Putting Your Bones on the Wall: Mounting Hunting Trophies

The last time I talked about cleaning and preparing bones of various sorts. Today I will tell the story of my hunting trophies and how to put them up.

Where I am from, hunting trophies are traditionally mounted like this:

This means: a rather cheap, store-bought piece of some wood, cut into shape by a machine, and then covered with stains and polishes in a generic nuance.
From the beginning I thought: nope! So the first trophy I cleaned and prepared needed a beautiful, special board for its display. I chose oak, since the last bite* of the buck in question was an oak twig:

A dear friend had the idea to cut the board into a simple shape, with its slight curve on the top and the straight cut on the bottom in the opposite direction from the curve. It looks rather simple, doesn’t it? Still, it took us a while to come up with this design. I then decided to brush the softer earlywood out from the grain to give the board a rougher surface, which makes it appear a bit weathered. For this item I chose no finish, but rather let the color of the oak age with time.

Once cleaned up, my two roe bucks (from the last blog entry) were also in desperate need of beautiful boards. I chose a piece of cherry wood from a stump I found lying around in the workshop (I think the husband left it there) and chopped it to get a natural tear along the grain. The result was a rather uneven surface with a nice hole from a branch. To accentuate this organic look, I chose to work it with chisels and by that make the tears deeper while smoothing the ridges. After a while (and this takes a while to be done) I brushed and slightly sanded the wood and applied a wood wax finish, also with brushes and polishing cloths.

A single screw attaches the board to a piece of wood in the skull.
Carefully choose where to put the trophy on the board. I decided to go off center in this case to show the beauty of the wooden board.

And then for the skull:

Shallow, tiny skull of a one-year-old.

Deep, bigger skull of an older roe buck.

This might seem unorthodox: one single screw goes through the board and into the wood pieces in the skull. Some prefered to glue the skull to the trophy board, which is not possible with such an uneven surface as this board has. I also found that glue is a little problematic: it never quite attaches the trophy to the board and I never saw a homemade hunting trophy where the glue did not show on the rims.

Sometimes it is necessary to apply some glue though, when the skull is very shallow like in this yearling buck:

Cut the wooden piece to fit the depth of the skull.

Once the wooden piece was cut to fit, I kept it in place with a couple of drops of wood glue. Once everything is in place, I am ready to put the two main ingredients together:

In the end it is a question of personal preference - and I prefer the unique, handmade boards.

I posted a piece of old wood a friend found on the city dump to facebook a while ago. After a lot of work it looks like this, and will soon be host to a beautiful boar skull:

The Last Bite, or “the Break”: is part of old, Central European hunting tradition, and basically means to feed the dead animal a tree twig. It was introduced as a sign of respect and humility for the life you took, for the life that was given, or just something “that is been done” after a successful hunt. The last bite (or break) is performed ritualistic, meaning that certain rules apply (e.g.: the break is broken and never cut). And as most traditions, it works with exclusion and sometimes discrimination, which means that by old rules some animals are “worthy” of a last bite, while others are not.

I also cultivate the ritual of the break and since life is just life to me, everybody and everything shall have their last bite from me.

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