Your preparation, stealth and marksmanship have culminated in a freezer full of meat and an abundance of memories, both of which you want to enjoy to the fullest. The inherent delicious flavor of wild game generally takes care of half that desire, while a cost-efficient European skull mount easily satisfies the other.
Taxidermists are the pros when it comes to shoulder and life-size mounts, but skull mounts can easily be done at home and result in an accomplishment you’ll be proud to display.
If your trophy is an antlered animal, the quickest and easiest way to get those antlers on display is with a plastic skull-mounting kit. These kits include a realistic-looking molded skull and all the hardware you need to attach the skull cap or removed antlers to the molded skull. That’s it – no mess, no stink. If you want to keep the natural skull or preserve an antlerless skull like that of a bear or hog, prepare for a little more work.
Before you can whiten a skull, it needs to be free of all flesh and organs. For this step, beetles and maceration work exceptionally well, but simmering remains the most popular method for the hunter that cleans two or three skulls a year. Before cooking a skull, understanding the basic dos and don’ts will save you a lot of frustration.
Many European skull-mount kits contain step-by-step instructions for cleaning, degreasing and whitening skulls, while the Internet is also an invaluable resource for visual learners. Next time you have a trophy you want to display, don’t automatically send it away to the taxidermist. With a little effort and a bit of time, you can end up with a great-looking mount that you can hang with pride.
What to do:
- DO remove as much tissue as possible before simmering or boiling (if boiling, see first item in list below).
- DO use some kind of degreaser so yellowing fat doesn’t leak out over time.
- DO use a dentist pick or screwdriver to work flesh out of tiny crevices.
- DO use knives, scrapers and power washers carefully. The former can leave unsightly marks while the latter can blow out delicate bones.
- DO use a wire hanger or long forceps and a power washer to clean the brain cavity.
What Not to do:
- DON'T boil too long. Hot water eventually weakens and cooks fat into bone.
- DON'T procrastinate. Odors won’t get better over time; the sooner you get started, the better.
- DON'T use bleach. Chlorine breaks down bone and actually turns skulls yellow.
- DON'T let antlers soak in degreasing or whitening solutions, as they will change color and need touched up. Even boiling water can stain antlers.
- DON'T bury the skull. You could lose teeth and risk irreparable decay.