Long winded archery story and skull cleaning question

FrogFire7

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May 23, 2017
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526
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Pennsylvania
Got my first archery buck this year, in north central PA! Here is how it played out…

Opening day of archery, my brother and I wanted to hunt together. He had bought a new hoyt this year and we had both been shooting a lot this summer, excited for archery season. My brother hunted opening morning, but I stayed home with my wife and young boys. I wasn’t quite prepared this year, so I spent the morning washing my hunting clothes in scent free detergent and drying them in the dryer with an old pair of long johns stuffed with freshly fallen maple leaves. I grabbed a shower in the early afternoon while the boys were napping, and my wife was getting groceries. When she arrived home just after my brother, I ran out to change into my early season hunting gear. Being unprepared, I quickly grabbed my phone, heavy coat, three legged chair, face paint, range finder, knife, license plus doe tag, water, apples to snack on, grunt tube, doe bleat, bow, release, hat, gloves and boots (just like the Indians did it!) and stuffed my gear into my backpack. I scramble for a flashlight since all archery shots are seemingly made just before dark. Cant fine one, so I throw my LED lantern into my pack, since I have plenty of room to haul stuff!

We set out for a new property that my brother had permission to hunt this year from his wife’s “aunt” (actually no relation). Running about half an hour later than we had hoped to. Come on over, we were told. “I have a hundred and thirty acres that nobody hunts!” SWEET. That is a pretty decent spread here in north central PA. Some fields, lot of woods, large patches of goldenrod, some pipelines... perfect whitetail habitat!
So, over we went. Upon arrival we spoke with the aunt, and noticed a hunter sneaking up the lower field. “Hmm… I don’t know who that is. But, I don’t post my land! Oh, also, you might see some of the Wright crew, they hunt sometimes. All local boys!” Uh, ok… off we go.

“Are we holding out for buck today?” I ask. “Let’s get some meat in the freezer, anything legal”. Works for me! I’ve been hunting for 22 years, and only have had shots at 3 buck. The first two I got with my rifle, the third was a very near miss with my bow last year. Quite a cool story, but for another time. I just don’t see buck while hunting. Push them out to family and friends on a regular basis, but they always elude me. I have almost resigned myself to that fate!

My brother has a climber and wants to set up near the pipeline, so I head up the mountain. Eventually bump into the pipeline, and spook a tiny forkie and doe up the steep hill. I thought I’d set up on the heavy trail through the goldenrods where they were when they bumped. After sneaking over, I catch movement near the top of the pipeline! It is a shaggy haired hunter with a crossbow, watching the deer I spooked. Great… guess I will slide over to the other edge of the clearing, 150 yards away. I crunch through the leaves over to the other side of the hill, and not knowing where else to go, set up where I can see parts of the hillside as well as a big goldenrod patch below me. Looks as good as any other spot! I remind myself that neither of us have stepped foot in these woods before, and today is really more of a scouting mission.

After 30 minutes I notice a huge apple tree, loaded with apples- 90 yards down the hill to my right… should have set up there. Nuts, should have set up there. Shortly, a spike is feeding below it. Really should have set up there. Soon, another spike sneaks down the hill in front of me from right to left, while the first spike browses directly up the hill towards me. Neither has 3 points on a side, so not legal deer (of course). They are both within 50 yards now, and eventually the lower one spots me sitting behind my small autumn olive bush. Stare down commences. I try for a video to show my boys, but facing into the low autumn sun makes me phone camera uncooperative.

KA-HUUUH!!! I jump as he snorts at me… gets me EVERY time. He bounces off, only to return minutes later. Eventually, he loses interest and stalks off stiff legged.

After a long period of nothing, songbirds suddenly flurry in, and chipmunks chase in front of me. It’s that golden hour of the late afternoon, and the sun pierces through the overcast sky. A mouse is running through the leaves 4’ behind me for what seems like an hour. Wonder where I need to hold with my judo point at 4’? Hmm…

Like an invisible hand flipped a switch, the wildlife activity shuts off. Silent woods, overcast skies again. I text my brother with 20 minutes of light left “Want me to sneak down to you?” I’m hoping to not scare deer, but just slowly bump them his way. He hasn’t seen a deer yet today. “Nah, let’s wait it out. I think with all the other people here the woods between us is empty anyway”. Ok, might as well wait it out. I text him that it is probably good we haven’t shot anything. Between his climber, my bow case, his bow case, my large pack, his spare tire, his little S10 is PACKED! He replies “let’s shoot two and make it interesting!” Haha!

Two minutes later I once again hear the telltale “Chsh chsh chsh, chsh chsh”. Deer coming! It HAS to be a legal doe this time?! How many spikes/forkies can there be on this property?? I range a big boulder in front of me, on the same path the uphill spike took. 25 yards. A couple small branches, but mostly open. The branches are melting into the background now, only 10 minutes of light left. If she comes between me and the rock, she’s going to get it!

I catch movement behind the small brush patch, and the white of antlers. Cool!! I see a small fork on the far side, just after I draw he steps out. 3 points on my side! Legal buck! He sneaks along at a brisk pace toward the rock, and as he passes in front of it it I give a “Yaaaaap!”. He instantly locks legs and looks my way, and I send the arrow.

“CHUNKKKK”

That was bone… the deer flips over upon the arrow impact. Loud bone, that was spine??? He is up on his front, pawing a big half circle. Now ten yards closer, I send another arrow through the ribs. His head droops, then rests peacefully. My hands are calm but calves are bouncing me off the hill. Hate the post shot jitters!!!

My lit nocks strobe in the fading light as I collect the arrows. Not sure why the shot was high, maybe he tensed to jump as I released? Maybe I grazed a branch, or use the wrong pins? I’m frustrated about blowing an easy shot, but thankful I didn’t hit the “dead zone” between the lungs and spine. I try to recall my sight picture but realize I have amnesia over the last two minutes.

I text my brother that I have a buck down, as I hang my lantern on a nearby branch. Above me, coyotes start to howl on the top of the ridge. I feel a strong connection to nature right now, and am excited and grateful to have put down my first archery buck. He is a small 8 (technically a 7 by PA regs- his right brow tine was broken early in the season and isn’t an inch long) with short tines and a 12” inside spread. Not something I will get stuffed, but I am absolutely going to hang the skull on my wall and be darn proud of him!

After the quarter mile drag out, stopped at the house so the boys could check him out, then we skinned the hide and ate the heart and inner loins that night, before crashing for a good night's sleep. Great day!!



This leads me to my question… I skinned the head, and have buried it in my garden. I knew a coworker who had done this before, and just digs it back up in a few months. I left the antlers exposed, but am a little worried that rodents are going to chew on them- we have a fair number of squirrels in that area, plus mice. Have you guys done anything similar, and how do you keep rodents off the antlers?
 

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Gwine

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Mar 3, 2013
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Southern Oregon
Congratulations on your first archery buck. I “spined” my first also.
My advise would be to pull up your skull. I tried that once and the bone crumbled when I pulled it out of the ground. Others have said to put it in a bag so bugs can get to it but not the soil.
The last 4 I’ve done have been to macerate. Google it. Basically soak in warm water for a couple weeks. Let bacteria do the work. A little peroxide bath to finish.
 

FrogFire7

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May 23, 2017
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526
Location
Pennsylvania
Not a bad idea... I could always put it in my parents pond too. Lots of bacteria and bugs in there. I'll Google your idea as well. Thank you!
 

Muddyboots

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Feb 7, 2013
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This is a pretty standard method of doing a skull that I have done for years and it works exceptionally well IMO.
LINK: Euro Skull Treat

Or you can have Dermestid Beetles do it for you then, final wash and peroxide the skull. A colony of beetles is around $50 the last time I priced them and they do a heck of a job! I had friend who bought colony and I had skull done and holy cow it was nice to just sit back and let them munch!
 
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Muddyboots

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I will say power washing the skull after it has been boiling for at least 4 hours will speed up the process as well. Just don't use your wife's best spaghetti pot or there will be :eek: to pay!
 

Muddyboots

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FYI - I have been using Skull Hookers for years and they are great way to display the euro mount. I mount them on old barn board for most part and add a photo of the kill which is nice to see.20190113_161032.jpg
 

DickensCar

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Jul 26, 2021
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Location
USA
Wow, thank you for your story. I read it with such interest, imagining everything in my head. You could make a comedy film based on your hunting story! I don't really know how to keep the antlers in the ground. There won't be rodents, there will be other factors, and even sunlight can affect what's stored in the ground. But there are cases where people do manage to preserve bone, I think it all depends on the area and soil chosen. You have motivated me to go hunting, thanks for the list of things needed. Really, I don't have a flashlight. I looked it up here https://www.amazon.com/Vont-Hurricane-Emergency-Collapsible-Batteries/dp/B00NPLSZF8 , it's bright and compact. What do you think? Would it work for me?
 
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sp6x6

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Dec 8, 2009
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4,250
Location
NW MT
Boil most common,cut off as much meat and pop eyes out,pull jaw. Pressure wash,after mist with a little peroxide and hang in sun a bit to whiten. Where skull joins spine drill whole on each side for a loop of hang wire.I flatten teeth a bit where hits wall for no maring.
 

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