Hopefully, as you read these lines, you will be reliving the memories of a successful hunting season this fall. Now you are looking at those hard earned antlers and wondering what to do with them. Don’t have the wall space or the pennies for a mount? With a little time and elbow grease you can create a European mount to display your trophy. To clarify, a European mount is the antlers attached to the bleached skull and, to my eye, looks very good.
Begin by skinning out the skull. You don’t need to be very careful about getting all the meat off of the skull at this point. Then using a bent wire you need to remove the brain through the big hole at the base of the skull. It is very important that you do this before moving on. The brain has lots of fat and grease that can mess up the final product.
Once the brain has been removed, put the skull in a pot and pour in enough water to just cover the skull and boil it for about an hour. I recommend you do this outside as it has a certain odor. Don’t leave it in there for hours on end; the bones of the skull will begin to separate. Some folks like to add a half cup or so of OxyClean or a squirt of dish soap to the water while it boils to brighten the skull. Try not to have the water over the base of the antlers as it will bleach out the color. If that does happen, it isn’t the end of the world. After you are finished with the mount a light coat of stain can restore the color.
Then comes the tedious part: Using a thin-bladed knife, scrape all of the meat off of the skull. This can take a while as you need to get in all the nooks and crannies. A wire with a hook in the end helps. Inside the nose are some very fragile bones. Some guys just ram a screwdriver up there and scrape them all out; others carefully clean the nose to preserve them — depends on how OCD you are, I guess. High-pressure spray from a hose can help blast out tissue in hard to reach places.
Once you are satisfied, the last step is to whiten the skull. You will need some 40 percent by volume hydrogen peroxide. It is inexpensive, but I can’t find any around here and order mine online. Wearing rubber gloves, carefully coat the skull in the peroxide, making sure not to get any on the antlers. Let it sit for 24-48 hours, rinse and repeat until you achieve your desired level of brightness.
The finished product is an inexpensive, classy way to preserve the memories of a great hunt.
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Rod Carpenter is an avid sportsman, certified registered nurse anesthetist and president of the Bear Creek Shooting Range.