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DIY Taxidermy: 3 Ways to Make Your Own European Mount

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November 03, 2013
DIY Taxidermy: 3 Ways to Make Your Own European Mount - 0


Photo by Nick Ferrari; Dermestid beetles courtesy of skulltaxidermy.com

Some trophies just don’t deserve a trip to thetaxidermist for a shoulder mount, yet they don’t deserve to be tacked to the tool shed, either. European skull mounts are the answer, and it’s a cinch to produce a classy mount in a single day. Which route to a clean skull should you take?

1. Skull Stew
Boiling a skull doesn’t actually involve boiling, but instead uses gentle simmering to loosen tissue. Hard boiling will cause the bones of a skull to fall apart.

For best results—and to preserve your marriage—conduct the process outside or in the garage. Use a propane stove and an old canning pot large enough to submerge the skull up to the base of its antlers. Fill with water, and add a dash of dish detergent as a degreasing agent.

Remove as much excess meat and brain as possible, and protect any portion of the antler that might be submerged with clear plastic wrap secured with packaging tape or tin foil. This will preserve the antler’s color and natural look.

Now simmer. The chore may take several hours, even all day. After each hour, remove the skull and scrape meat away. If the water gets too goopy, dump it and refresh the bath. If you want the nose cartilage to stay intact, be careful when removing the fleshy portion of the nasal canal.

A moist skull cleans easier than one that has dried out, so if you can’t simmer soon after you kill your animal, freeze the skull until you have time to process it.

2. Beetle Juice
A hands-free method for removing meat from your skull is to employ dermestid beetles. A colony of these ravenous insects can make short work of a skull that’s had most of the large chunks of meat removed. In days, the beetles will eat away dried leftovers, saving you a stinky cooking job.

If you don’t want to grow your own insects—free-range bugs can eat everything in sight—send your skull to any of the many beetle keepers you can find online at beetlecleaning.com or at cleanbone.com. A clean skull is only a UPS truck ride away, for $50 to $100, plus shipping.

3. Power Wash
Put that power washer in your garage into play for skull cleaning. Restrained power washing removes meat with pressure and, when combined with simmering, can hasten the skull-cleaning task.

Don old raingear, rubber boots, latex gloves, and goggles to protect yourself from splashing gore. Wire the skull to a board or a fence, and then start with low pressure, since deer skulls are fragile. Increase the pressure as needed. For best results, use a rotating nozzle. After you’ve removed all the meat, give the skull a degreasing bath in dish detergent.

4. Post-Clean Bleaching
After the meat is removed, enhance your mount by boosting the skull’s whiteness. An easy path to a white skull is to purchase kits available through taxidermy outlets like Van Dyke’s Taxidermy. You can also use the hair salon products referred to as “basic white.” Mix this with a 40 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide and paint the paste on the warm skull, fresh from the pot. Wrapping the skull in foil or clear plastic wrap allows the concoction to soak in, enhancing the whiteness. After a day or so, brush away the flaky residue.


The Lazy Man's Euro Mount
If bugs and boiling sounds like too much work, don’t toss the rack just yet. Mountain Mike’s mounting kits ($43; masterofskulls.com) come complete with an authentic-looking European skull reproduction. You simply saw the antlers off your real skull and use the hardware to mount them on the plastic-­reproduction skull provided. Available for deer (in white and camo) and elk.

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