Cleaning Methods for a DIY European Trophy Mount

If you’re looking to save yourself a trip to the taxidermist, doing your own European trophy mount saves you time and money, not to mention giving you a unique project to work on. Cleaning the trophy is the first and most important step of the process. There are several cleaning methods, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages. Find the cleaning method that fits your needs and transform your trophy into a mounted memory for your living room, man cave or office.

Boiling or Cooking

Boiling the skull to remove extra flesh is similar to cooking soup bones and allowing the meat to fall right off. You’ll need a propane stove and a large enough pot to fully submerge the skull up to the base of its antlers. If you’re worried about running out of propane or supervising a boiling pot for eight hours, Cabela’s On-Time Buck Boiler provides a hassle-free system. Just fill the boiler with water and a bit of dish detergent, add the deer, bear or hog-sized skull and plug into any standard 110-volt outlet. In eight hours or less, your trophy will be clean and ready to mount. For a whitening effect, add approximately two pounds of soda ash to the hot or boiling water to decrease the acidity of the water.

Cold Water Maceration

Maceration essentially means soaking the skull in water until remaining flesh has been removed. Unlike boiling the skull, a cold water maceration takes place in 90 degrees Fahrenheit water with approximately two tablespoons of laundry detergent per gallon of water required to fully submerge the skull. Unlike boiling the skull, this method will not damage or shrink the skull. However, the disadvantages of this method are that it takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks and gets very smelly.

Leaving it to Nature

If you’re not in a rush and want to leave the cleaning of the skull to nature, find a wild, undisturbed area where you can leave the skull. Depending on how much foot traffic the area you’ve chosen gets, you can choose to leave the skull above ground or even bury it after cutting off the antlers. Between the carnivores, birds and flesh-eating insects, your skull will be clean after at least a year.

Using Bugs

If you don’t have time for nature to run its course but also don’t want to deal with a stinky cooking job, consider dermestid beetles. Once you remove as much tissue and meat as you can, allow these small, black, ravenous insects to eat away the remaining dried leftovers in 48 hours. These beetles are slightly less messy and easier to contain than flies and maggots, which also do an excellent job of cleaning the leftovers. Although these methods are hands-free, you do need to have space to hang the skull or place it in a container far enough from your home so you and your family can’t smell the rotting flesh as the insects do their work.

Power Washing

Although power washing alone can clean a skull, this method is usually accompanied by either hot or cold water maceration. The pressure of the wash will remove any bits of flesh left behind. This method does get a little messy, so be sure to wear waterproof clothing, rubber boots, gloves and goggles to stay clear of splashing flesh. Most skulls are fragile and delicate, so avoid using high-pressure washers that could damage your trophy.

Finding the cleaning method for your trophy will depend on your timeline, space availability and resources. Once your skull is clean, learn how to prepare and perfect your European Trophy Mount, preserving the memories associated with your hunt without spending hundreds of dollars for a taxidermist.

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