You can easily spend over $100 for a good European Skull Mount of your trophy. Why not do it yourself for under $15. It’s not that hard to do, and there are a few different ways to do it. In this tutorial article, we explain a simmering method in which the skull can be finished from beginning to wall in one afternoon. Degreasing the skull has multiple options that can vary in time-to-wall.
Let me preface this article by saying that if I can do this, anyone can. I had always been a little nervous about cleaning up a skull for a European mount, now I wish I hadn’t been because I’ve wasted a few good mounts.
The whole process began from online searches. Trying to cite every source would be very difficult, so I will say that while I did not come up with this process myself, I did a lot of research, combined a bunch of information and gave it a go.
-The head of the animal (In this case a Texas Whitetail Buck)
-A big metal container that will hold water and can be heated by a stove of some kind.
-1 box of Baking Soda or Sal Soda – Order “Arm & Hammer” Super Washing Soda 55 Oz.
-A sharp knife
-Air Compressor (Used in this process, but could be traded for another step)
-Small Paint Brush
-Tub to mix Peroxide and Whitener
-Powerful Peroxide Cream – Order Salon Care 40 Volume Creme Developer
-Whitener (1 oz. packet) – Order Clairol Basic White Powder Packets
-Plastic (Seran) Wrap
-Stove to heat water: cache cooker/barbeque/kitchen stove (depending on females in household)
It seems like a lengthy list, but many of us have a lot of these things sitting around the house. The things hardest to come by may be the air compressor, the chemicals, and perhaps a woman that will let you use the kitchen stove (not likely). These obstacles can all be overcome, and I’ll talk about that later.
[singlepic id=202 w=320 h=240 float=right]We can start at the beginning. During an open season, with a valid hunting license, grab your gun/bow and bullets/arrows along with other necessary gear. Go out to a likely area to find the animal you are after. Kill the animal (This step varies in many ways, this article will not attempt to address this step). Go home with your tasty game meat and the head of the animal.
Cape out the head, remove all hide and hair. Then remove the eyes from sockets, all vertebrae, the tongue and lower jaw, and all the meat you can easily cut off with your knife. The brain will also need to be removed, take a old wire coat hanger, or a good stick, and loosen the brain. With a flattened end of a wire or stick remove as much brain as possible. You are now done with the prepping and ready to begin the simmering.
Another small step may be inserted here. A lot of guys like to cut a hole directly below the brain cavity in order to better remove the brain tissue. I did not.
Fill the pot with water, empty about one box of baking soda into the water and place the skull in the water. You will want to have the water level above the top of the skull as it needs to simmer. I was afraid that it would remove the colors of the antlers, but it did not. There is a little bit of grease that may get on them. You may want to wrap the antlers/horns in plastic wrap and electrical tape to keep it secure. This will keep some water and grease from the antlers. (Not a big deal if you don’t though).
[singlepic id=206 w=320 h=240 float=left]Put the pot on heat source of some kind. I used my barbeque grill, which has a burner on the side. I turned it on low. You do not want the water to boil. Just keep it right below a boil and simmer the skull for 30-45 minutes. Take the skull out and remove all the meat you can. Much of it should have already fallen off the skull. Use pliers and your knife to gently remove some of the meat in hard to reach areas. You will most likely have to put the had back in for a few more minutes, I had this skull in the water for a little over an hour and a half total. However, looking back I would have taken it out a little sooner.
*Note: Not all the very small specks of meat will be gone at this point. It seems to hold in a few places in the eye sockets, and nasal passages. At this point some people remove the ear canal bones by prying them out with a screwdriver. It removes a lot of meat, but also some bone. I chose not to as I was planning on leaving the entire skull intact as it will be displayed on a shelf, and can simply sit there.
Next you want to have a container or a sink, I used a cooler, full of hot water with a bunch of dish soap. The skull should come right out of the simmering pot, right into this hot water. (As hot as your hands can stand). Get your air compressor with an air attachment, and submerge the skull, and your air nozzle and blow air across, under, above, and through all the surfaces of the skull. You will want to blow water through all of the holes in the skull also. This blows out the grease and meat left in the smaller places. You may still need to pick some of it out with pliers and a knife, but this will get most of it. I was a little careful with the nose because I wanted to be extra careful not to break the fragile bones in the nasal cavity.
If you don’t have an air compressor, there are other steps that can be taken to replace this step. But the grease needs to be removed somehow, either by soaking in a degreasing solution or by some other means. It will take longer by using another method, as soaking is typically involved. Simply soaking in a water and dawn dish soap solution will work, just change your water periodically over the course of a few days to a week to help get rid of all of the greases.
Your skull should now be meat and grease-free. Now you should probably repeat again. The bubbles and air push the grease and meat out of the hard-to-reach areas. Make sure the brain cavity is completely clear, especially the front and hardest-to-reach part between the eyes. This is the part of the skull where you will see the most yellowing. If all of the grease is removed there should not be any yellowing in the future.
My skull looked like this. The fissures and nasal bones were a little dark, but there was no flesh or grease left.
Dry the skull. Depending on your time frame, you can do this in front of a heater, or let it air dry. It was getting late when I got to this point, so I left mine overnight in the garage. Drying in front of a heater for 20 minutes works great also. Rotate it every few minutes to make sure it dries thoroughly.
Now to the bleaching part. The products used in this process were purchased at Sally Beauty Supply. I was pleasantly surprised when the girl at Sally Beauty Supply knew exactly what I was looking for. I would expect at many of these locations (at least in the west) they will know the products you need.
You can purchase this product on Amazon by CLICKING HERE – the 4 oz it probably enough for a small to medium skull, but the 16 oz is ample and will leave you some for another skull.
You will need Salon care Maximum Lift 40 Developer Crème. This comes in a liquid, you will want the crème. This is really just Hydrogen Peroxide that is more potent than the stuff you may have around the house. The second product may not be necessary, but I used it and was very happy with the results. Salon Care “Quick White” powder lightener. This whitener can be purchased in large tubs, or for a couple dollars you can pick up the small packet that turns out to be more than enough for a deer sized skull. I would anticipate it would be enough for an elk sized skull as well.
You can purchase the whitening powder by CLICKING HERE.
Before application you may want to mask the antlers as this mix will bleach the antlers to a bone white. If you do not want to mess with re-coloring the antler/horn you should mask it off. I used masking tape and wrapped it around to just above the eye guards.
Mix these two products together. The whitener will thicken the peroxide a little to almost the consistency of a homemade milkshake. You will want to wear protection on your hands and eyes for this step. This mixture is pretty potent. The smell can be quite strong also, so you may want a mask of some sort. I simply used a paintbrush to mix the peroxide and whitener together.
Paint the skull. Get the peroxide/whitener mixture on every surface. I dumped some extra in the brain cavity and down the nasal passage. Just coat the entire skull, and be generous. Then wrap the skull in plastic wrap (Saran Wrap or cellophane) and set in front of a heater. I used an electric heater.
Heat is what is going to activate your bleaching process. In my understanding, oftentimes it is thought that light or time is the most important factor in getting a good bleach. But heat works. While I have never in my life had my hair bleached. I hear that if someone were to get their hair lightened, they are quickly set in front of heaters for a short amount of time. So it makes sense that this is the case with bleaching a skull as well.
You want to get the skull as warm as you can without burning the cellophane. Rotating every few minutes to get the heat activating the bleach on the whole skull. Twenty minutes or so is probably adequate, but the longer the better. I had this skull bleaching for around 35 minutes. Cut the plastic wrap off and put the skull in hot and clean water. (No soap or bleach this time). Get your air out again and bubble it again to get all of the bleach out of the skull. Place it in front of your heater to dry. If it isn’t as white as you want, you can do this again.
After I washed the bleach off of this skull, it still seemed a little dark in a few places along the cracks in the nasal area, so I was planning on bleaching again. But as it dried, it turned pure white. So don’t rush another bleaching if it isn’t needed.
Remove your tape from the antlers, and let the skull dry. Within an hour you should have a beautiful Euro Mount.
I tallied up the cost of the materials, (to justify my stinking up the garage to my wife). I had to go out and buy a pot, because I didn’t have one big enough to boil the skull in. That was my largest purchase at $20. I walked out of Sally Beauty Supply spending slightly over $6, and another $6.50 for a couple of paintbrushes, masking tape, and a small paint tray. So for essentially $32.50 I did my first Euro Mount and have without the need to purchase a pot again, I can do this mount in the future for under 15 bucks. (Although I do still have enough bleach to do at least one more deer sized skull. So if you have a couple to do at once, you can essentially cut that price tag in half). I can’t help but feel a definite sense of pride on doing it yourself. After all, isn’t that what makes it all worthwhile anyway? And for a professional-looking finished piece and a price tag that is cheaper than a box of .270 ammo makes it hard to beat. Give it a try, Good luck, and Happy Hunting. May your next season supply you with the need to use this information!
Be sure to check out our Skull Hooker European Mount Hangers to show off your trophy!
Awesome! Thanks for the detailed steps. My husband just got his 2nd mule deer in 5 years…..we’re in the pacific northwest Washington so it’s quite a drive to get to hunting territory and the last few years have been a bummer with too warm weather. We had a friend surprise us with a european mount with the first deer but know we don’t want to put out the money to have it done this time. I’m a total DIY’er, have done hair lots with bleach and was surprised to see this is what was used! I know my hubby will be totally pleased to hear that I’m excited to take on this project when he returns tomorrow. Thanks again for sharing all the steps and products used.
I used your method and my first mount came out excellent. thank you for all the tips.
Much thanks, Brad! I just finished my first European mount – using your step-by-step instructions, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. I’m afraid to show it my hunting buddies – they will all be begging me to do their’s next! ;-) Now, if I can just find an easier (and faster) way to scrape a hide before tanning… I guess some things can’t be rushed… Thanks again!
I shot a small 8 point, and wanted to do a European mount without breaking the bank. I followed this instructions exactly, and the results turned out fantastic!
The only thing that I changed was to rub a small amount of stain on the antlers to help darken them up a little. I highly recommend adding this step.
Here are the pictures of the process (I decided not to include the more…ahem, graphic pictures):
After Kill: https://imgur.com/a/og8WE#0
After Cleaing: https://imgur.com/a/og8WE#1
After Bleaching: https://imgur.com/a/og8WE#2
Overall, I’m pleased with the final result. The process stinks to high heaven, but it was a big money saver. Now hopefully, I can get a monster buck next year to repeat the whole process. I spent roughly $20 on the whole process, and I’ll probably end up mounting it on something like this: http://texaseuropeanmounts.com/standardstyleblackwalnut.htm
Thanks for the guide, it was very helpful.
Good deal Jon, glad it worked out for you!
Did my 1st euro mount using this method and it was easy and came out amazing. Thanks!
Your instructions are great! I used this method recently and had excellent results. I’ll never take a skull to a taxidermist again. Thanks!
Thanks Shane! I’m glad it worked out well for you – Brad
Thanks for the feedback, glad it worked for you!
Is there a way to get a old mount antlers to look like the true brown natural colors or some thing close
Paul, there are a lot of things people use to make the antlers brown again. You can use coffee grounds, potting soil, wood stains, pine tar, dirt and blood, etc. Do a quick search on Youtube and there are a lot of tutorials.
While out hunting for morels last spring, my husband and I found a decent 8 point Illinois whitetail claimed by nature (skeleton was the only thing remaining and antlers still had some velvet) and we’d like to mount it. My question is, with a skull that’s not even close to “fresh” and has been dry for some time, can we follow these same steps or will the simmer dry the skull out even more?
Beth, this will still work. You may want to soak it for a couple of days to loosen some of the older, dried skin and meat before you start the process.
Thanks for the advice. We just processed my sons first deer and it is ready for the wall, looks great
I am getting ready to try this. My boyfriend got a nice 4 pointer with his bow for the first time and he wants a european mount so I told him I would take on this task. A friend of ours made it sound so much harder and longer than you just described. So wish me luck on this new journey. The next thing is I’m gonn as try n tan the hide..the skull is thawed out so it’s about to get in some water the hide is still frozen n the freezer. I really hope the house dont stink like everyone is saying their wife’s dont like..
I just did my first euro mount with these steps. Worked great. My wife isn’t a hunter and didn’t mind the boiling head on the stove all day. We did have the doors and windows open to enjoy the nice weather.
Very helpful and thank you for sharing it. I should have read this before trying it myself. I soaked the skinned/fleshed skull in bleach water combination for a couple of weeks. Then took the high pressure washer to blast away the flesh that remained. Your method is much better. As my back panel, I plan to cut a slice from a fallen tree on the property. Nothing fancy but less costly.
Thank you very much for these step by step instructions. My first attempt at a whitetail European mount was a success! Greatly appreciative.
Great to hear Donna! We’re glad it worked for you!
Thanks for the comment Jeff – glad it worked for you!
Thanks John, glad it worked for you. The smell isn’t terrible if you get them done shortly after the kill!
How did it go?
Very helpful. One of the web sites suggested using oxy clean in the boiling water as a de-greaser. Worked great but did discolor the horn base a little. Some mounts I have seen have a shiny appearance. Do you ever varnish or clear coat the skull?
I have seen people boil the skull in poroxide and water but I don’t know the ratio if anyone does can you let me know thanks
Don’t buy supplies using amazon even though it’s convenient, they have an anti hunting and gun agenda like many others.
Can you tell me the amount of both products to mix up for one head. I plan to use a 4 oz. Powder pkg of whitener and just mix in developing cream as thick as a milk shake. Doing a medium size head-8POINT. Is this how you make it up.?
Hi Ron, sorry for the slow response. Yes about the consistency of a milkshake is good. Good luck! Let me know how it works out!
Hey Dennis, you can use clear coat if you want to have a more shiny finish.
You can, I’m not sure the ratio, as I’ve always whitened later.