Photos courtesy of Tim Hovey
As hunters, we always want to remember our adventures in the field. Sharing our trials and successes of the hunt with others is as old as the activity itself. Whether it’s taking photos of the event or preserving part of the animal to commemorate a milestone, remembering our field adventures is an important part of the hunting tradition.
Most hunters opt for the standard shoulder mount to immortalize a successful trip. They’re stylish, traditional, and the workmanship of many of today’s taxidermists is amazing. However, they can be expensive, bulky and take several months to a year to get back to you depending on how busy your taxidermist is.
Many outdoors enthusiasts may not realize there is a cheaper, and in my opinion, more attractive alternative to the standard shoulder mount to remember a successful hunt. A European mount is simply the skull of an animal cleaned, whitened and suitable for display. Over the years, the techniques used to process an animal head into a European mount have evolved.
For cleaning skulls, taxidermists no longer prefer the old methods of soaking a head in water until the meat falls off (maceration) or boiling the skull. Serious skull cleaners use dermestid beetles.
For close to 15 years now, I’ve maintained several large colonies of dermestid beetles for skull-cleaning purposes. During that time, I’ve learned a great deal on how to culture, care for and utilize the beetles for cleaning bones. What started as an interesting hobby has grown quickly into a thriving Internet business, and my preferred way to remember my adventures in the field.
Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get regarding the beetles is if they will harm the living. This species has absolutely no desire in anything other than dried-out, dead meat. They don’t bite and are essentially harmless. They do require good ventilation and a working temperature of between 70 to 85 degrees, which makes cultivating this species in California relatively easy.
More adventurous individuals may want to consider starting their own dermestid beetle colony. They’re easy to raise and maintain, and many beetle culturists are available online, providing information on raising and caring for your own colony. Dermestid Inc. (dermestidbeetlecolonies.com
), an online dealer in dermestid beetles, offers informative DVDs, beetle starter kits and all the information required to successfully culture beetles.