by Mark Kayser - Thursday, November 9, 2017
With more than two decades of boiling skulls in my rearview I know the amount of sweat, stench and time that goes into a European mount. Some taxidermists utilize laborsaving dermestid beetles. Unfortunately, they are a year-round responsibility and high maintenance for the DIY hunter with a couple of skulls to clean annually. Plus, if they escape, look out. They’ll destroy anything carbon-based including leather furniture and mounted heads. On the other hand, a pressure washer can zip a skull clean in minutes.
Pressure washers that exert 3,000 psi or more clean skulls the most efficiently. My Mi-T-M pressure washer blasts at 3,500 psi for clean results. To boost pressure effectiveness outfit your wand with a rotating nozzle. It slices meat away with its gyrating power, effectively reducing the time of the process. With most species you can operate at full power. For thinner-skulled pronghorns, back off or use a standard nozzle. Too much pressure can break through the fragile skull.
Fresh skulls work best. I clean mine the next day if possible. Dried meat makes the job more difficult. Before starting remove hide, hair, eyeballs and the lower jaw. Cover the base of the antlers or horns with plastic wrap and duct tape to ensure the natural color stays intact. The water pressure will move the skull around so secure it to a fence or other solid object you don’t mind blasting. I lodge the antlers into a shipping pallet and rotate as needed during the wash.
Don old rain gear, goggles and latex gloves. Now get to work. Direct the nozzle at the skull and move it back and forth to loosen the meat until it’s gone. To remove the brain, press the nozzle to the hole in the back of the skull where the spinal cord connects. Turn away and spray. Fresh brain matter will disperse in seconds.
After the wash, inspect the skull, brain cavity and nasal passages for any stubborn meat fragments. When the skull dries, you can either commence to hanging or take one more step toward elegance. For a blinding-white look use a whitening kit available through taxidermy outlets such as Van Dyke’s Taxidermy Supply. Just don’t show your friends the results, or they’ll be dropping off their skulls by the droves.
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