Preparing your own trophy

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I’d like to prepare my own trophy, do I leave it to rot naturally, or is there a quicker way? Sparsholt replies...

Q After numerous attempts, I have finally managed to shoot my first fallow buck. I have always sent my trophies to be prepared by a taxidermist but I would like to take the plunge and prepare this one myself. A friend has recommended that I leave it hung in the woods for it to decay naturally, but I am reluctant to do so; surely there is a quicker, more convenient way?

THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: Sending your trophy to a professional taxidermist will undoubtedly give you excellent results.

However, if you decide to prepare the skull yourself, it is essential you plan accordingly and, most important of all, allow yourself plenty of time to get it done – it can take longer than you would expect!

Leaving the head to rot naturally is a fairly lengthy and smelly affair which still requires a degree of cleaning to get satisfactory results. The preferred method is boiling, which is a more efficient process and actually gives you better quality final products. Boiling time is dependent on the animal’s age and species and can vary from 15 to 45 minutes – you would certainly be looking toward the latter with a mature fallow buck.

After boiling, submerge the skull in cold water to prevent the heat damaging the bone. Once cooled, you need to remove all of the cooked flesh; this can be scraped off with a blunt knife, or blasted off with a pressure washer, but be careful not to get too close with it or you may damage the bone.

After all the meat and sinew has been taken off, wrap your skull in kitchen towel or cotton wool, and gently pour over hydrogen peroxide until the absorbent material is saturated. Some people prefer to use a high percentage peroxide and leave the skull soaking for two to three hours; but a mild solution, such as 9%, left overnight allows the peroxide to penetrate deeper and can give a much whiter finish to the skull. Finally, remove the kitchen towel and wash the peroxide off the skull and leave to dry naturally, ideally in direct sunlight for best results.

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There is a lot of effort involved in preparing a skull yourself, but once completed, you will have a trophy to be proud of