Most hunters prefer to mount their deer heads in the den or the living room, but others like to go further by skinning, boiling, whitening, and mounting the skull. The aesthetic appeal of a mounted deer skull is worth the effort.
You can always get it professionally done, but it will cost you a pretty penny to get a buck’s head reduced to a gleaming white skull and antlers. If you want to learn how to clean a deer skull on your own, the process is pretty labor-intensive. Fortunately, it’s a DIY project most people can handle.
You’ll also need some particular equipment if you want to do it right and quickly. Since you’re just dealing with the head, however, you don’t have to skin any more than that.
How to Clean and Preserve a Deer Skull
Cleaning and preserving a deer skull is a game of patience. There are a few steps throughout the process that require a wait time.
With your skinning knife, you’ll need to work the skin and other tissue off enough to nearly expose the skull. That means your knife needs to be plenty sharp, and you should keep a sharpener handy if your knife gets dull partway through.
You shouldn’t boil the head until every square inch of the hide is removed. From here, you can either boil the flesh off, leave the head out for maggots to consume the flesh, or purchase taxidermist beetles.
The whitening part is involved in both the boiling part and afterward when you will soak the head in white gas to degrease it and hydrogen peroxide to whiten it. The most difficult part is using a wire brush to work off any stubborn flesh and clean the delicate areas inside the nasal cavity.
Some of the teeth will inevitably fall out. You need to remember where those teeth go in the jaw, so you can use your super glue to place them back later.
Tools and Supplies Needed
Cleaning and preserving a deer skull is a four-step process. You’ll have to skin the head first, boil it, whiten it, and finally mount it. You’ll also need specific gear if you want to do it right the first time.
- A boiling pot large enough for the head (antlers included)
- Plenty of water
- A very sharp knife
- Water hose
- Kitchen gloves and your choice of eye protection
- Hydrogen peroxide
- White gas
- An adhesive like super glue or something that dries quickly
- Washing soda
- Stiff wire brush
The antlers don’t have to be submerged in boiling water. There just needs to be enough space, in terms of width, so you can fully submerge the head.
From the point where you start skinning the head to the moment you pull it out of its hydrogen peroxide bath and prepare to mount it, will take about a day and a half.
- Skin the head carefully, narrowing it down nearly to the bone
- Mix half a cup of washing soda with one gallon of water ratio and fill your boiling pot
- Bring the pot to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer
- Immerse the head in the water
- Check every fifteen minutes and use your wire brush to work loose flesh off
- Use the wire brush on the nasal cavity
- Gather any teeth that fall out and memorize their location
- Remove the skull from the boiling water when it’s done
- Remove the brain tissue from the back of the skull
- Allow the skull to completely dry
- Fill a large container with white gas and immerse the skull (not the antlers) in the gas
- Leave it there for 12 hours
- Wipe the skull dry and allow the interior to dry
- Immerse the skull in hydrogen peroxide, checking it every 15 to 20 minutes
- Once it reaches the desired level of whiteness, remove it and dry it
- Do not allow the antlers to touch the hydrogen peroxide
- Mount your deer skull
You should also apply a matte finish lacquer to the skull when you’re done. It will preserve the skull and give it a nice luster and glean.
That’s all there is to it. It’s always more difficult in practice than reading a step-by-step process, but it’s not one of the most difficult things to do. It will also save you a lot of money by avoiding a taxidermist.
Just remember to keep the antlers clear of the boiling water, the white gas, and the hydrogen peroxide. All of the above can further weaken the skull, and the antlers are much easier to break once they have reached a weakened state.
Mounting your skull is entirely up to you. Most people use simple screws on a wooden plaque or plank of some sort. Either way, it looks pretty good when it’s all said and done.
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