DIY tro­phy prepa­ra­tion

Sporting Shooter - - Ask The Experts -

QAfter nu­mer­ous at­tempts, I have fi­nally man­aged to shoot my first fal­low buck. I have al­ways sent my tro­phies to be pre­pared by a taxi­der­mist but I would like to take the plunge and pre­pare this one my­self. A friend has rec­om­mended that I leave it hung in the woods for it to de­cay nat­u­rally, but I am re­luc­tant to do so; surely there is a quicker, more con­ve­nient way?

ATHE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: Send­ing your tro­phy to a pro­fes­sional taxi­der­mist will un­doubt­edly give you ex­cel­lent re­sults.

How­ever, if you de­cide to pre­pare the skull your­self, it is es­sen­tial you plan ac­cord­ingly and, most im­por­tant of all, al­low your­self plenty of time to get it done – it can take longer than you would ex­pect!

Leav­ing the head to rot nat­u­rally is a fairly lengthy and smelly af­fair which still re­quires a de­gree of clean­ing to get sat­is­fac­tory re­sults. The pre­ferred method is boil­ing, which is a more ef­fi­cient process and ac­tu­ally gives you bet­ter qual­ity fi­nal prod­ucts. Boil­ing time is de­pen­dent on the an­i­mal’s age and species and can vary from 15 to 45 min­utes – you would cer­tainly be look­ing to­ward the lat­ter with a ma­ture fal­low buck.

Af­ter boil­ing, sub­merge the skull in cold wa­ter to pre­vent the heat dam­ag­ing the bone. Once cooled, you need to re­move all of the cooked flesh; this can be scraped off with a blunt knife, or blasted off with a pres­sure washer, but be care­ful not to get too close with it or you may dam­age the bone.

Af­ter all the meat and sinew has been taken off, wrap your skull in kitchen towel or cot­ton wool, and gen­tly pour over hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide un­til the ab­sorbent ma­te­rial is sat­u­rated. Some peo­ple pre­fer to use a high per­cent­age per­ox­ide and leave the skull soak­ing for two to three hours; but a mild so­lu­tion, such as 9%, left overnight al­lows the per­ox­ide to pen­e­trate deeper and can give a much whiter fin­ish to the skull. Fi­nally, re­move the kitchen towel and wash the per­ox­ide off the skull and leave to dry nat­u­rally, ideally in di­rect sun­light for best re­sults.

There is a lot of ef­fort in­volved in pre­par­ing a skull your­self, but once com­pleted, you will have a tro­phy to be proud of.

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