When a trophy buck is harvested, the pride and sense of accomplishment is not something we want to soon forget. In order to pay tribute to the animal and the event, the head of the whitetail is often mounted. Typically this is done to look as natural as possible and resemble the deer as it was in life, retaining the look of having a healthy coat and eyes. For some, however, something else entirely is preferred.
Photo: Bad to the Bone Skull Cleaning
It could be that you want to display your kill differently or that perhaps you found a deer skull and wish to preserve that but it is not possible to do so with skin intact due to decomposition. Once a head is too far gone to preserve with a natural look, that does not mean it cannot be cleaned up and mounted beautifully. Instead of keeping the coat intact, it is possible to mount a bare skull. This still pays tribute to a beautiful buck, simply doing so in a different way.
In order to clean and mount a bare skull, the easiest avenue to take is to let nature do the work for you. If you have a skull that still has pieces of flesh attached, simply bury it in the ground. Once there, it will be picked clean of all remaining flesh by bugs which saves you the trouble of attempting to do it yourself. This process could take several weeks based on the amount of flesh retained on the skull when buried, however, but if it is not ready when you check on it, simply rebury and check again a few more weeks down the road.
Photo: The Tannery
Once you have a barren skull, or if you had one in the first place, you simply need to proceed to the steps involved in bleaching it to the shade of white you so desire. Since bleaching can change the color of antlers as well, you need to first decide if you wish to preserve their natural color or if you'd like to include antlers in the bleaching process as well. In the event that you'd like your antlers to retain their natural look, wrap them tightly in foil from the point at which they meet the skull on up several inches. This is to keep the bleaching liquid from making contact with the antlers themselves and ruining their color. If you'd like your antlers to bleach white, skip this step.
Photo: The Coupon Project
With your antlers ready to go, fill a large pot with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water until it covers the skull but do not let it go past your foil (unless you are bleaching antlers as well, in which case they will need to be covered). This mixture will need to achieve a full boil and remain there for approximately an hour and a half or until your skull has reached the desired shade of white you wish to achieve. During this time, expect to have to add more of the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture as it boils away. Do note that even though the process is referred to as bleaching, chlorine based bleach should not be used as it will break down and permanently damage bone, causing it to yellow irreversibly over time.
Upon reaching the shade of white you want, remove the skull from the water. Take care in doing this as it will be very hot. Remove foil from antlers and rinse with cool water, then wipe or allow to air dry. When the drying process is complete, your skull and antlers will be ready for mounting in the location and style of your choice.
Is bleaching skulls and/or antlers something you've done in the past? Is this your method of choice or do you prefer another? Were you pleased with the end result? Tell us about it in the comments!