Published by Louisianaboy on 20 Sep 2008 at 08:59 am
I have boiled many skulls and hate it! It is time consuming because you have to be attentive to the skull when boiling and it takes a lot of time to cut and scrape the skull clean. Boiling is also more expensive since you have to supply fuel to get that water boiling! I began macerating (rotting) after a friend brought me a ten point that he had hung on the fence for about a week. The only thing I could do was macerate rate since it was well on its way to being rotten.
I begin by cutting all the hide of off the deer. I use a scalpel and start by making an incision down the middle of his nose, between the eyes and all the to the end of the hide on the neck. Be careful not to cut into the skull with the scalpel or knife and scar the bone. I then strip the hide from the nose and then go around the horns to the back of the head. Once the hide is removed I cut off as much meat as possible. I leave the lower jaw bone on until after the maceration because it is much easier to remove at that point. I then take a hacksaw and cut the neck off right behind the skull. You can feel the ridge on top of the skull; move down the neck about 2 inches and make the cut.
I then submerge the skull in water up to the base of the antlers. I have found that the blue tupperware bins at Wal-Mart work wonders for this or you can use an old crawfish pot, five gallon bucket or just about anything that is large enough to soak the skull in. I have been told to pour a bit of yeast or beer in the water and it will speed up the growth of the bacteria. I have used both and macerated without and could not tell the difference. Being from Louisiana, I hate to waste cold beer on a rotting deer skull! Also make sure the you have this set up away from the house or at least downwind cause trust me….. it will stink!
It is a waiting game at this point. You should check on the skull about every 3-4 days and replace the nasty water with fresh water. When draining the water, leave about half or a quarter of the water in the container. This will keep the colony of bacteria you have grown in the container and speed up the process. The bacteria need warm water to grow and feed so during the winter I place aquarium heaters on the side of the container to aid in the process. Aquarium heaters at Wal-Mart work well but the best I have found are Elite Glass Heaters (internet). The maceration process normally takes about two to three weeks depending on the water temperature. I place my bins in an old chest freezer and run the extension cords in there to keep the heat contained. By doing this I cut my maceration process down to about 10-12 days.
This is where it gets nasty! Once the maceration process is complete I use a scalpel and pair of long needle-nose pliers to pull the meat off. The rotten meat will easily pull off the bone leaving a nice clean skull. Be sure to pull the cartilage out of the nasal cavity and you might have to do some scraping on the back of the skull to detach some of those tough pieces of tissue. Once all the meat and tissue is remove spray the skull down with a water hose and be sure to wash the brain out of the brain cavity. Be careful with the tips of the nose. They might detach but can be glued back in place once the skull is dry.
The next step is the most important in the entire process of skull mounting an animal. DEGREASING! I have learned this lesson the hard way. If all the grease is not gotten out of the bone then it will begin turning yellow or have dark yellow spots throughout the skull. I degrease by using the same tupperware container as above. Place the skull in the container and fill with water up to the burr of the antler. I use the clear Dawn Dishwashing Detergent (Bleach Alternative on the label) but pure ammonia can also be used. Again, an aquarium heater will speed up this process but is not required. I normally change the water and about every 2 days. Each skull is different and the change can be determined by the cloudiness of the water which is actually fat deposits. When changing the degrease solution be sure and rinse off the skull and container completely. Repeat this process for about ten days or until the water is beginning to stay clear. Let the skull dry and if there is dark spots still present the repeat the degreasing process again. The longer you degrease the whiter the skull you will have.
The last step is whitening the skull. DO NOT USE BLEACH! Bleach will break down the bone and eventually turn the skull yellow. I whiten with 30% peroxide and Basic White (both found at any beauty supply store). I make a paste by combining the peroxide and BW and use a small paintbrush to cover the skull. Do not get the paste on the antlers! It will stain them! Let the skull sit over night and wash the paste off with a water hose. Place the skull in the sun for a couple of days and you should a finished skull mount. If there are any dark or dull spots on the skull you can repeat the whitening process again.
Hogs, Coyotes ,Bobcats, etc.
Hogs will take longer to degrease. They have a ton of grease deep in the bone and I have actually degreased boar skulls for two months. The tusk on a boar is hollow until it gets to the tip and is filled with tissue and fat. Be sure and pull the tusk completely out to make sure it is clean. It can be glued back in and I usually “pull” the tusk to make them look a little longer.
When macerating small critters such as bobcats and coyotes be sure to watch for loose teeth when dumping the water. They tend to fall out but can be glued in when finished.
I hope this helps ‘yall.
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