Introduction: European Mounted Deer
I killed my first buck this year but couldn't justify spending the money for a shoulder mount. I've always enjoyed the look of the European style mount. This is the way I did mine. Disclaimer* graphic images.
Step 1: Harvest Game Animal Legally. Remove Head
I was able to harvest a buck this year and was excited to try my hand at mounting it. To start you will need to use a saw to cut the head off the deer at the base of the skull.
Step 2: Prepare Head for Boiling
I unfortunately did not have my phone handy to take pictures of this step. This was a very interesting process since I had never done it before but basically you cut all the hide off the skull, remove the eyes and try to cut as much meat off the bone as you can. (This cuts down on boil time later.)
Step 3: Cook Meat Off Skull
To cook the meat from the skull I used a large propane turkey fryer. Bring your water to just below boiling. And place the skull in the water. You will want to keep the antlers out of the water as much as possible. If they remain in the water, submerged they will discolor. I used a board to keep the base of the antlers out of the water. After about 1 hour, I removed the skull from the water and cut away as much meat as possible. The near boiling essentially cooks the meat and makes it easier to remove. I use sticks to pull the brain through the large hole in back of skull. The meat will be hot so caution. I kept alternating cleaning the skull and more cooking for a total of 4-5 hours.
Tips: when getting meat off skull I used knives, pliers, sticks. I also used help from my father to hold the skull as I worked it, you can do it alone, but it was good bonding time with Dad.
Step 4: Clean Skull
After several boil baths and cleaning sessions, I started doing more detailed cleaning with small needle nose pliers, small picks and a pair of hemostats. (Fishing pliers) The nasal bones break easily so be careful and try to get all of the cartilage out while leaving the bone intact. The nasal cavity will have tissue in it that needs to be pulled out as well. I went from the back of the nasal sinus to get a lot of that out. The brain cavity and nasal sinuses tend to be hard to clean. I let the brain boil until near the end, I then ran a hose through the brain cavity. ( brainwashing?)
Use picks and needle nose pliers to get all but bone off the skull. As you can see in these pictures, there is still some work till he's clean. You can also use wire brush to knock off the stubborn stuff just be careful to not break or gouge the bone. Lastly be sure to do your best here because left over meat/fat/connective tissue will stink.
Step 5: Wash and Degrease the Skull
Once you have all possible meat and cartilage removed, wash the skull with dawn soap and water. This should break up the grease that the skull absorbed during boiling. Use a good scrubber but be very careful not to break bones. I also let it sit in this hot soapy water again for about 10 minutes then used a wire brush to scrub off the really stubborn stuff. Do not wire brush the rack but feel free to wash them with soapy water on sponge. (The last picture was some meat in the nasal cavity I didn't see until now!!! It's tricky to get it all!)
Step 6: Whiten the Skull
Tape off the antlers with masking tape to keep the whitener off the colored part. Use 40 volume cream developer and whitener powder from your local beauty supply store. My wife is a beautician and had some at the house. Feel free to use the cheaper stuff. It is mixed 50/50 powder vs developer. I just made a good paste. Lay it on thick and allow it to work for 6-8 hours each coat. Rinse off in between coats. My skull looked good after 3 sessions of whitening.
Step 7: Prep Your Mount Surface.
Decide whether you want to do a straight wall mount or a mount on a board or plaque of some kind. I like the look of the mount on a board and luckily I have a friend with a farm. They had an old empty barn fall over in a storm last week so I snagged some wood for plenty of future mounts too. The barn was built in 1923.
If doing option A of no back board, simply drill a 4 inch screw into a solid part of the wall to make a hook then hang the skull through the main foramen(hole) where the spinal cord entered the skull.
If doing option B, be creative. I like the look of backboards that look rough warn and abused. Place your skull on the surface of the board and decide where to cut the board. The top of my board looked rugged, but the bottom needed work. I used a jigsaw to make an uneven cut with a couple of v shaped "chunks missing. Then I took a disk grinder to "burn" the bottom edge and create a beat up worn look. I backed the main plaque/board with two horizontal 2x1s for support.
Step 8: Drill Your Holes!
I used a 3/16 drywall toggle anchor to secure my skull to the board. So I drilled two holes. One in the back of the skull and one in the board. To allow some room to push the bolt through easily I used 13/64 drill bit.
Skull: see picture for hole location.
Board: Decide where on the board you want your skull to sit and mark directly under the hole you drilled in the skull with a pencil. Then used a tape measure to center the mark. Drill your hole. Mine was roughly and 11.5inch wide board. My hole was drilled at 5.75inch across.
Step 9: Mount It!
This was a slightly difficult task but I placed my anchor bolt with a washer through the back of the board, through the skull and then using needle nose pliers, and an extra set of hands attached it to the bolt. Then I straightened the skull on the board and tightened the bolt. Tighten until the skull does not move on the board. Congrats! Your mostly done! Get you a picture hanging wire kit and install on the back of the board.
Step 10: What to Do With the Rest?
I have plenty of meat and a deer hide. I'm gonna post a few recipes I enjoy and have a friend who has said he will teach me to do a hair on tanned hide. Expect to see a few more instructables in the next few months!
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