A European mount of your big game trophy is a fraction of the cost of a full shoulder mount. What you get is a skull mount with your antlers still attached. If you do it yourself, it’s not all that difficult, but you will need to invest in some time, equipment and supplies. You might already have most of the equipment on hand. You’ll need a high output propane stove, some hair care supplies from a beauty supply store and a big metal tub. Other than propane, the rest is inexpensive stuff.
A busy taxidermist will charge you $150 to $350, or more, including the plaque to European mount your deer, elk, or antelope. The tools you buy to do it yourself are a one-time cost. If you plan to European mount several heads, it will definitely pay off in the long run to do your own.
If you’re not in a hurry, you could do it the old-fashioned, no-cost way of skinning it and hanging it where you won’t mind the smell and let the flies go at it. You’ll need to dig out the brain and clean as much tissue and meat off as you can. Maggots will clean up what you leave behind. The time it takes for them to finish the job depends on the weather and how well you cleaned it up before leaving it to them. There will still be some dried up tissue remaining and you might still want to bleach it. So, you’ll still have some work to do.
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If you’re ready to do your own European mount, Larry, a hunting friend of mine, has contributed the following step-by-step instructions for you:
Here’s What you will need to get started after you have your skull skinned:
First decide what you want your European mount skull to include: upper molars, lower jaw, full nose, no upper molars, full skull behind antlers. I like full nose upper molars removed (see photo).
Go to Bing or Google search and select “images”, then type in “European elk mount” (or, deer, etc.) to see photos of European mounts to determine what you like best, then cut your skull according to your preferences.When you’re ready to start, add about ten gallons of water to the tub and start boiling it. You will adjust the water depth in about an hour.
While that’s warming up, remove the ivories and cut your skull. (I recommend removing them because they will become lightened and will fall out during the boiling process.) Remove them with a sharp paring knife and small bone saw.
You will be able to put them back in the sockets after the skull is prepared by using epoxy and they will have the nice chocolate color still intact. Or, you can leave them out all together and use them for jewelry etc. Lastly, you can leave them in the skull and fish them out when you’re done boiling but they will be much lighter. I put them in a drawer with all my other teeth and leave empty sockets on the skull. Anyone looking at the finished product will have to really look to see they are missing.
Cut your skull according to your desired preference using the hand saw. Start in the back and saw down forward toward where the ivories are. Your straight cut should come ½ to 1 inch below both eye sockets, removing the upper molars (see photo below -molars removed) and exit out before you get to the Ivories. Try to keep the distance below the eye sockets the same on both sides. This will help to give it symmetry and create a nice flat surface to mount to your wood plaque.
Using the aluminum foil wrap each horn starting at the burl and covering the lower points. This is to keep the fumes from the boiling water from lightening the lower points and burls
Add the two pounds of soda ash to the hot or boiling water and stir it in with the ice fishing skimmer or stick. Soda ash is used to raise the Ph of the water (decreases acidity). Everything I have read about soda ash says it is harmless but not being a chemist I wear goggles just to be extra cautious. I don’t think it is any more harmful than baking soda.
Place the cut skull in the tub and add or remove enough water to come approx ½ inch below antler burls. Keep the heat on high. If you are doing a full skull with the lower jaw mount, take your skinned lower jaw and add it to the pot.
After about a half hour you will see a lot of scum starting to form. I skim it off with the ice fishing strainer only because I am sickened by the smell and the appearance. It also makes the pot easier to clean after boiling by not letting that scum cook onto it.
At about 40 minutes pull the skull up and notice how the flesh and gristle have become gelatinous. Try to pull off pieces with your hands. If you can pull off pieces with your hands it’s getting close.
Using a pressure washer, pull the skull out and spray it with the pressure washer. Large chunks of meat, gristle, brains, etc will be pulled away with the high pressure. Put it back in the tub of water and watch it until the final pieces of flesh look like they did when you pulled it out the first time. You can put it back into the hot water a third time if needed however over-boiling will make the skull brittle and flaky which is not desirable.
You may need a sharp knife to scrape the cartilage near the burls because they were not in the hot water but it comes off easy due to the steam softening it up
Your European mount skull is now clean to the bone. At this point you can determine if it is white enough or if you want it whiter. Some people like the platinum white look. Others like the natural bone look. It is totally a personal preference. The Soda Ash makes the bone much whiter than if you would have used just straight water to boil it. This may be enough white for you. If so, fasten it to a plaque and you are done.
If you like the real white skulls like I do, proceed to the next step.
Put on your goggles for this step: Using the hair care products listed above (developer and whitener) mix the following into a non-metallic, glass or plastic bowl. 7 level scoops of basic white (the scoop comes in with the product) with 4.5 oz of 20 volume developer. Mix it into a rich, creamy consistency with a stick.
Paint it onto the skull up to but not touching the burls. Put it on thick. If you need to mix up another batch, do so. Let it sit on the skull (and lower jaw if doing a full skull) for 1.5 to 2 hours.
With goggles still on, using a garden hose not high pressure,rinse off the whitening solution. Do it in such a way that no animals can find any flesh with whitener on it, should you have missed any with the pressure washer.
Your skull is now perfectly white and ready to glue the Ivories back in if you choose to do so.
Consider the Skull Hooker to hang your European mount with. The Big Hooker (larger big game, including elk) and the Little Hooker (small to medium size game, including deer) allow you to hang your trophy in a position besides the "fighting" position (up flat against the wall).
The Skull Hooker is easy to use and requires no screwing or wiring to the skull mount. Drilling into the skull is not needed. The prongs allow you to adjust the skull up and down. The arm adjusts the trophy by swinging right, or left. With the Skull Hooker you can display your trophy at the best angle, or easily change it for variety.
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Of course, if you want, you can screw your completed European mount to a plaque for indoors. For outdoor display, spray some UV blocker on it a couple times a year. It should last 20 years outdoors with regular UV blocker usage.
I hope this helped you in your DIY lifestyle. You just saved yourself about $150 to $300 or more for a European mount!
See the page about Caping an Elk for a Shoulder Mount
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