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Building a Deer Skull Mount in 10 Easy Steps

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Jim is a retired software/electrical engineer who enjoys the outdoors. He likes to challenge himself with creative projects at home.

Preserving Your Trophy

If you are not squeamish, and you shouldn't be if you are a deer hunter, a skull mount is a good way to preserve the trophy you have taken. Of course, if it is truly a trophy, I mean a record book deer, you’ll most likely want to go for a professionally done shoulder mount. But a skull mount is easy and does not take much time.

It adds to your satisfaction—being an activity that extends the experience of the hunt. Some may not agree, and some actually may ferociously disagree, but I think it's a way of paying some respect to the animal you have just taken. Long after the memories and excitement of the hunt have dissipated, you can still admire the animal with this token of its magnificence.

You can boil the entire skull once the skin has been removed then pick it clean of tissue inside and out, which is a tedious process. Then you have to bleach it with beauty salon grade peroxide and be careful not to splash any on the antlers. Then find a way to mount the skull to a plaque or just hang it on the wall. After a few years, the bone will begin to yellow a bit, which is ok and natural looking, if you like that.

My Process

I've gone about this a bit differently. This is the 10 step process I have done recently as an alternative:

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 1

Remove the head, and using a sharp knife (Exacto knife or razor blade), cut the skin away from the skull and as much tissue off as you can manage. The skin does not have to be removed entirely, just peeled back enough to expose the portion of the skull you want to save. I clamp the ears together under the head.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 2

Mark a line from the pocket in the back of the skull behind the antlers all the way to the nose. This can extend to the fleshy part of the nose or just beyond the antlers. Personally, I like a long nose section left on.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 3

Here comes both the messy part and the part where you are most likely to screw up. I use a reciprocating saw with a long blade to cut the skull on the line just marked. This can be difficult to manage because it is hard to see and follow the line, and the head is hard to hold in place.

A hand saw would work better if you have the patience. You want the cap of the skull to lay flat and evenly on your plaque so as not to tilt the antlers. If you mess it up, you can adjust it later by filing down one side or the other.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 4

Now, the skull cap and antlers are off and you have a messy, slimy saw blade. You also have a cap with half the brains, and you've also just cut through the eyeballs. Remember me telling you about the squeamish part?

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Step 5

The next step is to boil the skull in a large pot of water with a few drops of Dawn dish soap. DO THIS STEP OUTSIDE.

The smell is not too pleasant. Use tinfoil to cover the top of the pot, as it will boil faster that way. I boiled mine at a light boil for about an hour over a camp stove. Be sure to check it every so often; if you boil too long, the skull might crack, warp or separate.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 6

Let it cool and begin to pick the bits of meat off with a sharp knife, both inside and out. Be sure to also peel every piece of tissue and hair from under the antler crowns. I scrape out the boney nasal tissue on the underside. It is a mixture of fine bone and tissue that should be removed.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics
whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 7

Once I have all the tissue picked off, I wire brush the skull and lightly sand it. Don't do this to the antlers, though. Instead, just wash off any extra dirt and blood.

You could bleach the bone by soaking it in peroxide, but I found that glossy acrylic paint from the hobby store works better. I first paint the skull with a darker neutral tone (like its "natural" color) to cover any stains that may bleed through the white paint.

Next, I use another coat of slightly lighter colored paint, a suede, followed by two or three coats of an ivory color. Be careful to cover the skull evenly, so the brush strokes are not apparent. Also, be cautious not to splash any paint on the antlers.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 8

I made a template out of a thin poster board for the plaque by setting the skull on the poster board and tracing free handed around the skull a few inches from the edge. I only traced half, then the cardboard was folded and cut with scissors to make a symmetric shape.

whitetail-european-style-skull-mount-the-basics

Step 9

I drilled holes in bony portions on the bottom side of the skull, being careful not to drill all the way through. Then I placed nails that were cut long enough to protrude into the holes. I pressed the skull onto the plaque to mark the holes for screws that would hold it to the template. I suggest drilling these holes a little oversized in case you need to make minor adjustments.

Step 10

Take it apart and finish the plaque. I think it looks best with a dark finish to contrast the white bone. Lighter wood can be blackened (lightly burned) with a torch and then smoothed with fine sandpaper for an interesting color.

I hope my step-by-step process has been informative and that you can preserve your trophy by taking this process on yourself!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Shaddie from Washington state on April 28, 2013:

Good hub. I like the walk through for making the wood plaque and would love a more in depth hub about how to make those. I will be making a skull cleaning hub in the future, but I am a dummy when it comes to wood work so all my skulls are just layin' around!

jimmar (author) from Michigan on October 16, 2012:

There you go.

Julie Z from North Central Florida on October 16, 2012:

For some I could see them getting queasy. You gave warning though. As far as me ... I clean my own food (processed 12 chickens this past Sunday) so there is no chance of that. Just keep writing. And I LOVE to hear that there are other women who hunt. Tell your wife a fellow lady-hunter said congrats and a bragging photo is now required since you squealed. :)

jimmar (author) from Michigan on October 16, 2012:

Hey thats not a bad buck at all! My wife is a gun hunter too. She got her first deer last year, a nice 6 pt. Thanks for reading, I was afraid this topic would be too repulsive for some.

Julie Z from North Central Florida on October 16, 2012:

Excellent hub! Nice 8 point, too. Husband is a bow hunter. I'm gun only. Opening season in 3 days and a wake up! Hoping to land me a bigger buck than last year's 7 point. He was a tiny tot compared to your 8. Jealous! But good eat'n all the same. I sawed off the antlers to make 'rattlers'. Mounting of an entire head is not for my home. At the same time ... this may be the alternative. Again, excellent hub.

My photo of the 7 point. Hey ... we outdoorsman (woman) have to brag to each other ... LOL ....

https://hubpages.com/sports/Hunting-Season-Whose-R...

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