. If I may, how many hours total to bring that block of wood to life?
We never really discussed how many hours but he wood burned for four months. I'm guessing probably 20 hours a week for 16 weeks. The sculpting, individual feather carving and painting I guess a minimum of 200-300 hours and then the base, copper leaves, butterfly, etc. a whole bunch more. Getting the legs just right I know took a long time. Carving the head just right and adding all the detail took a bunch of time as well. Incredible patience, planning and a vision that I know I do not possess!
Amazing work and talent there. That is a true work of art.
That’s some hours…
Rockbass, you are a true patron of the arts… Wowzers! That thing looks like it walked right off of the turkey version of a duck stamp or a JJ Audubon print.
That would be quite an event to attend… honestly having some trouble imagining what it would take to top that one.. but I’d love to see whatever other pics you might have taken…
Hi nCorax_latrans, On Utube there are three videos that Tom Christie did of the 2023 show. He is another world champion carver. If you search Ward World Carving Championships 2023 you will find it. Day 2 is the best coverage. Some really cool carvings.
Amazing! That looks even better than a mount IMO.
Thanks, Rock - I’ll check it out!
The painting is as impressive as the carving. Simply amazing
Ya that's incredible all around. What a piece.
Unreal! That guy is quite the artist.
Terry, would he let you use it as a decoy?
That's just insane work and craftsmanship. Congrats to you both.
Hi Altitude Sickness, I own it so I guess I could use it but with my luck I would punch the release and take the head right off with an expandable!
I know a couple guys that hunt over custom wooden carved gunner duck decoys worth about a $1,000 a piece with incredible paint on them. Beautiful black walnut keels and custom molded weights. Each one has an individual bag so not to get scratched up. No ground swatting allowed!!! I said I know them...I have not been invited to hunt over them!
This is incredible. Talk about a fascinating bird!
There was a post going around facebook of the carving, and if I recall correctly it said he worked pretty steadily on it for over 2 years? No mention of the back story and reason why he chose to carve it in the first place, however. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!
A asked a good friend of mine and also a Canadian carver his valued opinion on who he thought could pull-off a full-size Ocellated turkey and he never hesitated to mention Jeff's name. I then spoke to Jeff of what I was looking for in an art piece and he decided he was up for the challenge. His facebook website (Jeff Krete Wildlife Art) has some of his other carving work on there and his journey with the turkey (with many more photographs).
What a story that ends in a stunning work of art. Wow!! Hats off to the artist.
I saw it on social media the other day as well. Truly unreal talent. Congrats to you guys.
I just checked out the website. The painting is stunning. And the butterflies. How in the world ??
Awesome work. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Its been said already but........WOW. That dude is talented. Incredible
Thank you for all the wonderful comments. I'm sure Jeff will be thrilled. He is a humble guy with an incredible amount of talent.
What the original taxidermist did to you is TERRIBLE, but that carving is truly an AMAZING work of art!!