One year ago I was in hog camp with a retired PH from Africa. He had been giving me some pointers and guidance as we worked around the property for a few days. I don’t know why I asked, but I said “if we get some animals in the skinning shed, would you coach me through caping out a skull?” It was a missing skill in my personal checklist. He said he would be happy to, and a few days later a hunter gifted me with his hogs head.
I ended up caping out three heads that week, and a few months later I got a nice meat pig for myself and got a little more practice. First thing I learned, Havalon is a God send. Second thing, keep those things out of water. I had one cooler get a little too warm and unfrozen skulls have got to be one of the dangerous things I can think of from a bacteria perspective. Freeze them hard or boil them right away.
After some time I started practicing the boiling step. I found a GREAT youtube video on the subject. My mistakes were boiling the first two a little too hot, by the third skull I got it right.
Next step was the peroxide step, I ended up using V40 in the cream style from the local beauty supply. The stuff did OK on the first two, but the third one came out really good. The picture at the top was the results of that step.
What I learned about peroxide from a local professional taxidermist was two things:
- That stuff is much more dangerous than I thought. Handle and store that stuff VERY carefully.
- I should have immediately wrapped the skulls in saran wrap and set them in the sun. Instead I just coated them and let it stand for 3 days.
Since the first two boiled too hot I had all the teeth fall out. I need to fill the tusks with epoxy and glue all the teeth back in. Because they didn’t turn out nearly as white, I have an additional step to do with that using a different whitening compound.
In short I have 3 skulls that cost probably less than $20 each in materials. While that sounds like a bargain, it really isn’t when you factor all the hours and frustration involved. I think my next skull I will just send to a beetle tank and see how that turns out. If I do all the preliminary work, and the final sealing and mounting, it might be a nice way to optimize time and find a nice balance to expense.