The ultimate connection with those resources that provide us so much stimuli, excitement, spirit and food, can be taken to the topmost level, by handling and creating our own memorable trophies. Like the original hunters, those native people’s very lives being determined by their killing skills, we hold prey in high reverence. The drawings on cavewalls prove that these hunters, like today’s counterparts, had great respect for the cunning, bravery, beauty and life sustaining qualities of these precious wildlife resources, and the challenging contest each hunt provided. Remember, in those prehistoric days of survival, caveman hunters did not have any leisure time, so the demanding endeavor of producing paints, stains and colors must have been extremely time consuming. To put forth this much effort beyond the daily demands of survival must have come from a deep and abiding love for the animals they hunted, killed, ate and then still took time to draw and paint. Modern taxidermy art is a natural progression manifesting this respect. I’m no professional taxidermist, but I get great inspiration and satisfaction from the SkullDuggery skull painting I have been doing for the last few years. Each stroke of color and creativity brings a return to the fascinating encounter that each animal gave me. And if I can do it, anybody can.
The first thing I do is be sure to cut the entire head off the animal that I wish to bleach and/or paint just below the head at the top of the neck. Be aware that most butchers will saw the skullplate off at the base of the antlers, thus eliminating the major skull section that we desire. Be sure to tell them not to! Since I butcher most of my own deer and big game, I take special pride in the personal handling of all the precious by-products of my kills.
I cut the head off and begin the meticulous task of skinning and fleshing the entire skull down to the minimal meat and bare bone. I will actually scrape the remaining flesh from the skullbone with the edge of my knife blade, but stopping short of taking off any actual skull material.
At this point, I boil a pot of water that the skull will fit into with the water level just below the base of the antler itself. I watch the bubbling water boiling to be certain the bubbles do not come into contact with the antler base. This boiling should last no more than one hour max, or the fragile skull bone could deteriorate quickly.
I let this cleaned skull air dry for a couple of hours, then spray the skull with a 40% hydrogen peroxide solution, completely drenching the skull, saturating the nooks, crannies and crevices to get thorough coverage. I take an old toothbrush and work the solution into every nook and cranny, every tiny depression and wrinkle. This again I air dry for an hour or so. Thorough examination of the teeth, eye sockets, joints and indentations is important, as any uncleaned flesh or debris could result in some stinking and rotting later on.
Though the bleached skulls of game animals are extremely handsome as is, it is at this stage that I hold the skull up to daylight, contemplating the colors and patterns that I envision for this particular animal. By recalling the encounter that brought us together, and the moving dynamic that culminates with the killing of another living thing, I can vividly relive the setting, wind direction, attitude and spirit that was uniquely ours, as the moment of truth unfolded between us. This dramatic participation that is the pureness of predator and prey relationship, is deeply stirring, and I am convinced that taking it to this final stage intensifies the hunting lifestyle to its ultimate completion. The excitement of each wildlife encounter, the challenge of getting the shot, right on through the natural use for feeding and clothing our families, is all very gratifying. But now, with the beast as an actual part of our being, we hold the memory in tangible, graphic vitality, right in our own hands, and offer up the ultimate prayer for the wildthings by exercising our creativity in the strokes of our paintbrush and fingers. The mind’s eye comes to life at the tips of our fingers, and the beast lives again.
Any good hobby store can recommend the proper paint for skull material. A wide assortment of colors is available to allow for unlimited combinations and variations. Let your freak flag fly high and wild. I sometimes use paintbrushes, but mostly I paint with my fingertips, sometimes gently, and sometimes aggressively, flowing the spirits of nature into patterns and colors of my own imagination. It is highly personal, and you will get a gargantuan charge out of this experience. I do, and I know we are BloodBrothers connected by that same spirit of the wild. Hunt on. Kill on. Eat on. Paint on. Live on.
The Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids is your chance to give the love of bowhunting and archery to a child… a love that will start with their first bullseye and never end..
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