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Whitetail European Style Skull Mount: The Basics

Updated on October 13, 2016
My 8 point from 2012 Archery Season
My 8 point from 2012 Archery Season
2012 Archery deer the day it was taken
2012 Archery deer the day it was taken
My wifes 6 point from 2011 Shotgun season
My wifes 6 point from 2011 Shotgun season
Helped the neighbor kid mount his grandpa's deer skull.
Helped the neighbor kid mount his grandpa's deer skull.
neighbor kid with a road kill 10 pt. that wrecked his dads truck
neighbor kid with a road kill 10 pt. that wrecked his dads truck
My 8 point from 2011 Archery Season
My 8 point from 2011 Archery Season
My wife's 6 point from 2011 Shotgun Season
My wife's 6 point from 2011 Shotgun Season

If you are not squeamish, and you should not 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. 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, some may ferociously disagree, but I think it is, in a way, 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.

A weird 8 point from a few years ago.
A weird 8 point from a few years ago.
A collection of skulls
A collection of skulls

You can boil the entire skull once the skin has been removed then pick it clean of tissue (inside and out), a tedious process, indeed. Then you have to bleach it with beauty salon grade peroxide being careful not to splash onto 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, natural looking , if you like that.

This is the what I have done recently as an alternative:

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 as you can manage. The skin does not have to be entirely removed just peeled back enough to expose the portion of the skull you want to save. I clamp the ears together under the head.

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

3. Here comes the messy part and the part where you are most likely to screw it 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.

4. Now the skull cap and antlers are off and you have a messy, slimy saw blade and a cap with half the brains, not to mention you just cut through the eyeballs. Remember me telling you about the squeamish part.

5. Boil the skull in a large pot of water with a few drops of Dawn dish soap. DO IT OUTSIDE. The smell is not too pleasant. Use tinfoil to cover the pot top, 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 can crack, warp or separate.

6. Let it cool and begin to pick the bits of meat off with a sharp knife, both inside and out. Be sure to 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.

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. You should just wash off any extra dirt and blood.

You could bleach the bone by soaking it in peroxide but I found that gloss acrylic paint from the hobby store works better. I first paint the skull with a darker neutral tone like “Natural”, to cover any stains that may bleed through the white paint. Next I use another coat of slightly lighter colored paint “Suede”, followed by two or three coats of “Ivory” color. Use care to evenly cover the skull so brush strokes are not apparent and care not to splash paint on the antlers.

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

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 place nails that were cut long enough to protrude into the holes. Then I pressed the skull onto the plaque to mark the holes for screws that would hold the skull to the template. Drill these holes a little over sized in case you need to make minor adjustments.

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 then sanded with fine sandpaper for and interesting color.


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    • Shaddie profile image


      6 years ago from Washington state

      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 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Michigan

      There you go.

    • Homesteading profile image

      Julie Z 

      6 years ago from North Central Florida

      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 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Michigan

      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.

    • Homesteading profile image

      Julie Z 

      6 years ago from North Central Florida

      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 ....


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