Learning how to skull mount deer and other wild game skulls is a rewarding skill for any hunter at the end of their hunting season.
Skull mounts, also known as euro mounts, western skull mounts, western mounts, or European mounts, are a traditional way to preserve wild game skulls and antlers, horns, and other head-attached attributes.
While skull mount taxidermy may seem gruesome to some people, I think overseeing the preservation of an animal that you harvested is a valuable and insightful experience.
In British Columbia, hunters are legally required to take the head of deer or other wild game they harvest to their home or place of butchery.
Taking the time to preserve the head of your harvested animal is one more way you can appreciate the wild animal you’ve taken and your hunting experiences.
Simply throwing the animal’s head in the compost or trash seems far more disrespectful than preserving it forever, especially when you’ve taken it so far from the natural habitat that would decompose it.
For me and the hunters I know, these euro mounts aren’t trophies or trendy decorations. I can’t speak for everyone, but I keep the deer I’ve harvested in my home to remind myself of the animals and trips that I’ve been privileged to enjoy.
Skull mounts certainly aren’t a design aesthetic that everyone will appreciate, but I think that the euro mounted deer skulls that Will and I accumulated between us are meaningful — certainly more meaningful than the trendy taxidermy sold at a hip interior design stores, at the very least.
Skull Mounting A Deer Skull
Before You Start: Removing Organic Matter
The first step of skull mounting deer or other wild game is to remove the organic matter, including the hide and organs in the head.
I buried the skull of this blacktail buck I harvested 2 years ago and dug it up this year. Burying a fresh head is easy and they are extremely easy to clean after. However, they will be heavily stained from being buried for so long.
I prefer a darker, aged-looking euro mount instead of a bleached white skull, but that is just my preference. Note that if you bury your skull for as long as I did, the euro mount won’t be bone-white.
To use the burying method, all you need to do is dig a deep hole, add the fresh head, and cover it with dirt. Add a heavy stone on top if there are wild animals in the area and dig it up in 1 year (2 years if you forget about it). Just remember to mark where you buried it so you can find it later!
Other popular ways to remove the organic matter include (1) using flesh-eating beetles to clean it and (2) removing the organic matter manually. These methods will result in a bleach white skull mount.
Regarding (2), manually removing organic matter from a skull is easy, but time consuming. Peel away as much flesh as you can using a sharp knife, and then boil it on high in a mixture of Borax and water. Repeat until the skull is clean.
Step 1: Boil Deer Skull in OxyClean
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I’m spending Saturday night cleaning this blacktail buck I harvested 2 years ago. I buried it in my yard and dug it up a few weeks ago. I admit that I had a hard time finding it! A note for future me: always make sure to leave a marker for where you leave the head, no matter how confident you are that you’ll remember where you put it! #huntingisconservation #publiclandowner #womenwhohunt #huntergatherer #eatwhatyoukill #huntingbc #huntbc #hunterlife #huntlife #meathunter #ladieswhohunt
I use OxyClean to eliminate any smells, bacteria, or remaining organic oddities that come with burying a fresh skull in the ground for a few years.
Add the bleach alternative, skull, and any additional bones (such as jaw bones) to a large pot and cover with tap water. If you are skull mounting a buck, you don’t need to submerge the antlers in the water.
Ventilate your space using a fan, hood vent, or opening the windows. Bring the water to a rolling boil and boil for 45 minutes.
Step 2: Remove Remaining Debris
Remove the skull from the boiling water and rinse under tap water. Gently scrub the deer skull with a disposable toothbrush or small brush to remove any remaining debris, dirt, or organic matter.
Make sure to check inside the cranial cavity and between teeth for organic matter. Carefully push any brain, fat, or muscle tissue remaining out using a wooden skewer, if necessary.
Allow the skull to air dry in a cool place undisturbed until dry to the touch.
Step 3: Lightening Bone
Hydrogen peroxide is a common way to lighten bone in DIY taxidermy. I watched this EatWild YouTube video on how to do an elk euro mount and used it as a reference for finishing this blacktail deer skull mount.
If the skull has antlers or other features that you don’t want to lighten, take the time to wrap them in plastic wrap now. In this example, I wrapped the base of this buck’s antlers in plastic wrap and secured it with tape.
Wrap the exposed bone you want to lighten with paper towels, and then soak the towels with hydrogen peroxide. Make sure all of the paper towels have peroxide on them, including the base of the skull and the bone under the antlers.
Tightly cover the paper towels with plastic wrap, using tape to secure any loose ends. Leave undisturbed for a few days.*
*I checked this skull every 2-4 days for 2 weeks, but the timing for how to skull mount deer doesn’t need to be overly exact. Hydrogen peroxide will lose its potency over time, so you don’t need to worry about damaging the skull overly much if you forget to check it for a day or two more.
Every few days, check the progress of the skull mount by unwrapping it and evaluating how dark the skull looks. If the skull isn’t dark enough, soak with more hydrogen peroxide and wrap it with plastic wrap again, repeating as necessary.
If the skull is light enough for your liking, rinse with water and air dry until dry to the touch. Your skull mount is ready to display or mount now!
How To Skull Mount Deer (and Other Wild Game)
How To Skull Mount Deer
Learning how to skull mount deer and other wild game is a valuable experience for any hunter. A skull mount is a form of taxidermy and is also known as a Euro mount, European mount, western skull mounts, or western mount.
- 1/4 cup OxyClean bleach alternative
- 750 mL hydrogen peroxide
- 1 large pot (water bath canner, stock pot, etc.)
- toothbrush or small brush
- plastic wrap
- paper towels
Put OxyClean bleach alternative to large pot, add skull, and fill with water to barely cover the top of the skull. If the skull has antlers, do not submerge antlers in water. Ventilate your space with a fan or open window and bring water to a rolling boil. Boil on high for 45 minutes.
Carefully remove skull and rinse with water. Scrub skull with toothbrush to remove any remaining dirt, debris, or brain. Allow skull to air dry undisturbed until dry to the touch.
If skull has antlers, cover antler bases with saran wrap and tape to prevent discoloration.
Wrap skull with paper towels and soak with hydrogen peroxide. Cover wet paper towels fully with saran wrap and tape closed, if necessary.
Every 2-4 days, unwrap skull to see if the bone has lightened to your preference. If it is not dark enough, soak paper towels with hydrogen peroxide and wrap again. Repeat as necessary.
When the skull is light enough, rinse skull with water and allow to air dry.