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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7 months ago
So I am quite new at this and have stepped into it slowly. Started collecting skulls and this spring got a wild hair that they needed to be cleaned up and parts put back where things were falling apart. It's been interesting!
First, a question or two. I can see using a pressure washer on a recent kill, but is it safe on one that has been obviously on the ground for a while...more porous looking and dark??
Second, I'm really struggling with the last bit of flesh and a few hairs right up against the antlers. Tried everything I can think of.
I would like to share that I have learned from others about things that are really to harsh on the bones. Acidic things such as vinegar, harsh things like bleach and boiling water are the enemy. Can even make the bone rubbery and after all the work to get that far that would really suck!
I have been using clear V40 peroxide like used in hair salons. I get a gallon for about $20 from Amazon. 1 part peroxide and 2 parts water does the trick in approx 24 hours depending on how white you want it. If you let it dry and decide it's not white enough, just dunk it again. You can continue using the solution until it no longer bubbles up when you put a skull in. And I've been told dumping it down the drain is fine but if you throw it into the yard, aim it where you won't kill the grass. 🥴
Important fact: if you do this with flesh still attached, the more flesh is directly related to how hot everything gets. You can actually make steam so I would go outside if you want to proceed with flesh attached. ☺️
The super cool money saving trick I learned was to fill my bucket half full of plain water, enough that the skull will be under water. Put the skull and the peroxide solution in a plastic garbage sack (careful not to poke holes) and push it down in the water of course keeping the open end out. The water pressure pushes the solution into even the tiniest holes so the whitening is the same everywhere.
Glad I found this tutorial and conversation. Hope my thoughts were helpful AND that someone can answer my question. Have fun y'all!
If the picture comes thru, one day soak on the left. Two day soak on the right.
Question 1 year ago
How did u get the nut in the skull got a deer not sure how to do it
2 years ago
Hi!! I’ve got 4 deer here waiting to be done. I put them on large ant piles. They tend to take the tougher stuff to remove. So boiling at a low temp doesn’t take as long.
Question 3 years ago on Step 8
G'day mate. This is probably a dumb question, but humor me; How do you attach the drywall anchor to the bolt to fasten it? I've never seen this method before, is this better than using a nut?
Thanks for the help
3 years ago on Introduction
I did mine like this
Tip 4 years ago on Introduction
My method takes quite a while but lets the bugs and worms do the work for you. I take a large plastic garbage can and cut the bottom out of it. Place it in a fertile area that has good activity in the soil. I place the head in the can and then fill it up with a mixture of sawdust and dirt enough to cover the head and antlers. Let it sit for the whole summer. In the fall you have a very clean skull. I just hose it down and get the last bits of hide off and then mount. I don't bother with the bleaching. I like the natural look of the skull and antlers.
5 years ago
What length does the board need to be to mount the skull?
Reply 4 years ago
5 years ago
Rather than boiling I skinned the head and then pressure washed it. It took about 15-20 minutes and the skull was clean! I didn't have to trim anything, but you'll want about a 3000 PSI or greater pressure washer.
6 years ago
Sorry. I dont check on here often enough. Glad to see all of your versions.
7 years ago on Introduction
I found that just leaving it out to decompose during the summer so that most of the meat was gone, and then stringing it up under my cottage for the winter to let various rodents nibble the last bits of meat left me with an extremely white and clean looking skull, without having to do any work.
Reply 6 years ago
putting it in an ant pile always works. Freeze it then about a week or two in a fire ant hill does wonders.
7 years ago
Well done donna lookin good
7 years ago
Nicely done! The last couple of years, the [e.m.] wasn't possible for us, which was a bummer since I had gotten my first buck, and had to settle with cutting off the cap with antlers attached. But, this year... we're ready to finally do our mounts the way that we want! Thank you for sharing your process; it'll come in very handy!
7 years ago on Step 10
hi nice going... next time use a power washer to clean the skull its a lot faster...and gets into all the small places
8 years ago
Txmess. Glad i could help. I love the look of a euro mount. And you know the price is WAY better than a full shoulder mount.
8 years ago
Arthur, there is a guy around us that uses the beetles however he charges $50 just to clean, not whiten and mount. I couldnt convince the wife into allowing the beetles in our basement.
8 years ago on Introduction
I used Dermestid beatles instead, but it took a few months and really smelled. I ordered some off the internet and then resold the grandchildren after I was done. I am told this is the best way along with hydrogen peroxide once the bones are clean. In warm times you could also bury it in a plastic bag and let the beatles find their feast. Underground the smell would be much less potent.
8 years ago on Step 10
Great instructions! My husband took a really nice whitetail buck this year; his first with a bow. I want to mount the skull for him for Christmas (it's ready except for the whitening). Thanks to your tutorial, I now know exactly what I'm going to do and how to do it. He'll love it! Thanks!
8 years ago
Be careful with acid. I used borax on a coyote skull and it melted it. I probably had it too strong.