All of the big-game mounts in my home trigger fond memories of successful past hunts, and I admire them often. Among them are many European mounts, which are game skulls I’ve cleaned and whitened myself to avoid the $500 taxidermy bills for shoulder mounts. Here’s how I completed the latest European mount — a large bull elk I arrowed on public land in 2018 — in my trophy room.
Making Your Own European Mount
Step 1. Remove the Cape
Firstly, using a scalpel, I cut and peeled the hide from the skull. If you intend to sell the cape (where legal), employ the Y-cut (Google this for a diagram), but take care not to cut holes in the cape.
Step 2. Clean It Up
Then, I cut as much muscle and tissue off of the skull as possible, even removing the elk’s tongue, eyeballs and lower jawbone. It’s wise to wear latex gloves during this step.
Step 3. Antler Prep
Wrap the antler bases in foil. I did this to prevent discoloration and the formation of fat and soap scum on the antler bases.
Step 4. Simmer The Skull
I submerged the skull in a pot full of water, then dribbled in some dish soap. The cooking time also varies depending on the stove and the size of the skull. The elk skull that I mounted for this article required approximately six hours of cooking to loosen all of the tissue.
Step 5. Power Washing
Power washing is the easiest method I’ve found to blow the tissue and brain matter from the skull. Outside, I secured the antlers so the power washer didn’t blast the skull away, which could cause irreparable cracks or breakage. Also, be sure to avoid getting the power washer’s tip too close to the nose bones, as they could break from the pressure. Continue power washing until the skull is clean.
Step 6. Whitening Time
Cheap hair-bleaching kits or industrial-strength hydrogen peroxide work well for whitening the skull. Also, make sure you wear gloves to avoid painful burns. Then, wash the solution away and let the skull dry before displaying.
Lastly, with my elk skull, I simply spray-painted it with a white primer/paint combo. It’s important to cover the antlers and spray carefully to avoid getting white paint onto them. Now I have a trophy that will trigger fond memories for the rest of my life, and I paid virtually nothing to create it.
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