Saturday, February 28, 2009

European Skull Mounts the Texas Way



A friend of mine called the other day and told me he had taken a nice Axis deer buck in Southwest Texas. It was not his largest, but was a nice deer and he wanted to keep it as a trophy. Deciding on a European skull mount he called his local taxidermist to get a quote. Shocked to find out the cost would be $250.00 he called me to find out where I had my skulls done and what they had cost. To say he was surprised to find out I had done my own and the cost was under $10.00 per skull for chemicals and $35.00 for the wood plaque to hang it on the wall was an under statement. He wanted to learn how to do his own skull mount so I am writing this for him and those of you that would like to do your own European style mounts.


European style mounts allow you to uniquely display the skulls of predators, deer and other animals. This style of mount allows one to preserve the memory of the hunt at a less expensive cost than traditional taxidermy. A couple of my favorites are a bobcat and Javelina on my fireplace mantle. I have even used this method to save the jaws from a black fin shark I caught in the Gulf of Mexico.




There are several methods of getting the same result in cleaning skulls. Some use dermatoid beetles to clean all the tissue from the bone and others boil the skulls in a chemical solution or other formulas to clean the skull. The method I use has turned out to be the easiest for me to do at home with the least hassle. This method will let you display the skull of predators, deer and other animals. I would however recommend that you use a professional service for a record or lifetime animal.

The method I have settled on is by maceration or letting water and bacteria do all the work of removing the tissues. It can take two to six weeks depending on how much meat and tissue is on the skull and how hot the outside temperature is at the time. The better you skin out the skull the faster the process. I have even done skulls that have simply been cut off with the skin, eyes and all meat tissues intact, it just takes more time in the water.



Take a large plastic container or bucket that will hold your skull and fill up to the level of the antlers. If you are doing a skull without antlers simply submerge in water. Now this process does smell so if you can put a lid on your container do so. I use plastic buckets most of the time so if the antlers stick out of the bucket I just put up with odor. About once a week I take the skull from the water and wash all the tissue that will come off with a high pressure nozzle on the water hose. You may have to stick a wire into the brain cavity and twirl it around to enable the water pressure to get all the brain matter out of the skull. A stiff brush will help remove stubborn tissue a little faster if needed. Make sure you do not lose any teeth as some will come out and have to be glued back in later. You can use plain Elmer’s glue to put the teeth back into place when the maceration process is complete. I then place the skull back in the rinsed bucket and replace the water with fresh water and let the process continue. Repeat this weekly until the skull is completely clean of all tissue.



I then use a mixture of 40% peroxide, available in beauty department of some drug stores or a beauty supply shop, to make a mixture of about 50/50 peroxide and water and soak the skull for 4-10 hours taking care not to get any of the solution on the antlers as it will bleach them white also. Check the skull during this process and remove when it is whitened. Rinse the skull well and dry when removed from the peroxide solution. If you get some on the horns you may stain with potassium permanganate, available from taxidermy supply houses, or wood stain matched to the antler color. If the skull has been outside for a while you may have to color the antlers anyway. The last step once the skull is dry is to seal the skull and mount to a plaque if you like. You may use a satin plastic spray sealer or a mixture of 50/50 Elmer’s glue and water painted on with a brush to seal and protect the skull. Wood wall or table top decorative plaques may be purchased from a taxidermy supply house or outdoor store to mount your skull if you like. Many skulls will look fine simply displayed without a plaque. As a final touch I rub a coat of boiled linseed oil on the antlers to give them that fresh appearance. You now have a trophy to be proudly displayed and the best part is that you did it all yourself.Good hunting, Wild Ed

17 comments:

Albert A Rasch said...

Hey there Wild Ed!

Thanks for the Tutorial! Much obliged to you for teaching us how to do it!

Regards,
Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
The Rasch Reviews: Tactical
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator

Rick Kratzke said...

I have been wanting to try this a European mount for quite some time but sorry to say I have not as of yet. Your post is very helpful and informative.

TnShooter said...

Thanks for the write up Ed.
I all ways wanted to know how they got them that "Clean"

jes said...

Since you like the so-called "European mount", (personally, I call it, "the redneck wash") I thought I would give you the benefit of about 40 years of doing it that way...
I started working for a U of F professor when I was about 16 or so, and he had the process down to perfection...He studied bird bones, recent and fossil, and had almost every bird's skeleton there was. He used "flesh-eating beetles" to strip the skeleton, and then entirely submerged the rest of the skeleton in water, to finish the job...

I started using the large plastic garbage containers with lids, about 20 years ago, to completely submerge the deer/animal head, so as not to leave any "watermarks" around the antlers. I also have a place away from the house about 30 yard, to keep from smelling the process..and leave the skull, after doing nothing to it at all, for about a month or more, depending on how warm the weather is..(the warmer it is, the faster the meat falls off the bones)
Tie a wire to the antlers, to keep from making your arm smell like a morgue, and pull it out now and then to check on how it's doing..

Then, when all the meat is falling off and loose, fish it out and spray it down with a hose and hang in the sun for it to bleach and take away the smell....no peroxide, as it weakens the bones and will cause them to decompose. Hang it in the sun, where it can't be reached by animals, or you won't have anything left but a scrap for your dog....

I usually just hang the skull on a nail, without any fancy "backing"...but you can fancy it up if you want!

This is Florida Cracker style, and if you Texans think we didn't have the handle on cattle and horses for most of our history, then you better check the history books all over again...The Yankees have only learned to stay here after they got air-conditioning to soften up the weather...They used to go back home, where they could tell everyone up there "how we do it back home".....
Good hunting, and God bless America....she needs it!

Wild Ed said...

I always thought you guys in Florida were kind of like Texans only you got clearer water to fish in. :)

Sea Wolf said...

Ed, Very nice post. You only left out one procedure. Getting any leftover grease out. Do this after you macerate all the flesh off. Soak the skull in a bucket that has 4 oz Dawn dishwashing liquid or 1/2 cup for 4 gallons. Heat the water with a submersible fish tank heater to at least 90. 100 to 120 degrees is better. Depending on the skull and animal type, it can take a week or several months. Hogs especially are tough. Whiten with peroxide, check for grease and either degrease again or finish. You did a very good job. :)

As for peroxide .. ".no peroxide, as it weakens the bones and will cause them to decompose." This is dead wrong. Peroxide is exactly what you want to be using. It does nothing to alter bone in any way. It will also get into all the nooks and crannies of a skull submerged in it and dissolve out all the small bits you missed in rinsing, sanitizes it and removes any sources for odor later. What you do NEVER want to use on bone, is CHLORINE BLEACH. That will indeed destroy your skull in short order. And don't ever use drain cleaner ot lye, no matter what anyone tells you. Do as Wild Ed has said and you will be turning out fantasic skulls. :)

seth.jones13 said...

i like the songs man i just left it on your site and let it play lol haven't heard 'em in awhile haha and thanks for the advise it worked perfect. awesome

Wild Ed said...

Glad you like the music.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ed, I killed my first 8 point whitetail and want a euro skull mount (wife wont put up with the full mount on the wall) I am off to buy a big garbage can, hoping to contain the oder a little. I'll follow all the steps and send you pictures.

maureen said...

Hi Ed!

I have a couple of skulls that I would like to mount, me issue is that the jawbones are not attached! How is the best way to re-attach them?? Thanks in advance!

Maureen.

Wild Ed said...

Maureen I usually stuff the skull with wadded up paper towels that I can pull out later to hold the jaws open or in the position I want them to be located. I then use super glue gel or epoxy depending on the size of the skull to glue the jaws in place. Epoxy on the larger skulls even if I tack them in place with super glue. I try and put the glue right in the jaw connection as it will shine and show if you get it on the outside of the joint.

Rogue Huntress said...

Thanks for sharing this Ed!

This was very informative. I like your idea of putting linseed oil on the antlers, a nice touch.

Leon B said...

Ed,
Thank you for the info. Will it hurt the antlers in any way if they are submerged also in the water during the process? I can get a lid on the bucket to contain the smell but wanted to make sure I won't destroy the antlers

Wild Ed said...

The water will leech the color out of the antlers so I try to keep them out of the water if possible so I do not have to touch up the color. Ed

MyHomesKeeper said...

Thanks for the great instructions, Ed. We just took our 12 yr old son's first solo 8pt in for a European mount (full mount way out of our price range in this economy)but, I am going to try your method to finish out a nice 9pt skull for my husband for Christmas! It's already pretty clean from being outside so I'm just gonna pick up at the peroxide step and go from there!

Angie S said...

Thanks for posting this Ed.
I found part of a skull (deer?) yesterday and the antlers are more like spikes, but growing in opposite directions. It's pretty clean already, but want to make it displayable. Your instructions are simple and readily available. I'm not a hunter, a scavenger perhaps :) Thankyou again,
Angie

Anonymous said...

I just moved to Montana and something lovingly left me a fresh skull with antlers next to the garage. Looking forward to having a new coat hook. Thank you for the information!

Karen