European mounts have a classic, rustic look that last a lifetime, without having to do any touch-ups. Your typical white-tail shoulder mount will run well over $500, and may take months or over a year to make its way to your wall. European mounts will run less, possibly around $100, and may only take a week or so to get back from your taxidermist. What if you want that gorgeous rack on your wall in just days? All you need is about $15 and a little elbow-grease.
There are a few different ways to get your skull or bones clean: boiling, beetles and pure nature. The fastest and easiest in my opinion is the boiling method.
Step 1: Remove as much flesh and soft tissue as possible from whatever bone you are wanting to keep, as early as possible after your hunt. This includes the hide, brain, tongue, easily accessible sinus tissue, etc. The more you can remove, the easier the other steps will be.
Step 2: Using a turkey frying burner and a pot you never plan on bringing into your house again, boil the bones with some degreaser (something like Oxi-Clean or Dawn dish soap). You’re going to want to do this outside, also depending on how long it’s been since the animal died and how much tissue remains, this could be pretty stinky! Cover the bones with water in the pot and bring it to a boil for about an hour.
Wear work gloves when pulling your bones from the pot because they WILL BE HOT!
Step 3: Put on some safety glasses and pressure wash! You may want to place your bones in some kind of wire basket or tie them down to something so they don’t get away. Also, be mindful of any loose teeth that may become dislodged during this process. During this step you may also need needle nose pliers, a flathead screwdriver or small wire brushes to help dislodge or remove fleshy pieces or sinus tissue.
Repeat steps 2 & 3 with more degreaser if you have remaining tissue or if the bones still have a strong odor.
Step 4: Let the bones dry (away from where animals can steal them) and glue back in any loose teeth.
Step 5: (Optional): If you want your bones whiter, I recommend using a creamy peroxide mixture. Liquid bleach can damage the bone and make them brittle, so beware bleaching. I combined Clairol BW2 Lightener Powder and L’Oréal 40 Volume Developer ($15 total) into a paste and brushed it onto all visible areas of my whitetail deer skull. The length of time you should leave it on depends on how white you want the item to be. I suggest washing it off after 8 or so hours and if you want it brighter, apply another coat. If you have loose teeth, whiten everything completely before using a clear adhesive to glue them back in.
Another method involves using Dermestid Beetles. These beetles are remarkably efficient and can pick bones clean in a matter of days. The only downside is that getting enough beetles to efficiently clean your future mount could cost $100 or more. Also, they must be maintained in a controlled environment of proper food, moisture and temperature. Unless you have many items you want to clean for Euro mounts, this option may be a little bit more time consuming than desired.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
The most basic method of cleaning bones that requires little to no effort on your part is to simply let nature take its course. Some people simply leave the item outside; however, you risk the chance of antlers being chewed by rodents, or a dog or coyote packing the entire thing away. Some cover and tie down a plastic bin over the item to let insects get to it without larger animals having access. Some simply bury the item whole. If you do this, I recommend leaving antlers out of the dirt and still covering the item with a plastic bin so animals cannot dig it up.
Maceration is just a process of skinning the item and leaving it to soak in water to soften the flesh and allow bacteria to consume it. Depending on the temperature, this process could take anywhere from weeks to several weeks to complete. In colder temperatures, a heat lamp could be used to keep the water warm so you can promote bacteria growth. Check the item periodically, when the meat can easily be peeled off or is falling off, it’s ready. Scrub the item with a wire brush and allow it to dry for several days. This method is the least likely to potential damage the item but creates HORRENDOUS odors for a pretty good length of time.
Tip: You can use the whitening method listed as Step 5 following any form of cleaning.
Follow Courtney on Instagram at @courtney_schnitzler.