A week or so ago, a local hunter contacted me via my Yelp page (speaking of which, why don’t you stop over there and leave some feedback about my services, guys and gals? I’d really appreciate it) in search of some professional help with a European deer skull mount he was just about finished working on when the antlers plumb dropped off. Apparently , the buck was just coming out of rut when he harvested it, and somewhere in the skull cleaning process the antlers decided to fly the coop.
Full disclosure: I am not certain that I am using the term “rut” correctly; conversations with hunters and the internet tell me it refers to the period of time when a buck is on the prowl; he beefs up (this much I know from seeing the thick mountains of line-backer neck muscle on trophy mounts caught mid-rut) and makes a lot of noise and fights and all the carnal things that go along with finding a mate. I think the word rut can also refer to when their antlers fall out, which happens every year around late Autumn to early Winter, depending on climate and location. If I am speaking out of term, please let me know in the comments section. Perhaps, I could incorporate some posts from guest bloggers, as I’ve always been interested in hunting but remain outrageously uninformed. Rest assured, potential clients, my ignorance should inspire confidence in my work! It serves you well to hire a taxidermist who doesn’t spend all her time in a tree stand when she should be working on your trophy mount.
All that said, here is the almost European mount, in three pieces. The orange you see at the root of one antler is glue residue from a prior attempt to re-attach them, which proved unsuccessful.
Skulls are so beautiful. Treat yourself and take a moment to marvel at how amazing this feature of our anatomy is.
The bottom of the antler. The english-muffin-like texture of the break points makes sense; it facilitates the release of the horns instead of them just falling out with roots like some bloody teeth.
I drilled holes at all four connection point and inserted a steel bracing rod into each of the two on the skull. After securing with epoxy, I shimmied the antlers onto the bracing rods, forming a perfect union.
It took some measuring and finesse to ensure that the antlers would “land” in the correct placement in relation to the skull, on top of that, I made pencil notches along the outside which would line up when everything was in place.
Now that the mount was back in one pice, I had to address the rough transition point between horn and skull.
I used some top secret taxidermist sculpting clay to create a transition surface and blended it all together. While it dried I applied texture to match the natural surface of that particular part of the skull.
After it was set and dried, I painted the clay to further blend it all together. Here is the finished product. Unfortunately the fuller picture I took came out blurry but this gives you an idea. And the customer was satisfied which is all that matters in my book.
Happy hunting (what’s left of it)!