How To Clean A Deer Skull Found In The Woods

How To Clean A Deer Skull

Having a rack of antlers on the wall is a “Guy Thing” usually

But, you don’t have to be a hunter these days to get a trophy worthy set of antlers or the partial skull of a deer to adorn your mantel or wall in the den. All you have to wander the woods and fields in your locale and sooner or later you’ll hit pay dirt. However, now comes the tricky part. How do you clean the skull and make it safe to put on a plaque or another mount?

That is what we are here to discuss today. You might be surprised at some of the solutions we have come up with.

Deer SkullWhen we are done, you will have a variety of methods to get the head mount ready and clean to be shown on your wall. We have a link to a video that shows the whole process.

But, we have some special case concerns, and in the following sections, we will cover them. So, let’s start with some basic questions you need to answer upfront, as it will decide which of the additional methods we are going to use.

In all cases, never touch the skull with your bare hands, as there is an AIDS-like disease hitting the deer population, especially in the Northern Middle States and in the Northwestern states as well.

How To Clean A Deer Skull Found In The Woods

Do You Live In An Arid Or Desert Part Of The Country?

This is by far the best way to find a deer skull. Because the dry air and if you are living in places like Nevada there is blowing sand that will strip the flesh of the skull. The dry air rids the skull of moisture and renders it relatively clean. You have to decide if there is any brain matter left inside the skull.

The Way To Clean A Deer SkullYou need to clean that out first. The easiest way is to enlist the aid of the nearest ant colony. They will take care of the hard work of cleaning out anything inside the skull cavity. If you are only interested in the antlers, you can remove the top of the skull and discard the rest.

You then only have to soak the skull (Or portion thereof) in bleach for a day or so, remembering not to let the antlers become submerged. After the bleaching process, you can then soak it in a lye soap mixture to clean it up some more.

The Western States are havens for rodents, and the Hanta Virus needs to be addressed, as mice will gnaw on anything edible they find on the ground. Rabies is also a possibility as well. However, boiling for 30 minutes will avoid any problems.

Do you live in an area where Deer Hemorrhagic Fever has been known to occur?

In this case, you want to be extra careful and ensure you take precautions to clean and sterilize the skull. Again, wear gloves, a face shield, and scrubs if you can get them. Though there are no known cases of the disease jumping species, you do not want to take chances. You then should enlist the help of your neighborly ant colony to remove any debris.

If there is a university nearby with a large biology department, they may have the facilities to do the work for you as they often keep carrion beetles that can do a bang-up job for you as well. If there is, a medical school nearby, they too have the facilities to do the job and if you ask nicely they will do it free.

Here again, whichever way you go. You will want to bleach the skull and use lye soap as well.

Is there Skin or Flesh adhering to the skull?

We have covered this in both questions 1 & 2 already. However, if the insect approach is not feasible boiling and the use of scrapers and a stiff piece of copper wire can help remove any flesh and skin along with the remaining brain matter inside the skull.

Lye soap, bleach, and soaking the skull a hydrogen peroxide solution will cover all the bases. Here is a checklist of everything you need to do in addition to what we have already mentioned.


Clean The Deer SkullIf you feel that, this is a lot of work, poses a health risk to you, and your family, some alternatives work, just as well or better. The first one that comes to mind is the use of the local taxidermist. If there is none in your area, you can find one on the web or your 411-directory assistance.

Contact them, and they will quote you a price and tell you what precautions to take in shipping. In some instances, you may not be able to ship an animal skull. So, check with the local authorities before doing so, as packages are often scanned and checked these days after 911.

You do not want people in Kevlar knocking on your door in the wee hours in the morning over a deer skull or a pair of antlers.

You can order a deer head via the Internet if you wish. Many medical supply houses have a complete line of animal skulls. Your local hobby mega-center like the one at the Louis Joliet Mall has replica skulls that you cannot tell from the real thing without resorting to a magnifying glass.

The latest way to get you a replica deer skull is to do it freehand with a 3D pen or use a 3D printer that can run you off one in a short time and then all you have to do is mount it on a wooden plaque. The advantage here is you get any color scheme or effect you want.

Final Thoughts

You need to be careful today with diseases that are killing deer these days, which is why in today’s article we have added additional precautions over the methods recommended in the videos and articles we have cited in this piece.

We feel it is better to err on the side of safety than to just wing it as used to be safe only a few years ago. That is why we added some alternatives. As lately, it has been made known that fruit bat guano in the West found in some of the old mines and caves can infect and kill people even 20 or 30 years lying dormant in these forgotten places.

Places where people have started exploring and bringing home souvenirs from, here you can find skulls of animals that have perished and died within with deer and elk among them.

However, if you take proper precautions, you can have a souvenir that you can be proud to hang in your den or living room.