The DIY Hunter

Digiscope Photo of Large Two Point Mule Deer Buck

Digiscope Photo of Large Two Point Mule Deer Buck

 Here are a couple of still photos I snapped as the mule deer bucks were feeding early in the morning.

While camping this summer I took some digiscope video and still photos of some bucks that were out feeding in the area where we were camping.

There were six bucks in the group. Must of the bucks we yearling two points and spikes, with a three-point and a pig of a two-point. This large two-point buck's body was much larger and had a very pronounced fat belly. He also showed signs that he might grow some crab claw forks in the front and back before he finished growing in a month or so.

I explain a little more about my digiscope setup used to take this video in my Digiscope Video of 243 WSSM Shooting a Milk Jug at 311 Yards journal entry. 

June 2020 Update
While the information below is still a good method for cleaning off a skull I have found a better method that I use. See: DIY European Skull Mount In 3 Days — Bucket Heater Method

Many years ago I decided to do a European skull mount of a whitetail deer. At the time I used the boiling method to clean the flesh off the skull. After all was said and done I really didn't like the outcome. Mainly because the very fine bones that are in the nasal cavity were all destroyed in the process of trying to pick off pieces of flesh in-between boiling sessions. Boiling also makes me worry that the skull could crack or shrink from the heating.

Since that time I have used the maceration process do to my mounts and have done so on close to twenty skulls from elk, mule deer and whitetail deer. Keeping the skull in water for a long period of time allows bacteria to break down the flesh. The process, although it takes some time, produces end results that are great.

Place the skull in water.
Here is my process. I skin the head and remove the eyes and as much flesh as you possibly can with a knife. In a shed in my back yard I have a large plastic storage tub that I fill with water. I prefer to get some pond or river water as it speeds the process of getting the bacteria going faster but, tap water will work just fine. It will just take a little longer for the bacteria brew to get going with tap water.

Homemade DIY Elk European Skull Mount Plaque Mounting Instruction screw placement

Where the four inch screws are holding this elk skull on the plaque.


Deer European Skull Mount Plaque Mounting screw hole placement

Where I drill a single hole through the skull of a deer for the screw to anchor the skull to the plaque. I drill a hole a little smaller than the outer diameter of the screw threads.

I submerge the skull in water and leave it in for a couple of weeks. It is fine if some of the antlers are partially submerged. I will remove the skull every week or so to check it's progress and spray it off with a water hose to remove as much of the flesh as possible then place it back in the bacteria brew. I use a pair of needle nose pliers and pull pieces of stubborn flesh off the skull, especially around the area the spinal column enters the back of the skull.

Heating the water.
To keep the bacteria growing the water need to remain warm. I use an fish aquarium heater to keep the water warm. Be careful to place the heater in a position so that it doesn't rest right against the skull. If it rests against the skull you may get a brown spot on the skull as I did once. Oops! Using a heater will keep the water warm and the bacteria working at a much faster pace.

Keeping the smell to a minimum.
Although not necessary I prefer to keep the smell to a minimum. If you do not aerate the water you will get a very smelly anaerobic bacteria, just like you get in your septic tank. A horribly stinky mess. If you aerate the water you will get aerobic bacteria that has less of a smell. Just like waste water treatment plants that have large aerating machines to pump oxygen into the water to keep the smell to a minimum, I use a fish aquarium air pump to pump oxygen into the water and keep the bacteria smell to a minimum. The rotting flesh is still gross but at least the smell isn't so horribly bad that it makes me dry heave when I pull the skull out to spray it off.

Teeth falling out.
Whenever you pull the skull out of the water watch for teeth that might fall out, especially watch for this when you are spraying it down with the hose. If any teeth fall out just hold on to them and after you have the skull cleaned you can super glue them back in.

40 Volume Creme Developer Peroxide Bleach for DIY European Skull Mounts

Creme Developer Peroxide Bleach for DIY European Skull Mounts

Get a gallon bottle of peroxide creme from a beauty supply store. I say gallon because I think it only comes in gallon bottles. You will find it in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 volume varieties. I like the 40 volume as it is the most potent.

After I have the skull's flesh cleaned off I will place the skull on a large piece of cardboard and using a paint brush I liberally paint the peroxide creme all over the skull being very careful not to get any on the antlers. For that matter be careful not to get the peroxide on anything but the skull and cardboard that the peroxide will drip down onto. I will then repeat brushing on coats of peroxide a couple times a day until I get the desired whiteness. Every skull has been a little different for me but usually within three to four days the skull is all pearly white. However, I have had some skulls that have taken two weeks to get some stubborn areas whitened.

Once the skull is as white as I want I then spray off the skull with a water hose and let it dry.

Mounting to Plaque
After the skull has dried, there is a really solid piece of bone on the underside of the brain cavity that I drill hole(s) into to mount the skull to the plaque. I drill two small holes for elk and one hole for deer. These hole(s) line-up with four inch grabber screws that I place through the mounting plague. Once I get the hole(s) in the plague to line-up with the skull I screw the skull in place with the long grabber screws and I'm done.

Homemade DIY Elk European Skull Mount Template

Elk European Skull Mount Wedge Angle Template. Click the image above to download the elk template.


Homemade DIY Mule Deer European Skull Mount Template

Mule Deer European Skull Mount Wedge Angle Template. Click the image above to download the mule deer template.

With mule deer and elk I like to place the skull at an angle to the wall. Using a piece of 2x6 lumber I cut a wedge for the skull to rest upon. To the left are some PDF files of the wedge templates (Elk and Mule Deer) I use to angle the mount away from the plaque on the wall. These templates should give you a good start on the wedge but might require a little tweaking to the angles and rounding the edges to fit your unique skull.

You can view other homemade European mounts that I have done in my DIY European Skull Mounts journal entry.

At the 2011 Western Hunting Expo I found a neat system to hang European skull mounts that I might have to try on future mounts myself.

Related Articles:

50 yard Robin Hood Shot with Series 22 Shafts and NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter Vanes

 50 Yard Robin Hood Shot with Series 22 shafts and NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter Vanes.

For starters I should explain my setup. My bows are 1990 technology Browning Adrenaline bows with a few modifications to fit my needs. I have a 32 1/2" draw length although I prefer to shoot at a 32" draw length. This improves my accuracy with a more relaxed left arm holding the bow. To get the additional draw length beyond the stock Adrenaline bow I replaced the 15" limbs for 15 1/2" limbs and then I made some custom strings to fit. The draw weight is set at 75 lbs and with the 32" draw I am pushing my 463g arrows at 290 fps.

I started experimenting with the Gold Tip Big Game shafts, Gold Tip 5575 shafts and Gold Tip's Series 22 shafts (the old heavy Series 22 not the UL version they now make). I also experimented with different vanes. After all the experimenting was done the most accurate shaft was clearly the Series 22.

NAP QuikSpin ST Speed Hunter Arrow Vanes and 5" AAE Arrow Vanes

50 yard Robin Hood Shot with Series 22 Shafts and NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter Vanes

I believe the combination of the longer draw length and the heavy draw weight demanded a lot of help from the vanes to keep the arrow on course. I tried a couple of different vanes. At the time almost everyone was shooting 4" Duravanes, Bohning or AAE vanes. Those vanes just didn't produce the accuracy that I demanded. I tried the 5" AAE vanes and that did the trick. The vane is nice and long and has a texture on the vane that provides excellent steering to the arrow. So for the past 7 years I have shot and hunted with the 5" AAE vane and had excellent success with it.

In 2008 the tinkering bug got the best of me and I decided to give some of the NAP QuikSpin vanes a try. I fletched a couple of NAP QuikSpin 2.25" vanes and some of the NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter vanes. The QuikSpin 2.25" vanes would not hold a group at all. On the other hand the QuikSpin Speed Hunters were great. For a period of a couple of weeks on a daily basis I would shoot my old reliable 5" AAE vanes along side of the QuikSpin Speed Hunters. The QuikSpin shot very well indeed. It was hard at first to find any distinguishable difference in the accuracy of one over the other. After shooting them together for a month or so I started to lean towards the Speed Hunter being just a little more accurate. I also liked the QuikSpin Speed Hunter over the 5" AAE vanes for two other reasons...well make that three. First the Speed Hunter would be less susceptible to cross winds blowing the arrow off course at longer ranges.  Second, vane clearance issues with my arrow rest are non-existent. And third, the cool factor. The short stubby vanes do look really cool on the shafts.

I did find some slight negatives to the Speed Hunters. They are difficult to see in flight compared to the large 5" AAE vanes. I also found that at long ranges the Speed Hunters would group lower than the 5" vanes. At 70 yards they hit the target about six inches lower. If I could chronograph the arrow at various ranges I would bet that the Speed Hunter has a little more drag than the 5" AAE vanes causing it to slow down a little quicker. And lastly the QuikSpin Speed Hunters are a more expensive, but I think they are well worth it.

50 yard Robin Hood Shot with Series 22 Shafts and NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter Vanes

I have made a handful of Robin Hood shots over the years in the 30 yard range. In fact I rarely practice under 50 yards because I damage far too many shafts from hitting one another, shafts I can't afford to damage because Gold Tip doesn't make them any more. As you can see in the photos using the Speed Hunter I got my first Robin Hood at 50 yards and it also happened to be on my first and second shot of the six arrow group.

If your thinking about using the NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter vanes I don't think you could go wrong. I would get a bright orange or the like color and consider cresting your shafts so that you can follow the flight of the arrow better. Now, if I only could convince Gold Tip to bring back at least a limited run of the Old Series 22 arrow shaft, I'd be a happy camper. It is a great fat carbon hunting shaft. I need to stock up to last a few more years and pickens have been slim on eBay lately.