So how do you make a European skull mount? The reality is that it’s not a difficult process but is time consuming, messy, and a little smelly (at first at least, then it smells like stew). There are lots of good taxidermists who probably deserve the business, and my intent is to not take it away from them, but if you’ve ever been curious or simply want to give it a try (you should) I have outlined the process that we follow in the space below. I also shot a video of the process, which you can find on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/user/110sunview#p/u/5/V1lM03CxZp0&hd=1
To be blunt, the first few skulls we did took a really long time to finish. I’m talking an entire day. But through a little trial and error we now routinely crank out 5-6 heads in a day and once you have your system down you can expect the entire process to take 2-4 hours for a typical whitetail deer head, maybe less. We’ve used the same procedures for coyotes and it’s likely to work on other animal species as well.
A couple words of caution first:
• Do this outside. Believe it or not, there are some people who think the scent of cooking animal heads is repulsive (sarcasm implied). But besides that, you’re going to be boiling large amounts of water and making a mess scraping tissue off the head(s) so go somewhere outside….preferably at your friends house…..when he’s not there.
• When starting off, only boil one head at a time. You will notice that sometimes the skull bones will separate during the boiling process. No worries, nothing a little super glue or arrow fletching glue can’t fix later. Starting with one head at a time will ensure that the bones of multiple animals don’t get mixed up when you dump out the waste water and collect the bones for skull reconstruction.
• Be very careful with the 40% peroxide typically used to bleach the skulls after they are done boiling. This stuff is the real deal and can cause burns. ALWAYS keep it away from children (lock it up when you are done) and wear rubber gloves when using it.
So here’s the list of the equipment we typically use to produce a European skull mount.
• Large (3+ gallons), heavy-duty pot to hold the skull(s)
• Turkey fryer or another heating element to boil the water
• Borax powder (found in Laundry detergent section at grocery store) or Sal’s soda (order online via taxidermist’s supply shops)
• A wire coat hanger
• Knife and wire brush
• Large Tupperware or aluminum tray
• Small paint brush
• 40% peroxide solution from beauty supply store. Yes, they will look at you weird when you ask for it at the beauty supply store so stock up.
• Cotton balls
Alright, so you’ve got your equipment gathered and are ready to start. Hopefully you skinned the head of the animal long ago. If not, skin it now. This is the most important factor in speeding up the process. Skin the head first. In fact, skin it before it gets cold out and let time and cold temperatures reduce the smell factor. Get as much of the skin, hair, and blood off the skull as you can. The more you get off, the quicker the boiling process and the better the final product.
Here is the basic process that we follow:
1. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the skull. Keep in mind some of the water will boil off.
2. Put the pot on the heater and get the water hot.
3. While waiting, take the wire coat hanger and wrap it around the antler so that you can easily remove the skull from the hot water.
4. Add 1-2 cups of borax or sal’s soda, stir it up a bit.
5. Add the skull when the water is good and hot (doesn’t have to be boiling).
6. Let it cook for 20 minutes or so.
7. Remove skull via coat hanger and start scraping off the tissue using a knive and/or wire brush. The tissue will come off easier as the skull has cooked longer. This task will require a little effort. Expect 3-4 “scraping rounds”.
8. Put the skull back in the pot and let it cook some more.
9. Repeat steps 7 & 8 until all tissue has been removed from the skull and the brain has been shaken/scraped out of the brain cavity. Don’t forget about the brain. The skull will stink for a few months if you do.
10. Once the tissue has been removed to your satisfaction place the hot skull in a tray or Tupperware, put on your rubber gloves, grab your paint brush, and add dump a couple ounces of 40% peroxide on the skull. Paint it all over the skull. You will notice that a lot of it soaks into the skull. This is good. The bulk of the work is now done.
11. The skull should dramatically whiten over the next couple of hours, providing that you reapply peroxide every once in a while.
12. Use peroxide-soaked cotton balls on stubborn areas. Don’t be afraid to let them sit for several hours.
13. Once bleached to your satisfaction, allow a couple days for the skull to dry.
14. If desired, paint the skull with Elmer’s glue to strengthen and seal up the skull and give it a “satin” finish.
That’s it. You’re done. I hope you’ve found this post and/or the YouTube video helpful or at least interesting. Feel free to email me (click on “Contact Me” on the top of the website) any questions you might have about the process. Thanks for reading and remember to pick up any trash you might see in our woods and waters. Every piece helps.