Traditions Never Die
European mounts are an inexpensive way to preserve your trophy. The term ‘European mount’ was popularized in Europe as the name infers. Before modern taxidermy it was difficult to preserve an animal with its own skin. Groups of hunters would return from the hunt, clean tissue and muscle from the skull then leave it outside to bleach by Mother Nature.
European mounts are still one of the most popular way of displaying trophies. It’s a tradition that persists through time – although the methodology has changed some. Euro’s are classy, timeless, stylish, clean, and affordable when done right. Today two primary methods exist to get your skull cleaned up and ready for display. Those methods are 1) beetles and 2) boiling. Both methods have pros and cons. Read below to find out the pros and cons and to help you make an informed decision.
Dermestid, or flesh-eating beetles, have been around as long as animals have been on earth. Several genera and species occur in nature and in taxidermy shops. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, then this method is most likely not for you. Maintaining a beetle colony is a lot of work and cost money, it’s not a one-time deal. If you’re serious about beetles and committed long term then it’s possible to start a colony for yourself and clients. For the DIY guy though, it’s not probable.
There isn’t a beetle colony for cleaning flesh on every corner, or even in every town. Having a taxidermist that cleans skulls and does Euro’s using beetles may or may not be close to where you live. When deciding on beetles or boiling, distance to someone that can do the work may factor into your decision. Many taxidermist take work on by having clients mail their trophies to them. It will add a little more cost and a little work packaging it up, but it’s possible.
As stated above, doing your Euro mount DIY with beetles isn’t really feasible. The equipment needed to have and maintain a flesh-eating beetle colony is highly specialized and not something you have laying around your house or even at the local hardware store. Along with the beetles themselves, you will need a space (not in your house) and a constant supply of flesh to eat.
One of the many reasons hunters choose to have their trophy Euro mount done with beetles is because of those fragile bones in the nose and around the eyes. Beetles won’t cause bone to become brittle or break like boiling can do. Beetles will maintain the fine paper-thin network of nasal bone and small bones around the eyes that hand cleaning and boiling cannot do. Take a look into the nose cavity of a boiled versus beetle cleaned skull and the difference in bone structure present may be drastically different.
If you were to put beetles to work and a taxidermist to work using the boil method the taxidermist might win. Beetles will take a little time to thoroughly remove all the flesh. Time will depend on the size of skull and how much flesh was removed by the hunter too. Beetles may take a couple days up to a couple of weeks for something really big. When you get your skull back from the taxidermist cleaned, degreased, and white will depend on how busy your taxidermist is.
Cost will depend on the species of skull and regional pricing. What we’ve seen is if you pay a taxidermist, the beetle method can cost anywhere from similar to 30% more then having someone boil Euro it.
This is where the boil method shines. Almost anyone can do it given some good instructions, time, and minimal equipment.
Almost anyone has access to a taxidermist locally if they want to pay a professional and access to equipment locally for purchase if they want to do it DIY.
Equipment for your own boil Euro mount is something almost anyone can get without going far or having a hard time finding it. You will need a large burner, large dedicated pot, scraping tools and knives, hydrogen peroxide paste, rubber gloves, and some room outside or in your garage to do the work.
Some people use a pressure washer to get meat off the skull. Particular caution needs to be taken with a pressure washer so not to break some of the more brittle and fine bones.
The boiling method gets a bad rap, justly and unjustly, for compromising bone strength and integrity. If you over cook the skull the bones will get brittle, especially the smaller ones. Boiling also means you’re going to be doing a lot of hand cleaning and people often break some of those paper-thin nasal bones during the cleaning process. This where things can go wrong if you get overly aggressive.
Cost for the boil method can be broken down into two categories – DIY and professional.
The DIY person will have some initial cost for equipment like burner, pot, propane, whitening agent, knives, scrapers, and miscellaneous items. This can cost anywhere from $75 to $225 depending on your frugalness and aptitude for finding good deals, new and used. The cost per DIY skull after the initial purchases can be anywhere from $25-$60. Compare that to $125-$225+ if you pay a taxidermist for a Euro mount.
The final decision you need to make is how to display your trophy. Easiest way is a nail in the wall. In our opinion, the positioning by laying it flat on the wall looks goofy and unnatural and really doesn’t show that skull, and antlers, off like it should. Same goes with putting it on a wooden plaque as others often do as well. We suggest getting a Skull Hooker. These mounting systems give your mount a modern adjustable and anatomically correct look.