Hunt deer long enough, and you’ll soon begin to grow a healthy collection of antlers laying around the house, shop, shed or man cave. These antlers come in all shapes and sizes and typically find themselves proudly hanging on the wall. However, at some point, the room for antlers runs out. Shoulder mounts are traded out for European mounts to conserve space, and the smaller bucks typically find a new home in the garage or shed.
For many years, I could tell you the story of every euro rack hanging on the wall, or stashed away in the barn or shed. Sadly, the older I’ve gotten, the more the stories tend to run together. It’s become harder and harder to tell one 8-point basket rack from the other. I can no longer tell you whether the 2-year-old skull sitting on the wood pile was from the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, or a hardwood ridge in west Tennessee. They all look so much the same.
Out of guilt, I eventually began to consider the possibilities to help keep the memories of these hunts alive. It was a shame to watch these antlers simply become bleached by the sun and chewed up by squirrels as they sat atop the wood pile out back. How would I honor these bucks and keep their stories alive for years to come?
The idea quickly came. I would turn these old, weathered euro mounts into rattling antlers with a title or description from the hunt inscribed on their beam. They would take up far less space hanging on the wall by a leather cord, yet make for timeless and attractive décor hanging around the house. Here’s a breakdown of how I now turn my smaller euro mounts into deer calls, décor and nostalgic memories to share with family and friends.
Breaking Down the Bone
The first step in the process is to remove the antlers from the skull. For a lot of hunters, these skulls have been sitting around with hide and hair still attached. The rotting skull can be a mess, and even dangerous, if you’re not careful. Serious infection can occur if the funk and junk of a rotting deer skull penetrates your skin. Handle with caution as you prepare the process. Fortunately, all that’s needed is a saw to remove the antler from the skull below the pedicle. Most any saw will work here, but a powered saw makes the job quick and easy.
This is also a good time to use the same saw to cut the brow tines from the antlers. This is an important step as the brow tines can deal out a pretty severe punishment to your hands when using the antlers for rattling up a buck during the rut.
Near the base, drill a hole in each antler big enough to run a leather cord through. The leather cord serves as an easy way to hang and display your antlers in the house, hunting camp, or man cave.
Tell the Story
Use a Sharpie marker and Dremel tool to inscribe a title or caption onto the beam that’ll spark a reminder of when, where and how the hunt went down. “Hall Daddy’s Ridge,” denotes the time I hunted with my old friend, Mike Hall, and called a pretty buck down the ridge to within bow range of my tree. A set of antlers named, “Ground Shrinkage,” hangs on the wall as a reminder to my son of the “giant buck” he killed at last light. “It looked a lot bigger in the scope,” he still says to this day. “Bitterroot Longbow Buck” is an 8-pointer I killed along the Bitterroot River with my Centuar longbow during the years my family lived in western Montana. The title scribbled onto the antler beam immediately takes me back to that chilly November morning. These simple notes on the bone are the perfect way to keep the memories alive long after they may have otherwise been forgotten.
Call Where They Came From
I’m a sucker for nostalgia. That’s why I love the idea of taking these rattling antlers back to the places where they came from in hopes of using them to call up another deer from the same stand. It’s a tactic surely used by the earliest hunters. For me, it’s simply a way to get back to those earliest hunting roots. There’s something truly special about taking all-natural tools from the land to draw deer to within bow range of my bow.
Hang these antlers on the wall as décor until you revisit the farms where they came from. When the time comes, add them to your pack, and put them to work during the rut. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything quite as nostalgic as calling generation after generation of whitetail bucks to your stand with bone taken from that very land.
If you’re looking to clean up and consolidate all those dust covered euro mounts laying around the house or yard, consider turning them into rattling antlers that’ll better tell the story, make for some great décor, and just might call up your next buck in the seasons to come.