Three Easy Steps On How To Bleach A Deer Skull

As a hunter, it is very meaningful for us to have a remembrance of our catch. After filling ourselves with its delicious meat, after storing all the best proteins we can get, we would want something that would remind us of our great hunting experience and of our great feat. One thing we enjoyed having after catching a deer is a nice white skull for a trophy.

Some hunters bring it to a taxidermist to have it cleaned for them while some find it more fulfilling to clean and bleach their own trophies. Some, on the other hand, just wanted to save money. Some hunters may have already mastered bleaching a deer skull but some may not.


Are you just new in deer hunting and wanted to experience the rewarding feeling of preparing your own trophy? Have you been paying for a taxidermist all this time and wanted to try to bleach your own deer skull for a change? Do you want to save money from paying somebody to clean your trophy for you? Let me help you with that. Here are some easy steps on how to bleach a deer skull. But before we proceed, let us first discuss some things that you need to know about bleaching a deer skull.

We understand some of you may want a quicker process and have seen kit out there on the market. Most kits out there that claim to make the process much quicker and yield similar results so they may be worth your investment. If you are interested in one of these kits we decided to list our recommendation below for your convenience. The kit below has enough material included to bleach two deer skulls. This kit will finish the bleaching process in a day.

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Three Ways of Cleaning a Deer Skull

Cold Water Maceration

In this method, you will have to soak the skull in water of approximately 90 degrees F temperature until there is no remaining flesh in the skull. If you want to help remove grease from the skull you may add 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent per gallon of water. In order to lessen the foul odor, you should occasionally change the water with a fresh one. This process may take several weeks to around two months. After soaking, you should remove all the remaining flesh and soak it again for 24 hours to get rid of the foul smell. This method does not damage or shrink the deer skull but is a very slow process.

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

Cold Water Maceration - Photo credit: missouriwhitetails.com

Hot Water Maceration

This method simply speeds up the maceration process. For this process, you will have to soak the skull in boiling water with ¼ cup sodium carbonate per gallon of water for several minutes. “Cooking” the skull softens the tissues which allows you to easily remove them. This process is fast but may cause the skull to shrink. The materials needed during the hot water maceration process are listed below.

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

Hot Water Maceration - Photo credit: wp.com

Dermestid Bugs

In this method, you will have to put the skull together with Dermestid beetles and their larvae in a container large enough to hold the skull. You should also put some water in a container to provide humidity. After this, you should just wait until the Demetrids eat all the flesh in the skull. This will take a very long time but this process allows minimum damage to the skull and teeth.For this tutorial, we will use the hot water maceration method since it is the fastest method and a bit of shrinking of the skull would not matter since we are not going to use it for scientific purposes.

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

Using Bugs - Photo credit: outdoorlife.org

Materials Needed in Bleaching a Deer Skull

Before following the steps on how to bleach a deer skull, you must first know the materials that you need to prepare. Here is the list.

1. Knife

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You will use a knife when removing and scraping flesh and tissues from your deer skull. The Gerber Moment knife above is a recommended knife to use. It is sharp, sturdy, and durable. This knife will cut through the tough material when working on the deer skull.

2. Gloves

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Like your best hunting boots which provides your feet the best protection during hunting, these materials will protect you from harm and from the unwanted mess and dirt that will be brought about by cleaning and bleaching your deer skull. These gloves offer excellent hand and personal protection. They are non-allergenic, non-irritating, and puncture resistant. Latex aprons and boots are also recommended. 

3. Metal Pot and Portable Stove

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The metal pot will be used in soaking your deer skull during the hot water maceration process. The pot should be large enough to submerge the entire deer skull. This 5 gallon stainless steel metal pot will fit most deer skulls and avoid leaving residue when the process is complete. The portable stove will be used when “cooking” your deer skull during the maceration process. Portable stoves, or a similar heat source, will be most effective to cook the skull. The Coleman Powerpack Portable Propane Stove is small enough to fit on a 12 inch pan, but powerful enough to deliver constant heat in outdoor conditions. 16 ounce propane cylinders can deliver up to 3 hours on this stove.

4. Tongs

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During the hot water maceration process, you will occasionally remove flesh and tissues from your deer skull. You will need tongs to lift the skull out of the water for cleaning. Depending on the size of the skull, multiple tongs may be needed to lift the skull out of the water. These are stainless steel tongs, and provide the necessary non slip grip needed to lift the skull out of the pot.

5. Sodium Carbonate

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This will be added in the water during hot water maceration to help loosen the flesh and tissues so that you will be able to remove them easier. Removing the flesh and tissues on the skull will be a lot easier and quicker when adding sodium carbonate. Add 1/4 cup to each  gallon of water used. The skull should soak in the boiling water for 30-45 minutes before removing the flesh and tissues.

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

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You will use this material in whitening (bleaching) your skull. The skull will be soaked in the hydrogen peroxide once removed from the water. Enough hydrogen peroxide should be used to immerse the entire skull.

7. Large Plastic Container

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This material should be large enough to immerse your deer skull since it will be used in soaking the skull in hydrogen peroxide solution for bleaching. This plastic container is large enough to fill 12 gallons. The will soak in the bin and hydrogen peroxide depending on how white you want your skull to be.

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

Step 1. Remove as much Meat and Flesh as you Can from the Skull

After you have separated the head from the body and the skull has been skinned out, using a knife, you should remove as much meat as you can from the skull while being careful not to damage or scrape the bones. Remove the tongue and the lower jaw tissue. Also, try removing most of the brain tissues as well as the eye balls. Removing as much flesh as you can will save you some time in the maceration process.

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

Remove as much Meat and Flesh as you Can from the Skull - Photo credit: thehuntinglife.com

Step 2. “Cook” the Deer Skull in Water with Sodium Carbonate

This process allows you to remove the remaining flesh and tissues stuck in the skull. Since this step includes a few sub steps, here is the list:

How to Bleach a Deer Skull

“Cook” the Deer Skull in Water with Sodium Carbonate - Photo credit: i2.wp.com

  • Bring the water solution to a boil.
  • Simmer and submerge the deer skull into the water and let it boil until the flesh softens.
  • Using the tongs, lift the skull out of the water and carefully scrape off the remaining flesh and tissues. Since they are softened by cooking and loosened by the sodium carbonate, it is easier to scrape them off.
  • Repeat this process until all tissues are removed. Just make sure that you don’t cook it too long that it damages the skull and dissolve the bone tissues.
  • For a cleaner finish, you can use a hose to flush out the brain and nasal tissues that may still be stuck inside the skull.
  • Step 3. Whiten the Deer Skull Using Hydrogen Peroxide

    How to Bleach a Deer Skull

    Whiten the Deer Skull Using Hydrogen Peroxide - Photo credit: primitivearcher.com

    In bleaching a deer skull, chlorine is not used since it has the tendency to seep through the bones and damage it. It also causes white powders to form which turns yellow over time which we do not want in our trophy. Thus, we use hydrogen peroxide. This chemical whitens the skull well without damaging the bone tissues. Here are the steps on how to bleach a deer skull:

  • Air dry the skull until it is entirely dried out.
  • Mix 12% hydrogen peroxide and water in a 1:1 ratio in a plastic container large enough to accommodate the deer skull. You can use lower concentration depending on your preference.
  • Soak the deer skull into the hydrogen peroxide solution making sure that the skull is completely soaked but the antlers are not. We want our antlers to retain their natural color.
  • Leave the skull soaked until you reach your desired level of whiteness. Just make sure to check it regularly so as not to damage your skull from over-soaking.
  • After putting out the skull in the solution, rinse it with water and let it dry completely.
  • When completely dried, apply clear lacquer to coat your skull. This will protect the skull from molds and other damaging factors and also prevents your skull from yellowing through time.
  • Conclusion

    Bleaching a deer skull on your own can be a tedious task but it is possible as long as you are determined to do so. It not only allows you to save money but it also gives you a feeling of fulfillment when you finished the task. As hunters, we enjoy taking and cleaning trophies. We may not do the job on our own every time we have a catch but we can do it from time to time especially when it comes to our greatest feats. That is why it is good to have knowledge on how to bleach a deer skull. I hope this article helped you!

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    Sheldon Martin

    Sheldon Martin is the founder of Captain Hunter. CaptainHunter.com is a site dedicated to the sport of hunting. We have a deep respect for nature and for the environment, and we therefore take the sport of hunting very seriously. Never think that you are alone in the woods again. Our goal is to share what we know with who needs it most.

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