How To Bleach A Deer Skull (Step-by-Step Guide)
Very few things for a hunter are as satisfying as reliving the experience of a successful hunt.
One of the most gratifying ways to achieve this is by preserving the skull and antlers of your buck. This is a guide on how to bleach a deer skull.
Supplies Needed For Completion Of Project:
Remove Head From Carcass:
1) Prepare Your Game Knife Of Choice:
Select a game knife of ample size and sharpness to complete the task at hand.
This knife must be sufficient for cutting through hide, meat, and other tissue in a relatively efficient manner.
2) Prepare A Hacksaw Or Similar Cutting Utensil:
Locate a hacksaw or a saw of similar construction. It is vital to ensure that a fresh hacksaw blade is used.
If a saw that does not feature a replaceable blade is chosen, the entire cutting surface must be sharp and free of defects.
3) Choose The Location For Your Cut:
You must now designate the point at which you intend to separate the head from the rest of the carcass.
There is no need to retain anymore of the neck to the skull than what is absolutely necessary.
Follow the contour of the lower jawbone back to its junction with the base of the head.
Directly below this point will be the intended placement for your initial cut.
4) Make Initial Cut:
Once the location of your cut is chosen, it is time to get down to the task at hand.
With your game knife, carefully cut in a 360 degree fashion around the entire circumference of the neck.
You will continue cutting until the bone is reached from all sides.
5) Make Final Separation:
At this point, the only remaining connection between the head and the carcass will be the vertebrae of the spinal column.
You will now grab your hacksaw, or similar cutting utensils, and saw directly through the vertebrae at the base of the skull.
Upon the completion of this final cut, the head of your buck will be separate from the remaining portions of the carcass.
Remove Hide From Skull:
1) Prepare Needed Skinning Instruments:
You must now prepare to skin any hide and flesh from the skull by selecting the necessary cutting utensils to do so.
A compact but adequately sharpened game knife or a razor knife is a must.
Additionally, many people find that the use of an individual razor blade is of benefit for precision trim work.
Have these items prepared and at your disposal.
2) Make Your Initial Cut:
With the use of your compact game knife or razor knife, make a cut in the hide starting at one corner of the mouth.
You will then work this cut rearward toward the base of the skull.
The same process will be repeated on the opposite side of the skull.
3) Skin Hide Upward Toward Antler Bases:
You will now begin to skin the hide upward along the upper cheekbone for the entire length of your previously made initial cut.
As you skin upward, you will reach a point where you encounter the eye socket.
Gently cut both eyelids away from the sockets as you continue to skin in an upward fashion.
This same process is to be completed in an identical manner from one side to the other.
4) Skin From The Nose Rearward:
As you have skinned the skull upward, you will reach a point where both sides will near a meeting point at the bridge of the nose.
You must now separate the cartilage of the nose from the skull.
This is accomplished by simply skinning upward at the base of the upper lip while contouring the cut of the knife close to the nose region of the skull.
This sweeping cut frees the connecting nose cartilage and allows the hide to be pulled rearward toward the antler bases.
5) Separate Ears And Associated Hide:
As you skin upward from the rearmost section of your initial cut, you will encounter the ears.
At this point, you will shape your cut tightly against the contour of the skull, thus cutting free the ear butts themselves.
6) Free Vertebrae And Remaining Hide:
With all of the remaining hide pulled upward toward the crown of the skull, you must free the remaining vertebrae from the skull base.
You should now be able to tell at what point the neck pivots at the base of the skull.
With your knife, make precision cuts in the margin between the final vertebrae and its socket within the base of the skull.
This portion of vertebrae will now be able to be lifted upward.
Cut free the remaining tissue and hide up to the point of the antler bases.
7) Remove Bottom Jaw And Associated Hide:
Since the lower jaw is not traditionally used when preparing an European style mount, it must be removed.
Carefully inspect the state of the hide connected to the lower jaw.
Make any final precision cuts to separate any remaining hide from the upper portions of the skull.
With no hide connected to the upper portion of the skull, place one hand on the upper jaw and one hand on the lower jaw segment.
Pry the two segments apart, thus separating the lower jaw from the skull.
Advanced Tip: When making any cuts while skinning a skull, cut with the sharpened edge of the knife facing up whenever possible.
This prevents noticeable indention from being etched into the surface of the skull.
Trim All Excess Tissue From Skull:
1) Remove Eyes From Sockets:
Take your compact game knife or razor knife and make an incision into the eye socket, carefully trimming around the circumference of the eyes.
Once any connecting tissue is severed, the eyes can easily be removed.
2) Remove Remaining Hide From Antler Bases:
During the earlier process of hide removal, it is likely that small amounts of hide were left intact around the antler bases.
Take a razor knife or individual razor blade and trim this tissue away from the antler pedicle.
This is accomplished by trimming in a circular motion around the circumference of the antler base.
In the event that some hide remains, a pair of pliers can be used to firmly grip the tissue while pulling in a peeling motion.
3) Trim Excess Meat And Fat:
It is advisable to remove as much stubborn meat and fat as possible during this point in the process.
With a razor knife, trim any visible tissue from the surface of the skull.
This can take some time to do properly, but precision work during this stage of the project can highly influence the quality of the final product.
You should strive to see as much clean, white skull as possible when finished with this step.
4) Hose Clean To Reach Inaccessible Areas:
With all visible tissue removed to the highest degree possible, it is best to spray the skull with the use of a garden hose and nozzle.
The skull should be sprayed off in its entirety, with special attention given to difficult to access areas.
Water should also be sprayed into the back of the skull cavity to flush brain matter from its interior.
Advanced Tip: When trimming tissue from a skull, it is of benefit to wearing disposable rubber gloves.
This rubberized texture maximizes grip for easier trimming. If gloves become slippery from contact with tissue on the skull, simply change gloves and continue with the process.
How To Boil A Deer Skull And Remove Remnants Of Tissue:
1) Gather Supplies For Boiling:
Locate a sizeable deep-sided pot that is of the required depth to submerge the skull you intend to boil.
Prepare a burner to suffice as a heat source of the water contained within the pot.
Since the boiling process is best conducted outside, it is advisable to use a propane or other gas-fueled burner.
High concentration dish soap should also be among the items gathered for the boiling process, as it will be used as a degreasing medium.
2) Fill The Pot With Water And Dish Soap:
You must now fill your chosen pot to an adequate level for complete submersion of your deer skull.
At this point, you will proceed to add approximately ½ cup of dish soap to the water contained in the pot.
3) Submerge Skull And Turn On Boiler:
Place your skull into the solution of water and dish soap that is contained in the pot, so that the skull is submerged in its entirety.
Turn your burner on and let the water heater until a slow boil is reached.
4) Maintain A Boil:
Once the water contained in your pot begins to boil, adjust the heat of the burner, as to maintain a gentle boil.
The skull should remain in the boiling water for a continuous period of up to 30 minutes.
5) Remove Skull And Trim Remainder Of Tissue:
After your skull has boiled for a duration of up to 30 minutes, turn off the boiler and remove the skull.
Once the skull is removed from the water, carefully trim any remaining tissue with the use of a razor knife or individual razor blade.
The boiling water will have served as a means to soften and loosen these remaining tissue.
6) Resubmerge In Pot Of Water:
After trimming all additional tissue, resubmerge the skull into the previously used pot of water.
Again, bring the water to a slow boil.
After approximately 10-15 minutes at a steady boil, remove the skull once again, turning the burner off completely.
7) Inspect And Finalize Trim Work:
At this time you will need to carefully analyze the skull for any previously undetected tissue.
If any is identified, completely remove it with the use of a razor knife.
Move on from this step only after assuring that the skull is clean to the highest level possible.
8) Perform Final Rinse:
After you are satisfied that the entire skull is free of any hide, meat, or other tissue, rise the skull thoroughly.
This can be completed with the use of a garden hose and spray nozzle, as it was in previous steps.
Ensure that all areas of the skull, including those not easily visible, have been sprayed sufficiently.
How To Bleach A Deer Skull With 40 Volume Peroxide:
1) Prepare Catch Basin For Bleaching Process:
Locate a suitable container to use as a catch basin for the chosen bleaching agent.
This container can come in varying styles, all of which will yield the same results, as long as the container allows the skull to be completely submerged.
Appropriately sized plastic storage totes or small plastic wash tubs make excellent choices when used during the bleaching process.
2) Ready Bleaching Agent:
Gather the solution that you intend to use as a bleaching agent in the process.
In the majority of cases, 40 volume hydrogen peroxide is best suited for the job at hand.
Harsher chemicals such as bleach or whitening paste have the tendency to damage the thin bone structure of the areas around the nose.
Approximately one gallon of hydrogen peroxide should be purchased, as to ensure that an adequate supply of solution is on hand.
3) Wrap Antler Bases:
Because the same peroxide solution that is used to bleach the skull can bleach the antlers themselves, antler bases must be covered for protection.
This prevents damage to the antler’s natural color.
This is best accomplished by heavily wrapping all sections of the antler that might come into contact with the bleaching solution.
Items such as saran wrap or waterproof or silicone-based tape work well for this application.
4) Sit Skull In Catch Basin And Fill To Appropriate Level:
At this point, you will set the skull into your pre-chosen catch basin in an upright manner.
Once the skull is situated, you will begin to fill the basin to an appropriate level with the hydrogen peroxide.
Care must be taken not to splash the peroxide on any exposed antler while completing this process.
Submerge the skull to the highest possible point without submerging the antler bases.
If any portion of the skull remains protruding from the surface of the solution, liberally coat this portion with peroxide with the use of a q-tip or similar applicator.
5) Allow To Soak:
The bleaching process can take several days to complete. Ample time must be given to allow the peroxide solution to complete its job.
At intervals of approximately every two days, remove the skull to assess its status.
If the desired results have not been achieved, repeat the soaking process as desired.
6) Remove Skull From Solution And Allow To Dry:
Upon achieving a complete whitening, remove the skull from the peroxide solution and allow to set in a sunny warm location for 48-72 hours to dry completely.
Coat The Skull:
1) Choose Appropriate Sealer:
Purchase a spray can of varnish for coating the bleached skull.
The use of clear polyurethane variety sprays is highly advised.
2) Hang The Skull In A Suitable Outdoor Location:
With the use of a wire tie, secure the skull in a somewhat elevated location, as to allow complete access to spray the entire exterior surface.
A wire tie can be routed through the natural holes in the rearmost portions of the skull to allow proper hanging.
3) Spray Skull Evenly:
With the skull hung in place, lightly and evenly coat all exposed segments with your chosen variety of sealer.
Two to three coats are usually required to yield proper coverage.
Let the skull hang, as to facilitate drying between each coat.
4) Let Completely Dry Before Handling:
After the final coat of sealer is applied, let the skull hang in place for up to 24 hours to completely dry before handling.
This prevents smudging of your newly applied sealant.
Display As Desired:
Your skull is now ready to be displayed as desired.
Some people wish to secure their deer skull to a plaque of varying types to enhance the look of the finished product.
Others prefer to set the skull on a shelf or table for display.
This decision is purely situational and is up to the discretion of the hunter.
The Value Of Your Work:
Although somewhat labor-intensive, the satisfaction of learning how to bleach a deer skull will last a lifetime.
You will be able to admire the finished result for decades to come and relive the hunt that allowed you this opportunity.
Feel free to submit comments or ask any questions.