European Mounts, the Easy Way to DIY a Deer Skull Mount
One of the skull cleaning methods is maceration. Maceration isn’t used often and is lesser known in the hunting community, but it is a cheap and effective way to clean a deer skull. Maceration is an alternative cleaning method to simmering, boiling, burying, beetles, maggots, ants, etc. Maceration is an easy method to get professional quality results because it is a more hands off approach than traditional methods, and it allows you to clean a deer skull with no risk of damage to the bone. No matter which cleaning method you choose, degreasing and whitening a skull properly are also needed to produce a high-quality European mount..
STEP 1: Skin the skull and place it in a five-gallon bucket of water, ensuring the water is
fully covering the entire skull. Add an aquarium heater to the bucket of water and set the aquarium heater to approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria will naturally grow in the water, eating away all the flesh, tendons, and ligaments on the skull. By allowing the bacteria to do the work, this keeps all the smaller bones intact that are often damaged during other methods such as simmering/pressure washing. Make sure that the aquarium heater is never on while outside of the water.
STEP 2: Check the water level daily for evaporation and add water to the bucket as needed so that the skull is fully covered.
STEP 3: In roughly 5-8 days, check to see if the skull is fully clean. Once it's clean, remove the skull and dump the maceration water in a strainer in case there are any loose teeth or nose pieces, which you will re-attach later. If you dump the water and decide the skull is not clean enough, place the skull back into a bucket of water with an aquarium heater and continue to macerate until it’s clean.
STEP 4: Use a garden hose to rinse off your skull and the antlers. If there is a white wax-like substance on the bone, that's grave wax (adipocere). This can be removed by scrubbing it with a toothbrush.
STEP 5: Degrease, whiten, then display your European mount. These are European mounts displayed on Buck Brackets.
Additional Maceration Tips
· After skinning and prior to maceration, remove the eyes from the skull and remove the brains from the back of the skull to decrease the amount of time it takes to macerate the skull. To remove the brains, you can use a 1/2-inch wood hole bit, purchase a brain scrambler online, use a screwdriver, a wire hanger, etc. My preferred method is to build a brain blaster to spray water into the back of the skull which will remove the brains in seconds. Dalton at OddArticulations.com has a great article for building a brain blaster.
· The maceration smell is strong. Placing your bucket outside in a broken chest freezer or inside a contractor bag with a bin/barrel over it is recommended and will help prevent a wild animal from getting to it.
· If working on multiple skulls at once, instead of using an aquarium heater per bucket you can use old broken chest freezers containing multiple buckets of water. The buckets can be heated by a single 150-watt bulb such as a bulb in a ceramic light fixture. When employing this approach, the light fixture must be hooked to a temperature controller, such as a DIGITEN, set to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit so that it doesn’t heat the buckets too much and cause damage to the skull.
· Heating the water above 120 degrees is bad for the bone. You can macerate a skull as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit (known as cold water maceration), however it takes months to fully macerate a skull at this low of a temperature. 90 degrees is a good temperature for maceration.
· When working on white-tailed deer, two deer can typically fit in each 5-gallon bucket. Larger bins can be used for macerating larger animals such as elk.
· Wear hand and eye protection for every step.