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DIY Tips For Tanning Skins & Making Mounts

Now, more than ever, everyone is into DIY projects. You get the satisfaction of knowing you completed the task, as well as the visual or practical appreciation of the results. Hunters get into the act, too, field dressing and processing their animals.

Why not take it full circle and tan the hide and make your own classy European mount?

Sure, you might want to entrust the trophy whitetail deer buck of a lifetime with a professional taxidermist, but there’s always room in the man cave to showcase your own work. Here’s how to do both.

Step #1: Fleshing

Fleshing is the task of removing all flesh from the skin side of the hide. It can be a tedious process if you want to go full-blown pioneer man. There’s also another option, though. A pressure washer—at least 1800 PSI—is a fast and effective method for fleshing a hide.

Tack the hide over a large barrel or hang it on an exterior wall or sheet of plywood. First, test the pressure on a corner of the hide, making sure it won’t tear apart. Apply a steady stream of water across the hide, being careful not to hold the nozzle in one spot. The hide should be clean and white when you are finished. Use a sharp knife to remove any excess flesh.

Step #2: Salting

Spread the skin across a flat surface, fur side down. Completely cover the fleshy surface with salt (not rock salt). Leave overnight. The next day, soak the skin in clean water for up to two hours, or until the skin is soft.

Step #3: Pickling

This process helps prepare the skin for tanning and sets the hair. This process also neutralizes the skin. In a plastic tub, make a pickle bath using equal parts of water and distilled white vinegar plus two pounds of salt per gallon of solution. Immerse the skin for up to three days, stirring several times a day. Then soak the skin in solution made from four gallons of water mixed with two cups of baking soda for up to 40 minutes. Rinse in clean water and towel dry.

Step #4: Oiling

Oil the skin to prevent cracking and drying out. Use a tanning oil solution and evenly coat the flesh side. Fold in half and drape across a table or sawhorse with the fur side facing out. Allow it to sit overnight.

Step #5: Final Step

Hang the skin until nearly dry. Place the skin on a table edge, working it back and forth until pliable. The more you work it, the softer it becomes.

Shopping List

Leave room for the other essentials of your choice and you are set.

  1. Pressure washer [rent if you don’t own]
  2. Salt
  3. Distilled white vinegar
  4. Baking soda
  5. Tanning oil solution

Antler Mount

If your buck is not big enough for a shoulder mount, consider this easy DIY antler mount project.

Step #1: Remove antlers

Using the hacksaw, make a horizontal cut across the top of the skull, leaving enough space between both sides of the head for mounting to the plaque.

Step #2: Dry the skull

Clean the flesh from the skull using the Borax.

Step #3: Prepare the skull plate

Use a wire brush (or a bench grinder) to clean up and smooth out the skull to a flat surface. Use a handheld wire brush to clean the small uneven crevices of the skull.

Step #4: Prepare the skull for the plaque

Secure the skull to the plaque using three drywall screws. Using a leather or substitute cover, fit it over the skull and tack to plaque using brass tacks. Secure the hanging tab to the back.

Step #5: Mount the skull

Drill several holes across the front of the skull, and just below the antlers. Drill one hole in the center at the top and two more below it on either side.

Try this alternative if you want to mount a record book set of antlers. Mountain Mike’s Reproductions Bone Collector Record Keeper Kit This easy-to-use kit includes all hardware, epoxy and touch-up paint needed for a great do-it-yourself record keeper kit: https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/mountain-mikes-reproductionsbone-collector-record-keeper-kit

What you need for the DIY project

  1. Borax
  2. Laundry bleach
  3. Drill with bits
  4. Wire Brushes
  5. Blue gun and glue
  6. Scissors
  7. Drywall screws
  8. Hammer
  9. Hack saw
  10. Mounting plaque
  11. Mounting kit parts

European Skull Mount

If you want a full shoulder mount, leave the job to a taxidermist. If a classy looking European mount is the objective, go DIY with this project.

Step #1: Clean the skull

Rig up a propane burner, the likes of which you use for frying the Thanksgiving turkey. Use a stainless-steel pot large enough to submerge the skull. Fill with enough water to submerge the skull to the base of the antlers. Add a squirt or two of dishwasher soap. Bring the heat to a simmer—not a hard boil—and each hour remove the skull and scrape away any meat or flesh. Replace the water if necessary.

Step #2 Wash the skull

Use a power washer to wash away any remaining meat and to work inside crevices. Wire the skull to a fence or board and use low pressure—skulls are fragile. Give the skull a degreasing bath in dishwash detergent.

Step #3: Bleaching

Give the skull an appealing white finish using hair salon products labeled “basic white.” Mix with a 40 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide. Apply to the skull using a paint brush. Wrap the skull in clear plastic wrap so the solution soaks into the skull. The next day, remove the residue with a brush.

Here is a kit alternative if you are less inclined to go the DIY route. Mountain Mike’s Reproductions Skull Master Antler Kit Boiling and bleaching is unnecessary, and this kit has everything needed, including hardware, to make a European mount worthy of the man cave. Simply detach your antlers flush at the pedicles or use shed antlers. Connect them to the appropriate size top section. Then connect the bottom portion of the skull to the top, hang and that’s it. https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/mountain-mikes-reproductions-skull-master-antler-kit

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