How to Clean a Deer Skull Plate

skull antlers

Mike: What’s the easiest way to get the skin and hair off the skull plate when I want to mount a buck’s antlers only? Thanks, Dennis

Hey Dennis: Lance Waln, who I watched grow up from a kid to a great hunter and accomplished taxidermist here in Virginia, says to cut and peel as much hide and hair off the skull plate as you can with your hunting knife. Getting the skin away from the bone and antler burr is tough sometimes; try a large flat-tip screwdriver and pry the skin away from the antler base. Use your knife to remove the last hairs that stick to the base and the burrs.

Skin as much meat and tissue as you can off the skull plate. It’s done, but if you want to go a step further, boil the skull plate in water for a few minutes. After that, the residual meat will flake easily off the plate. After boiling, handle the skull carefully because it’s fragile until totally dry.

Time to Turkey Hunt!

fl vinnie and jake turkeysReport from Vinnie C. down in Florida:

Hey Mike: Dirty Jake (left) and I met on your BIG DEER blog 8 or 9 years ago. I invited him out to my lease a few years back, and he’s been here 3 times now. We’ve killed some awesome Osceola turkeys, including these two that knocked down a couple days ago!

I’ve been out to Dirty Jake’s place in Arkansas on a duck hunt. We have a blast every time we get together. Jake is a great guy and one of the best turkey callers on the planet!

Your blog brings hunters together to share their hunting stories and their hunts. You’re a stand-up guy, and always have time to answer posts and messages. Always a pleasure sharing hunting adventures with ya. Thanks Mike, Vinnie

Great job guys! Many if not most of you will be hitting the turkey woods in a few weeks, good luck and be safe.

Shed-Hunting: Antler Trivia

Big Buck Nation Milk River 2008 003Did you know…some fun facts about antlers and shed-hunting:

The #1 Typical Whitetail Antler in the Shed Record Book is a 6-point 104 6/8” left side picked up in Illinois 1992.

The #1 Non-Typical Whitetail Antler in the Shed Record Book is a 24-point 156 5/8” right side found in Saskatchewan 2007.

Individual bucks often shed their antlers the same week every year.

Antlers are the fastest-growing tissue in the animal kingdom.

Increasing daylight and a buck’s falling testosterone cause antlers to shed.

Once a buck drops one antler, the other one usually falls off within hours.

Huge whitetail antlers can be found in many city parks and suburbs. Get permission to shed hunt these type areas if you can.

When you’re out looking for antlers, mark off small grids, walk slowly and look straight down for a brown or white piece of bone.

Look for pieces of antler as you hunt: a tine or the white gleam of a beam.

Rainy days are good for shed searching—wet antlers shine and stand out.

Squirrels and porcupines chew on antlers for the calcium they provide.

Sheds are valued by size and grade, from Grade A Brown (best) to old, white chalk.

Deer antlers can fetch $5 to $18 a pound, depending on grade and size.

A matched set of grade A fresh sheds from a trophy 6-point elk can be worth $500 to $1,000.

Alabama: New Bill Would Expand Baiting for Deer

alberta sheldon synchro feed bucksThe Montgomery Adviser reports that a bill working its way through the Alabama legislature would allow hunters more options for using bait to lure deer and hogs. It passed the house Tuesday and heads to the state senate for consideration.

The new bill would not only expand baiting in Alabama, but also clear up confusion due to a law that went into effect just last hunting season. That current law allows hunters to use “supplemental feed” if the feed source is at least 100 yards away from the hunter and out of his or her direct line of sight.

That law caused confusion among hunters and, I suspect, game wardens last season. Just what does “out of sight” mean?  Suppose a corn pile is 101 yards away from a tree—if you sat on the ground you could not see it, but if you were up in a ladder stand you could conceivably glass the bait.

The new bill would do away with the distance and view requirement to the bait, so you could set it right out front your stand. But the bait would have to be in a container, like a corn feeder. Apparently it could not be poured out on the ground near a stand.

But the Alabama legislature seems intent on keeping any final baiting bill they come up with confusing. As of now, the new bill being considered would be a supplement to the current baiting law; it would not replace it. If a hunter wants to abide by the current requirements that bait must be 100 yards away and out of line of sight, he could still hunt that way and not be required to pay an additional fee.

If the new bill is enacted into law as written, and if a hunter wants to put a corn feeder out front of his stand, he’d have to purchase an annual $15 baiting license in addition to the regular deer hunting license. Of the $15, $1 would be an administrative fee and $14 would be returned to the state conservation department. Estimates have the bait bill raising an additional $1.2 to $1.5 million for Alabama Fish and Wildlife. That part of it would be good.

How this new bill ends up is unknown, but it seems like changes are coming to the current and confusing “line of sight” bait law that was enacted just last year.

That aside, there are millions of hunters, in Alabama and elsewhere, who do not like or accept hunting deer over bait, so that must be factored into it. Also, with the recent spread of Chronic Wasting Disease across America, many wildlife departments and experts do not like or recommend baiting because it congregates whitetails, which could accelerate the spread of disease.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Director of Wildlife and Fisheries, has weighed in on the topic. “Supplemental feeding, when used properly, is a great management tool,” he said. “When it’s used improperly, it’s terrible. It’s just like anything else; it’s how you use it. It’s not a magic bullet. You can’t go out and pour a pile of corn and expect to kill a 160-inch deer. It doesn’t work that way. It’s one piece of a management program. If you want to use it, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. We’re not making you put feed out. It’s a choice.”

To Sykes, all the hoopla of hunting deer over bait in Alabama has taken away from the true meaning of supplemental feeding. “You need feed with 16- to 18-percent protein from February through October,” he said. “When the does have little ones and are lactating, and the bucks’ antlers are growing, you’ve got to have protein. Corn is like candy. It’s energy. In the winter, when it gets cold, corn will help them out when they need energy to stay warm.

“But a supplemental-feeding program is totally different than baiting. With supplemental feeding, you’re doing it for the wildlife. With baiting, you’re being selfish and trying to kill something instead of getting out and hunting.”

How do you feel about baiting?

South Dakota Shed Hunter Up to 70 Antlers and Counting

sd kelly shed 1

Update from our expert, Kelly “Shedhunter” Kirsch:

Mike: Walked 17.8 miles on Saturday, it was very warm, and picked up 15. One real nice set, maybe in the 160s. I found the antlers about ¾-mile apart.

Sunday I hurt, so I used the Quad to cover a sunflower field and picked 12 more. Total for the year is right on 70 sheds, not a bad start.

SD kelly 3

Take a look at that sunflower field. A lot of people I run into that think that antlers have to be knocked off by tree, fence post, or something. But there’s really nothing like that out here in places. Sometimes the antlers just fall off, and I have watched bucks hit the ground with their antlers to remove them.—Kelly