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Old stinking skull remedy

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by LeadHead, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. LeadHead

    LeadHead New Member

    Over the years I've collected quite a few deer heads from many hunting seasons, and due to the lack of funds at those times never got them mounted. Not very long ago I decided that some of them were way too nice to just let hang in the barn and thus determined to do some European mounts after doing a lot of reading on the subject. Unfortunately, due to laziness at the time of harvest, some of these heads were simply hacked off below the skull and hung up in the barn to dry, and as you can imagine they have not been pleasant to work with.
    I have now simmered (with washing soda), pressure washed and whitened about 10 of them since January. As you can imagine, some of them (up to 12-14 years old) are hardly scent free even after this process. In fact, about an hour ago I received a text from my wife asking if she could put the latest two (still coated with the H2O2/basic white mixture) out on the porch because they were stinking pretty badly. Both of these still had the hide attached before I performed the simmering process this last Saturday, one being 5 years old and the other being 11 years old. Some of the previous skulls also have a little bit of the same problem but it's usually only detectable when getting really close and intentionally taking a whiff.
    So, what would be my best option to get these as scent free as possible? I'm not a taxidermist but tend to be willing to try new things after doing the research. At this point I have not used any sealer on any of the skulls, so there's no finish that needs to be removed.
    Thanks in advance.

    P.S. Yes, future heads will be skinned and frozen soon after harvest. Lesson learned.
  2. Skullart01

    Skullart01 New Member

    In my opinion, ammonia or aceton bath is the best you can do against the smell of your skulls!

    chears from Belgium and good luck!

  3. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    What is stinking is rotted grease that has soaked into the bone and petrified there as well as bits and pieces of boiled rot that is stuck inside. As above, about the only thing you can do is give them a very long soak (2 months maybe more) in ammonia to try and remove some of the grease. A better method would be to soak them in a heated water bath that has Dawn dish detergent added to it but the water needs to be heated to 115 degrees for the same 2 months or more. Whitening the outside won't get rid of any smell. What you can try is get enough peroxide to completely submerge the skulls and let them each sit in that for several days. The peroxide will get inside the bone cavities and will do a lot to eat away trapped bits of rot. You will have to touch up the antlers but you can try that first if you can not do the heated soaks.

    For the other heads you have, do NOT boil them with soda. Take a bucket full of warm water, submerge the head in it and let it soak for several days. Use gloves and remove what you can once it is softened. Get a fish tank heater and turn it up all the way and keep it in the container with the head and let it sit for at least a week. Because they are dried out, it might take two or three weeks but let it finish rotting. Don't add anything to the water. Let them sit and rot. The water should be at least 80 degrees to just over 90 24/7. The bacteria generated will also do some good in eating away trapped fat. Once the flesh is finished rotting off the bone, try a long soak in ammonia and water or the Dawn detergent mix. When they look really clean you can then peroxide them. The end result will be a lot kinder to your wife.
  4. LeadHead

    LeadHead New Member

    Thank you for the helpful advice, guys, this is a great web site!
    Just wondering, though, if I use the H2O2 soak method (I've been using 40 volume) how long does it last before it breaks down to plain water? I don't think that I have a suitable fully sealed container of the proper size to be able to keep it air tight. If I use something like a Rubbermaid container which I could duct-tape shut it would take a LOT of H2O2 (or ammonia or acetone) for the job. I wish someone would invent a special skull-shaped container that would allow the antlers to protrude while keeping it air tight and as compact as possible to reduce the amount of chemicals needed!
    Also, what ratio of Dawn detergent to water is ideal if using that method?
    To satisfy my curiosity, why do you say not to boil (I didn't boil, technically, I simmered them) with washing soda? Is that best only for freshly skinned skulls? Not questioning your knowledge, but inquiring minds like to know.
    One other related question... After all these years the natural staining of the antlers has faded and/or lost the proper color tone. Is it best to pressure wash them clean and then use potassium permanganate to completely restain them, or would it be better to leave the remnants of the original natural staining and try to enhance it back to what the original coloration was? Several look quite dull and have lost the rich brown tones, rather fading to a lifeless black-brown. I'm a little nervous about attempting such a staining job on antlers for the first time and don't want to screw anything up. Each one of these heads represents special memories.
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Use the "Advanced Search" on here. Select just the "Skulls and Skeletons" category. There is a lot of info on using potassium permanganate and how people do it. Try searching for "Antler Restoration" or something similar. There are other ways to color as well and some of the posts have pictures too.

    I use either 40 vol or the stronger pool grade of H2O2. I keep it in a 5 gallon bucket. Most heads I work with will fit into a bucket. If antlers get into the way, I use white rags or paper towels to wick the peroxide up and over the top. I have also used plastic storage boxes and custom fit boxes made from heavy cardboard/duct tape or thin plywood and lined with sheet rubber. You do not want the peroxide container completely sealed. The lid for the 5 gallon bucket I use has a small hole in the top to allow gas pressure to let off. Keep the bucket in a dark area as light will speed the breakdown. Peroxide I have like this lasts many months. It will depend a lot on how many skulls you run through it and how clean they are when they go in. If there is a lot of foaming from a skull, it indicates there is a lot of stuff still there for the peroxide to work on. I also keep acetone in a 5 gallon bucket but using it for antlered heads is a problem because there is no way to seal the bucket to prevent evaporation. As for boiling, there is a fine line between actual cleaning and damaging the bone. With dried out heads like yours, they have sat for a long time and allowed the fats in the tissue to soak into the bone as well as convert into a wax which doesn't readily wash away. Allowing the tissue to finish rotting will allow bacteria to reach all the areas where this stuff is trapped and help to break it down. Once you cook it, even with soda, any bits trapped inside the inner cavities of the skull will be pretty much stuck there. With a fresh skull, the bits can dry like a jerky and not have any real odor though they will still hold grease and attract bugs. With rotted flesh, what you have stuck is rotted flesh and it's still going to smell. Out of curiosity, when you hung these heads .. did you remove the brains first or did they sit there all this time with the brains in there too?
  6. LeadHead

    LeadHead New Member

    Thanks for the clarification. I've done quite a bit of searching and reading but it seems that typically folks don't address the situation that I have created by letting them sit for so long. Yes, they were hung up with brains intact, because obviously mine were not. :mad: