How to clean a deer skull


If you’ve shot a nice buck with a decent head, you might want to take the antlers to hang on your wall. In this video, Rod shows you how easy it is to clean a deer skull at home. 

Shoulder mount vs euro mount

Broadly speaking there are two options for creating a lifelong reminder of your hunt using the head of the animal you have hunted. You can opt to recreate the animal in the most lifelike way possible (e.g. a shoulder mount, full body mount etc.) or you can opt for a more simple euro style mount.

The first option requires that you cape out the hide of the animal. You can find out more about caping a deer by watching this video by Murton Outdoors.

The second option – a euro mount – is a less labour intensive and much cheaper option. To do this, you remove the head of the deer at the base of the neck, remove the skin from around the face and then simmer the skull to clean it. It’s a great option and easy to do yourself at home with a few things from around the house.

A lot of people call this method boiling a skull but this is a little misleading as you don’t actually want the water to boil at all. Boiling the skull will leave the bones very brittle and prone to breaking.

How to clean a deer skull at home

This tutorial covers how to clean a skull once you are home. The skull has already been removed from the body of the deer and has been face caped (had the skin removed from around the head of the animal).

  • Large pot
  • Gas burner
  • Salt
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Pressure washer
  • Super glue

Note: have a look at the bottom of this article for links to these items.

First simmer

You need to have a pot that is big enough to submerse the entire skull, excluding the antlers, under water (see below for the one we have).

Place the skull in the pot and fill with water. The water level should sit just below the pedicels of the antlers – you don’t want the water to cover any part of the actual antlers.

Add into the pot 250g of salt and a generous squirt of dishwashing detergent.

Bring the solution to a low simmer. You don’t want it to start boiling (rolling bubbles) as this will make the bones in the skull very brittle and prone to breaking.

Let it simmer for 2-3 hours. Then turn off the heat and carefully lift the skull out of the hot water. Using a screwdriver or stick, push any large chunks of tissue and fat off the skull. You can also remove the bottom jaw bone at this point. Lower the skull back into the solution and let it cool slowly over a few hours.

Allowing the skull to cool slowly, stops the bone from contracting and expanding too quickly making it brittle.

After the skull has cooled completely in the water, remove the head and discard the solution.

Second simmer

For the next simmer, you want to place the skull back in the pot and fill it with fresh, clean water. Add 250g of salt, 250g bicarbonate soda, and a generous squirt of dishwashing detergent. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for approximately 2 hours.

After 2 hours, turn off the heat and let the head cool in the solution until room temperature. 

Once cooled, remove the head from the pot and discard the solution.

Pressure washer

Before you get the pressure washer out, you need to remove the two nose bones from the skull. They are quite fragile so we find it best to remove them before this step and glue them back in later. Rod shows this process at 11:47 in the video.

Give the skull a clean with a pressure washer to remove any remaining tissue. Make sure to be careful around the delicate bones inside the nose cavity.

Don’t forget to glue the two nose bones back into the skull using a small amount of super glue. Rod explains this in the video at 15:22.

As the skull dries, it will whiten even further. We haven’t needed to do anything further after this point but you can apply a peroxide if you want a brighter appearance. 

And you’re done! One clean euro mount ready to put on the wall. While a professionally mounted deer is beautiful, the euro mount is a cheap and easy option to remember your hunt by for years to come. 

Equipment used

What is I Am Hunter?

I Am Hunter wants to change the way hunting is perceived and to change the conversation from a negative one driven by anti-hunters to a positive one led by hunters.

Our goal is to help hunters become positive role models and ambassadors for hunting, while simultaneously helping non-hunters understand why hunting is important. 

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Related content

If you would like to know more about hunting wallabies, kangaroos or deer in Tasmania, check out these related articles and podcasts. 

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