How to European Mount an Elk Head

By Dave P. Fisher

The taxidermy method known as the "European mount" is not a traditional form of the art. Traditional head mounts incorporate the animal's cape, returning the head to a lifelike recreation. The European mount uses only the skull and antlers. The process involves cleaning the skull of all flesh and bleaching it white. The steps for completing a European mount involve a two- to three-month process. This is a project best done outdoors or in an out building. European mounting kits, including a specialized plaque, are available from taxidermy supply shops.

Cut through the hide completely around the elk's neck at the base of the head. Remove the hide from the head, skinning it completely off with a sharp knife. Cut the head off the body at the base of the head.

Place the head with antlers up in a metal pot. Fill the pot with cold water until the head is completely submerged. Place the pot on the cooker and bring the water to a steady boil for 2 hours.

Remove the head after 2 hours and cut and scrape all the flesh off the skull. Remove the lower jaw and the tongue. Remove the eyes and open the back of the skull with a knife point and clean out the brains.

Dispose of the old water in the pot and refill it with cold water. Place the head back in the pot and bring it to a boil. Boil the head for 1 hour and then remove it and clean away the remaining flesh.

Hang the skull with the antlers on it from a rafter to dry. This will take up to a month, depending on the temperature. Test the dryness by scraping the bone with your finger nail. When no residue scratches off and the bone feels dry it is ready for the bleaching.

Set the skull in a plastic pan with the antlers up. Mix equal parts household bleach and water. Pour the bleach mixture on the skull until it is covered, the amount of liquid will depend on the size of the pan and skull.

Leave the skull in this solution for four days. At the end of this time pour off the bleach mixture as it will have lost it potency. Replace it with a fresh solution of bleach and water. Leave the skull in the fresh mix for another four days.

Remove the bleached skull after the four days and thoroughly rinse it in cold water. Place the skull in the metal pot and cover it with cold water mixed with 1 tbsp of dishwashing detergent. Bring the water to a boil and boil the skull for 15 minutes and then remove the skull and rinse it in cold water.

Hang the skull from a rafter to dry. This can take up to a month again depending on the temperature. Test for dryness by scratching the bone surface as before.

Take down the dry skull, brush and wipe off any dirt or dust. Paint the skull and antlers with two coats of clear polyurethane finish, allowing the first coat to completely dry before applying the second coat. Leave the skull to dry until the finish is completely hard.

Drill two holes through the plaque and the bottom of the skull. Screw two screws from the backside of the plaque into the holes drilled into bottom of the skull. Attach a hanger to the backside of the plaque.

About the Author

Dave P. Fisher is an internationally published and award-winning Western novelist and short-story writer. His work has appeared in several anthologies and his nonfiction articles in outdoor magazines. An avid outdoorsman, Fisher has more than 40 years of experience as a hunter, trapper, fisherman, taxidermist, professional fly-tyer, horsepacker and guide.