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How I cleaned up my fallow deer skull


I finished cleaning up my fantastic fallow deer skull about a month ago but I've had tons to write about here so this is the first time I've written about it.

The fallow deer head was given to me as a present by a gamekeeper. We don't have fallow deer near my village but he shot it at his last job.

Gamekeepers clean up skulls by cutting off some of the flesh and boiling the head so the flesh falls off. Gamekeepers need to clean up skulls quickly because people who pay to shoot deer sometimes want the skull to take away the next day. I thought cleaning up the skull that was a bit gross and mum said no and none of her pots were big enough anyway.

The way I cleaned up the head was by burying it in a quiet bit of a wood near my house. Dad and I buried it on about the 22nd June and dug it up on the 17th August, two months later. This is what it looked like when we went back to it.

It looks like an animal like a fox tried to dig it up. But we could see the top of the head was just bone so it looked as if it was rotted down. When we took it out it looked pretty disgusting. So we washed it in a river that was nearby to see what it was like

It still had some flesh on it, but we thought it was probably alright. I didn't want to leave it too long in the ground because sometimes the bone can go brown and is difficult to clean afterwards. This is how I took it back home.

But when we got home we realised we should have left it in the ground a bit longer. All the big bits of flesh were off but there were tiny bits of flesh around the spine-hole in the skull that were really difficult to get off, and it still smelled. Some of the time we left it in water, some of the time we left it in biological washing powder, and some of the time we used hydrogen peroxide. But nothing really seemed to work, so dad had to do it by hand. There was even some flesh inside the jaw which he had to get out with a bit of wire and which was gross.

Now it's cleaned up it's hanging in my room and it's amazing. I think it's the best deer skull I have yet.

Fallow deer skulls are smaller than a red deer but much bigger than a roe deer. This skull is perfect !

The most amazing thing about this skull is the antlers. Roe deer and red deer antlers are spiky but fallow deer antlers are kind of like spoony at the top. Scientists call this kind of antler "palmate antlers" like the palm of a hand. The gamekeeper said the antlers on this head weren't properly formed, and I didn't know what he meant until I looked at a picture of another fallow deer I saw at Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre.

All the incisors were still in the jaw. We had to pull them out before we took the last bits of skin off. After we cleaned the jaw, we glued it back together and put the teeth back in.

Teeth are a good way of telling the age of deer. The gamekeeper looked at the teeth and said that deer was about five or six years old. Fallow deer have three premolars and three molars on each jaw.

This is an amazing skull and I was really lucky to get it because otherwise I would never have found a fallow deer in the woods that I walk in !

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J. O'Brien said...

Awesome skull! When I was a kid, my mom found a roadkill whitetail deer buck, so we took off the head and brought it home. Like your skull, ours was covered in skin and flesh, so we left it out in our backyard to decay. There was still a lot of stuff left on it though, so we had to soak it in water for a while - it smelled SO bad!

Anyway, I love your blog and your collection of European deer skulls is just too awesome.

Jake said...

Thank you for your nice comment ! I am really lucky that I live in a village with tons of wildlife and deer.

Jack N said...

I now have a fallow deer skull with impressive antlers like yours, only it isn't bleached yet and is missing the lower jaw. The teeth are very worn so I think he was old when he died(I also know he drowned).

Jack N said...

P.S:It's a 14 pointer (altogether)

Jack N said...

P.P.S:I miscounted the tines(only a dummy like me could do that).In fact, it actually has 19 tines!

Jake said...

Brilliant find, Jack !

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