Making your own elk skull mount, or, euro mount, can be a fun rewarding project! There are several ways to accomplish this, each with their own pros and cons. In this article, we’re going to explore four methods of creating an elk skull mount yourself (DIY):
- Replica skull kits
Making an Elk Skull Mount by Boiling
Boiling a skull in water is probably the most common method for making a European style mount. This method conjures up images of the old black, bubbling caldrons over fire. If you have an understanding spouse, you might get away with doing it in the house over the stove. More commonly, it’s done outside with a portable heat source like a propane-fired turkey boiler, electric burner, or even an open fire.
Making a nice looking elk skull mount by boiling takes some time and care. Here are the basic steps for a skull mount using the boiling method:
- Skin the head out.
- Rough flesh the skull. Remove the lower jaw and tongue, the eyes, and the larger chunks of meat around the antler bases, cheeks, and neck.
- Boil at a low boil for about an hour or two. The time will vary. You need to boil it long enough to have the tissues soften and want to fall off but not so long that the bone gets brittle. Tip: using sal soda in your water aids in softening the tissues.
- Scrape, rinse and dry. If you’ve boiled it long enough, you shouldn’t have to scrape too hard. You don’t want to mark up the bone with your scraping tool. A good option is to use a pressure washer to get rid of any remaining tissues, but caution; you may knock out the awesome nasal detail if you do this. The boiling method typically loses some nasal detail anyway.
- Brighten with bleach & peroxide paste – this is optional but can really brighten up the skull of your elk nicely! Mix hydrogen peroxide with powdered bleach to about the consistency of toothpaste. Brush or spatula it on the skull, taking care to avoid the antlers. Then bag it in a clear plastic bag and let it sit out in daylight for several hours up to a day. Again, too long can make things brittle. Then, rinse the skull thoroughly with water and let dry. Wah-lah! You’ll have a nice euro mount of your elk ready to hang and enjoy!
Pros & Cons of the Boiling Method for Elk Skull Mounts
- cheap, easy, nice looking, can retain lots of detail in nasal passages if not over-boiled or damaged.
- Time consuming, labor intensive, smelly, fragile, tendency to yellow or bleed grease over time.
- The threat of CWD has lead many states to prohibit bringing uncleaned skulls across state lines, so you may not be able to do a euro mount with a real skull unless you finish it before you go home or leave it with a taxidermist!
Using the Burial Method to Create an Elk Skull Mount
The burial method utilizes Mother Nature! It may be the least labor intensive of all methods, yet the most time consuming. You can skin and rough flesh the elk skull like with the boiling method, or not, it just depends how long you want this process to take! Bury the skull in the dirt, and leave it. Walk away. Let the dirt and bugs naturally get to work decomposing things. In 3-6 months or more, depending on your local climate, dig it up, wash & rinse it, and you’ll have a relatively clean skull and antlers left! You could also choose to use the bleach/peroxide paste method described above in the boiling method to brighten the skull.
Pros & Cons of the Burial Method for Elk Skull Mounts
- Easy, cheap, not labor intensive, relatively nice looking natural skull
- Time consuming, prone to loss of nasal detail, can stain, bleed grease, and not brighten easily.
- Antlers prone to fading, chalking, or suspect to varmint chewing during burial.
- Not a viable option if you want a euro mount of an elk you harvest outside your home state because of CWD related transportation restrictions.
Creating an Elk Skull Mount with Dermestid Beetles
A bit less popular but highly effective method of making a European mount with an elk skull is to utilize dermestid beetles. These little bugs can weasel their way into every little nook and cranny on a skull and completely eat all traces of tissue, leaving nothing but bone. You might rough flesh the skull or not, but really all you need to do is put your elk skull in a colony of beetles in an enclosed (but not airtight!) container that’s just a little bit bigger than the entire skull and antlers. The time it takes the beetles to clean the skull varies with the size of the beetle colony and amount of tissue/meat to consume. Average time is about 2 weeks to a month. Once clean, the skull will look amazing, featuring every little boney detail in the nasal passageway! You might still want to brighten it with the bleach powder & peroxide paste described above…your call. If you’re wondering about how to hang your elk skull mount, have a look at our article on skull mount hangers.
Pros & Cons of Using Dermestid Beetles on Skull Mounts of Elk
- Amazing detail retained in the skull! By far the best for the best retention of skull detail. Easy. Cheap if you have your own. Not labor intensive.
- Can be pricey if you hire someone else to do this.
- Owning your own dermestid beetle colony comes with the risk of them escaping and eating way more than you intend. You risk them chewing up your finished mounts elsewhere if they escape, so harbor them with caution!
- As with any real euro elk skull mount, they are fragile. If you drop them, they’re probably going to break!
- This is also not a viable option for the traveling hunter that wants a euro mount but cannot bring an unfinished skull across state lines.
Using a Replica Skull Kit for Your Elk Skull Mount
In recent years, technology has improved to the point of easy to use, authentic looking, replica skull kits being available to create your own European mount without the use of the actual skull. Real skulls are scanned in 3D so these replicas could easily be mistaken for real skulls! These replica skull mount kits like the ones from Mountain Mike’s come with 2 options:
- Keep the skull plate intact and attach it to a notch in the replica skull
If you’re familiar with the Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett scoring system, buck or bull skull plates must remain intact to retain eligibility for record book status. Mountain Mike’s Record Keeper elk skull mount kit lets you do just that. You’ll cut your antlers off just behind the eyes. Skin off the hide and clean the skull plate thoroughly. Apply borax or boil it for a short while for maximum cleanliness. Let it dry. Then follow the easy instructions on the kit to attach the antlers to the replica skull. You’ll blend the transition with epoxy (provided) and paint it to match the skull (paint provided). Hang and enjoy!
- Cut the antlers off flush at the pedicle (or use shed antlers!) and connect each separately to the replica’s pedicles.
An even easier method of mounting elk antlers on a replica skull kit involves either separating the antlers at the pedicle or just using shed antlers. You’ll follow the easy instructions that come with the Skull Master replica elk skull kit to align the antler with the top plate, drill up into the antler, and attach the antlers to the top plate with the provided screws. Then you just attach the top section of the skull to the bottom section, hang and enjoy!
Pros & Cons of Using Replica European Skull Mount Kits
- Although scanned from real deer and elk skulls, replica skulls are not quite going to have all the amazing nasal detail that you might find in a beetle-cleaned euro mount.
- There is some labor involved in making a nice looking mount.
- Since pedicle angles and sizes vary, you might need to adjust the pedicle sizes and angles by sanding or grinding them to fit.
- Durability – Quality replica euro skull mounting kits for elk last forever! They are extremely durable and will not break or shatter like real skulls if dropped.
- Authentic – They are scanned from “the real thing” and look very authentic! It can be difficult to tell the difference between a real one and a Mountain Mike’s replica skull!
- Affordable! They are a more affordable option than taking it to a taxidermist.
- Versatile – Replica skull kits are versatile! You can buy them in a variety of hydro dipped patterns. You can custom paint them, and there is no worry of grease bleed!
- Easy to use – In a very short amount of time and with basic tools and instructions, you can have a great looking mount without all the smells, labor, and risks of the various real skull mount methods.
- Legal! Finally, unless you leave it with a taxidermist, it’s about your ONLY option for LEGALLY making a euro mount from a buck or bull you harvest in another state, due to CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) transportation restrictions on bringing uncleaned skulls across state lines!
In conclusion, there are several great methods for making your own European elk skull mount. Weigh the pros and cons of the above described methods and give them a try!