Friday, September 11, 2015

No more skulls


I have bad luck with skulls. It started with my bear and will end with my coyote because I have learned which taxidermists (and butchers) are not worth the convenience.

I shot a 457lb bear last October and went with my guide to bring it to the butcher.  I had decided that I wanted the skull saved and would have the hide made into a rug.  I didn’t have the room or the desire for a mount.  The butcher got his knives out and began hacking away at the bear.  I watched but didn’t really know what I was looking at.  He hooked the bear by its hind legs, lifting it off the ground and started peeling away the hide.  It seemed to come off quickly and my guide made sure that he kept the paws intact with pads and nails included.  When it came time to cut the head off, it took him a couple of attempts before my guide’s eyes got wide and he stepped in to help get the cut where it needed to be.  By that point, it was too late.  The back of the skull had been cut off and a separate cut had almost cut the skull in half by the cheek sockets.  I delivered the head in two parts: one connected to the hide and one in a plastic bag.  Lori and Jim Geib at New FrontierTaxidermy in Solon were up to the challenge.  A month later, I had a bear skull completely intact except for one cheek bone. It might not be the best looking skull, but it was fixed.

My bear skull
My bear skull minus the cheek.
Then, I went coyote hunting and shot a beautiful 37lb male that came into our rabbit call.  Again, I wanted a clean skull and hide.  I got a recommendation and took the coyote to a taxidermist nearby.  The animal had been dead for less than 18 hours when I dropped it off, still totally intact.  I described what I wanted done and was told that it would be three to four months because he would send out the hide and send the skull out to have it beetled.  Four months later, I called and was told that it would be another two months.  Eight months after I dropped of the coyote, I called again and was told that the skull was back but that the hide would need another few weeks.  Grateful to have something back, I went to get the skull.  At first glance, it looked great: sharp teeth, clean with no breaks and the top jaw sat perfectly onto the bottom jaw.  The taxidermist wrapped it up and I was on my way.  When I got home later, I unwrapped the skull and nearly fell over.  The stench was horrible.  I started looking closer at the top jaw and saw dead beetles. Two were stuck in the nasal cavity behind the cartilage, one was stuck at the front of the skull near the eye sockets and pieces of dead bugs were stuck everywhere there was cartilage. I immediately started asking friends what to do and ended up on the phone with Jared Delaite of Delaite’s Taxidermy in Woodville.  Jared took the time to talk me through what I could do to get the beetles out of the skull and fix the smell coming from it.  He was more than happy to help me and make sure that I would be able to get the skull that I want.

My coyote skull complete with odor, beetles and ink marks
The black spots at the top of the nasal cavity are the beetles.
Both of these skulls mark successful hunts but without the knowledge of Jared to fix the coyote and the incredible work of Lori and Jim to piece together an almost ruined bear skull, I would not be able to save them as mementos from my hunts.  Unless I shoot a monster buck and get it mounted, I am now done keeping skulls.

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