Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Removing Deer Antlers

For some of us acquiring deer antlers are a goal of hunting. Once you have shot your buck you have a few options on how to remove the antlers.

First decide if you are going to mount the deer antlers. If you are you need to leave the cape (skin) in tact well past the head. For the usual head mount this means keeping the skin whole, past the shoulders. Talk to your taxidermist, before you take care of your antlers and skin. (If you drop your deer off at a meat shop that processes game animals they can take care of this too.)

You need 2 tools and ideally a helper to hold the antlers and keep them from moving while you cut. The tools are: any old knife (preferably sharp) and a meat saw ( such as this one ).

If you take your deer to a meat shop cut the antlers off yourself. You'll be able to do it exactly how you want it.

One more thing to keep in mind is that it is better to do this right away it gets more difficult, and gross, the longer you wait.

You have 3 options for separating the deer antlers from the rest of the deer. The fast and traditional option, a below the ears option, and a full skull "European mount" option.

For every option, cut with the knife to the bone and then use the saw.

1. The fastest, perhaps traditional, option is to make a cut in front of and a cut behind the base of the antlers, and have them meet in the middle. As illustrated in the following picture:


This will leave you with the barest minimum skull necessary to keep the antlers together. This is not much, and I'd bet easy to break. If your buck is going to be mounted this is what the taxidermist will do. The foam that makes the deer shape has an opening to fit this cut.

2. My preferred option for antler removal is to cut below the ears, through the bottom of the eye, and out between the eyes and nose.



I like this the best because I am still left with much of the top of the skull which is more bone to keep the antlers together. I've tried and there is NO way to cut the horns off above the ears which leaves you with any amount of skull behind the horns.

The vertical line on the last picture is sometimes necessary, in order to get the brain out, and remove the back of the head meat that is difficult to remove.

Results from this cut (and my 2008 season):




3. The last option is to keep a full skull, perhaps for a European mount. To do this: cut, with a knife, all of the skin and meat off. And then the following:


Once you have the antlers and skull you want, then you need to take your knife and remove everything that is not bone.

The last step is to boil the skull, this is optional for all but the full skull option, where it is necessary to remove the last of the meat.

Professionals have flesh eating insects that can clean bones for them.

Skull boiling suggestions:
1. Have a cheap dedicated pot
2. Outside is better, on a grill perhaps?
3. Boil when your wife is not home

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