Last summer I was cleaning out my garage and I came across a big box full of deer antlers. You know, those ones that weren’t big enough to take to the taxidermist but still something you wanted to keep. Shoulder mounts are pretty expensive and end up taking up a lot of space in your home or office. European mounts are much more compact, look sharp AND you can “Do It Yourself” (DIY).
When considering DIY European Mount keep in mind that you are not limited to whitetail deer as boar, bears, coyotes and elk make beautiful European mounts too. For the purposes of this piece, we will be using a whitetail buck skull.
With a little effort, some tools, time and a few dollars you can preserve your hunting memories and show off your trophies in your man cave. “Do It Yourselfers” will find that DIY European Mounts require little more than a hot plate, a metal container large enough to submerge the skull, hunting and filet knives, needle nose pliers, a wire brush, a coat hanger, a paint brush, rubber gloves, and volume 40 hydrogen peroxide paste. You can purchase the hydrogen peroxide at any salon supply store. It can not be found in the hair products section in your every day department store. Access to an air compressor and or pressure washer can also be very helpful.
To begin, take your skull and remove all the hide and as much meat and gristle that can be taken off easily with a knife. Next, place the skull in an appropriate sized container. The container needs to be large enough for full submersion of the skull. I used an old coal bucket. The flat taper near the top of one side allowed the long nose of the skull to slide down into the water and keep the antlers above the boil. Fill container with water. I cover the top with aluminum foil to make it easier to bring the water to a light boil. Let it simmer for about two hours. Avoid letting the antlers submerge in the boiling water.
It’s important to note that a roiling boil can cause some of the small bones around the nose to warp, bend, or break and for teeth to fall out ruining your European Mount. Also, I would not recommend doing the boil in your basement or home garage. The aroma emitted during the boiling process is pungent and is not something you would want IN your house. Choose a spot that is outside and/or easily ventilated.
After two hours of simmering remove the skull, let it cool, and begin to physically remove the cooked meat and cartilage. This is where your tools come into play. I used a knife to trim off the larger portions of meat and wire brushed some too. I took the coat hanger and carefully went up through the nostril/sinus cavities to break loose some of the cartilage and gray matter. I used a small electric power washer to extract most of the gray matter. Place the nozzle of the power washer in the back of the skull. Make sure that you don’t have the water stream too narrow as a focused and powerful spray could damage the mount. Finally, I took an air hose and blew through the back of the skull and up through the nostrils.
The vast majority of material should now be gone but to get it all off I boiled it a second time for about an hour. What material that was remaining came off pretty easily. After the skull is cleaned to your satisfaction, it is the time to remove the ear bones. You will find them at the end of the ear canals. I recommend using needle nose pliers. Grab the tiny bones with your pliers and work them back and forth until they break free. Many “Do It Yourselfers” skip this step and leave these intact. You can decide what is best for you.
Some taxidermist begin the bleaching process immediately. I prefer to let the skull dry. I believe the dry bone better absorbs the hydrogen peroxide so I put the skull in a clean dry place for a few weeks. After drying, you are now ready to begin the whitening process. Wrap the base of the antlers with saran wrap or aluminum foil. Be careful not to get any on the antlers as the hydrogen peroxide 40 paste will stain and lighten them. Use a paint brush to put a thick coat of the volume 40 peroxide gel over the entire skull. Place the skull in the bright sunlight to absorb the HP 40 and dry. Continue to coat the skull with the gel once an hour. After approximately 6 hours, use a water hose to remove the excess gel being careful not to splash any residue on the antlers.
Presto! You now have a bleached white European Mount. Some taxidermists put them on a plaque to hang. I prefer hanging the back of the skull from a nail in my man cave.
Give this cheap and easy DIY technique a try!
See you in the woods.
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