Sitka Gear
DIY horn removal
Wild Sheep
Contributors to this thread:
DonVathome 08-Nov-23
BoggsBowhunts 08-Nov-23
JohnMC 08-Nov-23
Muleysareking 08-Nov-23
Bow Bullet 08-Nov-23
Pete In Fairbanks 08-Nov-23
Zbone 08-Nov-23
Sandbrew 08-Nov-23
Bou'bound 08-Nov-23
wytex 08-Nov-23
Zbone 08-Nov-23
MA-PAdeerslayer 08-Nov-23
smarba 08-Nov-23
RonP 08-Nov-23
Zbone 08-Nov-23
WV Mountaineer 08-Nov-23
butcherboy 08-Nov-23
Tilzbow 08-Nov-23
Ambush 08-Nov-23
DonVathome 08-Nov-23
Bou'bound 08-Nov-23
Shrewski 11-Nov-23
Tilzbow 11-Nov-23
DonVathome 12-Nov-23
808bowhunter 12-Nov-23
Bou’bound 12-Nov-23
BoggsBowhunts 12-Nov-23
DonVathome 12-Nov-23
Cazador 12-Nov-23
huntnmuleys 12-Nov-23
HDE 12-Nov-23
Grey Ghost 12-Nov-23
808bowhunter 13-Nov-23
JohnMC 13-Nov-23
Zbone 13-Nov-23
DonVathome 13-Nov-23
Orion 13-Nov-23
DonVathome 13-Nov-23
HDE 13-Nov-23
Quinn @work 14-Nov-23
WV Mountaineer 14-Nov-23
DonVathome 26-Nov-23
Mathewsphone 26-Nov-23
Jims 26-Nov-23
DonVathome 26-Nov-23
DonVathome 26-Nov-23
butcherboy 26-Nov-23
Bou'bound 26-Nov-23
Straight Shooter 26-Nov-23
Nick Muche 26-Nov-23
808bowhunter 26-Nov-23
smarba 27-Nov-23
wytex 27-Nov-23
walking buffalo 27-Nov-23
butcherboy 28-Nov-23
Bou'bound 28-Nov-23
smarba 28-Nov-23
DonVathome 28-Nov-23
wytex 29-Nov-23
butcherboy 30-Nov-23
WV Mountaineer 19-Dec-23
From: DonVathome
08-Nov-23
I would like to remove the horns from my bighorn sheep myself before I take it to my taxidermist. I I'm nervous about boiling them and discoloring the horns. How can I get the horns off safely? I don't mind waiting a couple months to see if the flesh inside will decay and then simply pop them off.

08-Nov-23
Why would you do that when a professional taxidermist has a relatively zero chance of discoloring the horns or messing up the process? I feel like if I killed a sheep I wouldn’t be gambling the trophy quality and memory of the hunt by trying to pop the horns off myself and I’d likely get it to a taxidermist way sooner than within a couple months anyway?

If you’re worried about a taxidermist losing or misplacing your horns, then just ask them to quickly pop them off and clean them up so you can get the skullplate and horns back

From: JohnMC
08-Nov-23
I think my taxidermist just closed off in a black trash bag until they slipped. But I am with Chase let him do it. Post a pic of ram.

08-Nov-23
Sharpen a hacksaw blade to a point, and it wouldn't hurt to grind off the points of the teeth a bit, slide it between sheath and core as much as possible, turn horns upside down inside a container that has a light bulb in it for heat, put water in the slits and wait a few days. IT WILL STINK. Sheaths will come off and you put them upside down and fill with clorox for a couple of hours. I would make sure there are no cracks in horn that go to inside. DON'T GET ANY ON THE OUTSIDE OF HORN. Boil the skull. Wash out sheath with soap and water. Let dry completely. Make sure all odor is gone before reattaching!.....Mike

From: Bow Bullet
08-Nov-23
Hey Don, you posted in May that you drew a MT tag this year and then a month or two ago you had the thread about imitating horns crashing. Did you notch your tag? Did you plan to post a story (or did I miss it)?

08-Nov-23
I've done it a couple of ways...

1. The Slimy/Stinky Way. Keep skull in warm, damp environment until you can "slip" the horns off the cores.

2. The Dry Way. Keep skull in dry environment until it is thoroughly dry. Then slam the horns on a cement floor until they pop off. I've never broken a horn this way, but I 'm more comfortable with doing this with SOMEONE ELSE'S skull/horns!

Pete

From: Zbone
08-Nov-23
No way I would self attempt removal on such a treasured trophy...

From: Sandbrew
08-Nov-23
DO NOT BOIL THE SKULL AND HORNS!

Place the the horns and skull in a black trash bag, tie the top and let them sit in a warm place for 5-7 days. Take them out of the bag or don't and drop them on the back side of the horns where rams would be butting heads, from about waist high onto a piece of carpet on concrete and if they pop off great - if not wait a day or two and try it again. Once off cut the end of the bone of the horn cores and boil that skull only. Ask your taxidermist how they want the horn corms dried and remounted on the skull plate.

Sandbrew

From: Bou'bound
08-Nov-23
This whole concept of do it yourself sheep horn taxidermy is crazy. If you have to ask strangers on line how to do it you shouldn’t be doing it

leave it up to an expert to handle right

Crazy. This is not some back 40 buck

From: wytex
08-Nov-23
My taxi did mine for me because of the banging them on concrete part. I simply asked for the skull back while we waited on the work to get started. He has to do clean it up anyway just let him and ask for the skull back whole.

From: Zbone
08-Nov-23
Don - When did you get your Bighorn?

08-Nov-23
Musta missed this Ram story…I don’t miss many sitting at my desk…

From: smarba
08-Nov-23
If you're only talking about a skull plate, I would agree just put in a contractor bag to keep moist and warm (room temp fine or a little warmer if you have a way to add some heat). They should rot off in a matter of days, less than a week. I'd support the skull plate so the horns are up and any rotting drip doesn't get onto the horns.

If you're talking about a Euro mount where you're trying to keep the entire skull, that will be an extremely messy/stinky process. I'd position it so any rot will be dropping downward and not dripping onto the horns. It will also rot off within a few days to a week, but will generate a huge mess of maggots, rotted ooze, disgusting seep of mess that you don't want to contact the horns. After fully fleshing I'd put the nose pointed downward into a bucket or stand or tube so the head is vertical, so all the mess will not be traveling toward the horns.

From: RonP
08-Nov-23
i would ask Pacer

From: Zbone
08-Nov-23
"Musta missed this Ram story"

Yeah, I musta missed it too... I Just went through all the recent Bighorn threads, I don't see it, anybody have the link? Thanks...

08-Nov-23
He hasn’t posted a story. I would have remembered it.

Don, I admire your frugal approach to life. But, sometimes doing things yourself to save a few bucks causes more grief than paying someone with experience to do it for you.

From: butcherboy
08-Nov-23
It’s easy pretty easy to remove sheep horns. I just always used a 55 gallon plastic drum barrel cut down just below the half of the barrel. Add Luke warm water and cover the whole head. Add an aquarium heater to the water to keep the water temp about 90 degrees. Cover with a tarp or black contractors bag. Those horns will slip right off the horn cores in no time. Leave the skull in to finish the maceration process. Finish the skull out like any macerated euro. Have replicas made for the mount and put the horns on the skull. Same method for a skull plate but no head to mess with later.

For cleaning the horns I would always soak in warm water with dawn soap and a mixture of pinesol and or ammonia. Scrub all the loose tissue off well and rinse. Pack the horns with a preservative and then dump it all out leaving the inside of the horns coated. Slide back onto the horn cores while still wet and then let them dry. I’ve done a lot of sheep, antelope, oryx, and beef this way.

From: Tilzbow
08-Nov-23
How I’d do it myself is I’d load the head and horns in my truck, drive to my taxidermist and drop them off, leave and come back when it’s done and pick up the horns. I have no idea why someone would want to do this prior to dropping it off at the taxidermist. My taxidermist won’t even let people watch him do it since his method involves concrete and slamming the horns….

From: Ambush
08-Nov-23
My taxidermist throws them all in the Rot Shed. Every several days he drops them on the concrete floor a couple times. If no go, wait a couple days and repeat. He’s not teasing them off with soft gloves, gentle tugs and sweet words.

But when you do get them off, stick your snout in there and breathe deep. It’s the best way to make sure you’ll never forget your ram.

From: DonVathome
08-Nov-23
Thanks guys! I like my taxidermist and he has mounted several things for me. Including my desert bighorn. He boiled the horns and discolored them so I talked to him this morning and decided to do it myself just to be safe. It is not easy to find a good taxi and my old person retired a decade ago, another guy I used did good but stopped taking anyone he had not mounted many many animals for.

Bottom line is I trust my guy to mount it but not get horns off. Rather then use someone else I decided to do it myself.

I was carrying out a deadhead ibex a decade ago as a gift for a friend (my archery tag on it - legal to pickup horns if you tag them) and was climbing down cliffs and tossing head in front of my. Horns popped off and dead rotten SITNKY flesh revealed itself. Until then I did not even know they came off and that there was living tissue in there!

You guys did not miss it I did not post. It is rifle and I worked hard but nothing like last year in WY. I was not going to post it but lot's of interest so I will!

Ambush that last line was funny!

From: Bou'bound
08-Nov-23
Please post it will be great

From: Shrewski
11-Nov-23
If you are worried about your taxidermist screwing this up, I’d spend my time finding a new taxidermist. Why pay for a professional to do the job and Jack it up beforehand as an amateur? Makes NO sense…

From: Tilzbow
11-Nov-23
As Shrewski pointed out, I’d find a different taxidermist who actually knows sheep. I also wouldn’t be opposed to shipping the horns and cape then paying for a return shipment to improve the quality of the mount. A good taxidermist really knows the animal they’re mounting and will create a work of art vs a stuffed dead head. Nevada has the most sheep tags of any of the lower 48 states and Animal Artistry and Wildlife Revolutions in Reno both do a lot of sheep and both do a really great job. I’d personally go with Wildlife Revolutions since they’re a smaller shop and likely less expensive.

From: DonVathome
12-Nov-23
You guys are right. I guess I am not that hung up the mount. The hunt and memories are much more important.

My research also revealed little expertise getting horns off. Waiting 2 weeks and dropping on concrete isn't that difficult.

I have no doubt there are better taxidermists but as long as the mount doesn"t look bad it's not worth the extra money to me. I would rather spend the money on my wife or kids.

Also the more I do myself the more it means to me.

From: 808bowhunter
12-Nov-23
DIY. The warm water soak and pop them off is easy. I agree with you Don, my money is saved to be spent on adventures not taxidermy. I mount my trophies myself. I posted and had the obvious critics but when I look at my shoulder mounts and they cost me 300$ I’m pumped!

From: Bou’bound
12-Nov-23
The problem with average taxidermy worker is that is all someone notices when they look at it ……… what is just not quite right. 1000 points in the mount can be fine but the two or three flaws stick out like a pus filled boil on the nose of a supermodel

12-Nov-23
Typically not a giant difference in cost when going from good to great either… I’ve seen some really expensive taxidermy that sucked and some really cheap taxidermy that rocked.

If I put in for sheep tags my whole life and finally connected the last thing I’d do is cut corners on finding the right taxidermist…

Even if there was a 10-20% price difference between a decent taxidermist and a great one, a sheep mount is a pile of money regardless. You won’t forget about the difference in a pile of money vs a little bigger pile of money in 10 or 15 years but you will remember the difference every time you look at the mount, just my two cents. Quality taxidermy work is respect to the animal

From: DonVathome
12-Nov-23
Very good points. I would happily pay $200 more for a better guy! The more I think about this the more I agree with you guys saying not to skimp here.

From: Cazador
12-Nov-23
Don, if you already have one on the wall, I’d sell the cape and put the horns on a table for people to admire. The weight of a nice rams horns are something few will ever know. It’s simply amazing what they weigh. If you hang it in the wall, it’s another ornament and it’s mass will never be felt again except when you’re dead and gone.

From: huntnmuleys
12-Nov-23
I can tell you there was no way I was going to skimp on my ram mount. No chance. I doubt I ever get another ram, so I wanted to go great on this one.

I’d say get the right taxidermist for it. A little more cash for a once in a lifetime memory.

From: HDE
12-Nov-23
"Aggressively" tapping with a rubber mallet does the same thing as slamming down on concrete and is less destructive.

Have not done sheep, but have done antelope and oryx and boiled for 5 min and let sit in hot water until loose. It's not rocket science, and as an FYI for anyone, the nose on the cape is discolored as well. Air brushing and touch up is a miracle!!

The difference between a good taxidermist and a master taxidermist is that the master has learned to give the judge what they want to see in order to win a blue ribbon...

From: Grey Ghost
12-Nov-23
I’m with 808bowhunter. My DIY mounts mean more to me, despite their flaws.

Matt

From: 808bowhunter
13-Nov-23

808bowhunter's embedded Photo
808bowhunter's embedded Photo
$350 mount. I guess it can go along the lines of skimping on paying for an outfitter. Why waist a good tag going DIY. Some get the satisfaction of doing it on your own, even if the trophy not as big. This is my first attempt at mounting. I totally get what some saying about not worrying about expense but I also have read there hunt stories about hunts that cost a fortune to others. I personally don’t care about the trophy as much as the adventure and memories from them. I can’t justify spending too much on trophy work when I’m trying to save for my next adventure. My moose rack is still upside down in the front of my garage. May stay like that for some time

From: JohnMC
13-Nov-23
Grey Ghost let's see your DIY Ram mount

From: Zbone
13-Nov-23
I've never killed a horned animal so wouldn't know but would beetles eat enough of the flesh around the horns to loosen them?

I used to DIY simmer deer skulls in hot water then apply 40 volume cream peroxide for skull European type mounts... It was a pain and a long all day process, but later found a taxidermist that used beetles then degreases and will never go back to DIY boiling/simmering skulls...

From: DonVathome
13-Nov-23
zbone, no there is literally now flesh visible holding it. I never knew they even came off until I knocked a set from an ibex off tossing them down a cliff. I had not clue. I was really surprised not just when they came off but when I saw rotten flesh. I think you gave that beetle guys contact info I just have not used him yet.

From: Orion
13-Nov-23
Haha Johnmc that's funny. Maybe he mounted his tags or a picture of his check engine light

From: DonVathome
13-Nov-23
808 that mount looks good to me!

From: HDE
13-Nov-23
Taxidermy is not rocket science. It's the amount of attention to detail you're willing to do with the touch of an artistic eye...

From: Quinn @work
14-Nov-23
I’m in the camp of a trophy mount is not worth trying to save 20-30% on. Always find the best taxidermist for OIL tags or special animals. Make a couple payments over time and get it back a year longer if you can’t do the upfront cost all at once. You’ll forget about the extra spent very quickly. You’ll have to look at the mount daily for the rest of your life. Buy once, cry once..

Saving money by doing poor quality mounts leaves you with 2 options. You see the shotty work every time you look at it and if it bothers you you pay twice as much to have it remounted. I have a few that I went the cheap route on and it bothers me every time I look at it.

Went cheap on a big archery Muley buck mount. Got it back, eyes were too large, nose was not proportionate, ears offset, horn bases at weird angle and skull Plate was broke so width and horn orientation were so far off original. Cape was rough and had numerous cow Lick type of blemishes.

Finally couldn’t look at it anymore so I bought a replica skull and cut the antlers off the shoulder mount and mounted to replica skull.

Best part of the story was we hung up the hornless buck shoulder mount on a tree in our suburban front yard to see what reactions we’d get. One of my teenage daughter’s friends asked if he could have it to put in his room. I vetted him to make sure he was serious and gave it to him. Libtard/Dem family probably anti hunting. The kid took it home and it still hangs on his bedroom wall.

14-Nov-23
ttt

From: DonVathome
26-Nov-23
HDE I agree.

I got one horn off pretty easy. The other horn, the one with the plug, is not off yet. Anyone ever have the plug get into the "skull" and hold the horn on? It does not look like it is but maybe............ Plug is about halfway down on on "top" of horn.

Also ideas to get rid of smell off removed horns? I do not want to boil. I know time will but maybe some salt to dry it out? I might also pour boiling water into horn to "cook" what little meat is in there.

From: Mathewsphone
26-Nov-23
Fill full of salt

From: Jims
26-Nov-23
Congrats on your ram!!!!

I've done around 6 or 7 ram horns/skulls myself and it really isn't that bad. If they've already dried out they are a lot tougher to get horns off than if fresh. I always put mine in garbage bags for a while to let rot. Warmer temps speed up the process. The tougher ones that were dried I put in a tub with borax, dawn, plus water to soak and rot off the skull.

Several of mine have plugs in them and I never had the plug make it tough getting the horns off. I have never brought myself to slamming horns on bare concrete. You are just asking for trouble! I've always slammed them on harder ground without rock or a chunk of carpet on hard ground. It may take a few tries before the horns finally break free. It's fairly awkward once you get one side off but make sure to be careful when slamming the locked side on the ground!

Once you get the horns off I would suggest soaking them for a short period of time in water with dawn and borax. Don't boil them! Once soaked for a while I fill most of the inside of the horn with borax. It will prevent bugs from being a problem. If you still have smell problems spray hunter scent eliminator inside the horns multiple times.

From: DonVathome
26-Nov-23
Thanks! I am glad I asked I did NOT think of bugs down the road. Rotten meat and even a slight bad smell could easily attract bugs. Not hard to prevent now that I know thanks!

From: DonVathome
26-Nov-23
Jims please dumb down soak for a short period of time, hours? days? For others I got one horn of today I killed on 10/31/23. Horns have been at about 55 degrees since (in my garage) I did not try to get them off until today, hit with a rubber mallet a few times then twisted them using the tips of horn felt one pop easily.

From: butcherboy
26-Nov-23
I always soaked them in water and kept the temp about 80-90 degrees. Use an aquarium heater. It stinks pretty bad but both horns would actually slide right off within a few days. Them soak in dawn soap and I used either ammonia or pine sol mixed in. Make sure and scrub the gunk off the outside of the horns and the inside. I would always fill them with borax then dump it out leaving a coating on the inside then slide the horn back on the cores to dry. They shrink and some of them are a real beast to get them back on to the correct spot once they dry. I would also drill a really small hole through the horn and into the core in the back. It would act as a mark to set the horns to the right depth. I would then run a Sheetrock screw in and let them dry. Super easy to fill the hole with epoxy sculpt and run an airbrush over it.

From: Bou'bound
26-Nov-23
SMH

If this. Is so simple why is it not done yet

26-Nov-23
Crazy…….Can’t believe you did this, I left mine in the hands of a professional, my taxidermist!

From: Nick Muche
26-Nov-23
Strange fella

From: 808bowhunter
26-Nov-23
Some people think it’s crazy to hunt any weapon area with a bow. Or not hire an outfitter when drawing high quality tag. Or wanting to bring a bow only on a sheep hunt. To each their own I guess. But removing a horn is pretty easy. I never thought about it but most on here would only get that chance maybe once. Growing up in Hawaii I have dealt with tons of sheep and goats. Pretty simple and if you ever watch horned animal crack heads, you would know they can take a lot!

From: smarba
27-Nov-23
Yeah, I'm a DIY type person and wouldn't hesitate to try removing them myself. To each their own.

I have to think that when plugging horns they put some thought to the fact that there will be some sort of taxidermy and the horns need to come off, so they would drill only into horn and not thru all the way to the core.

But I've had some instances when one horn of an animal comes off easy and the other is a lot harder.

IMO the problem is you didn't have them warm enough for the tissue to rot quickly and instead some may have dried, which makes it difficult to remove. As others have stated, you need to keep them quite warm and moist so the rot happens and they slip quickly. Although I do know some people that let sheep horns dry, then slam them on concrete...

From: wytex
27-Nov-23
Spouse did a deadhead ram we found, not hard but all depends on how hard those horns are stuck. The other one should come off for you too.

A good taxidermist has no trouble putting them back on the cores correctly, I wouldn't drill any holes in your horns.

27-Nov-23
I suspect those saying use a taxidermist have never done it themselves. It really is easy to do with little chance for problems with the how to advice offered here.

Don't be shy when smacking those horns on something hard. You will not come close to what the rams do to them just about every day.

When the horns are removed, as advised, use Borax inside the horn.

For discoloration, you can use a good quality wood oil to restore color.

From: butcherboy
28-Nov-23
When I say drill a hole, I’m talking a very tiny hole in the back of the horn. It will be covered by the hair on a shoulder mount. A little epoxy sculpt and some dark brown paint in the airbrush and it’s gone. You would be surprised at how many good taxidermist’s use this technique. I learned it at competitions from world champions.

From: Bou'bound
28-Nov-23
If this. Is so simple why is it not done yet It’s been three weeks

From: smarba
28-Nov-23
Because the horns were not kept warm enough Bou. Rotting should easily slip within a few days to a week max if temp is ~70-80. And because, well, maybe there wasn't a solid plan from the get-go...

From: DonVathome
28-Nov-23
I heard 2 weeks and START dropping on concrete. I decided to start working it a little over 2 weeks because it was cool where I kept it and I had family coming over on Thanksgiving that wanted to see it "whole". I tested it around 16 or 17 days. I found no reason to rush it. Nothing to gain. Both horns are off now, almost done cleaning, and everything is fine.

From: wytex
29-Nov-23
butcherboy I would let the taxi do the drilling and mounting of the horns is what I was saying, he will be putting them on the cores in the right position we hope. Every taxi I know also uses either a small finishing nail or something like to attached those horns back to the cores, with some bondo or mache type attachment. They also cut the cores shorter, if nailed down he can't do that easily.

From: butcherboy
30-Nov-23
Ok, I misinterpreted what you were originally saying. I always used Sheetrock screws so I could remove them easily after drying. Then I would reattach the horns to cores with bondo and screw in the Sheetrock screw again until the bondo sets. I did all horned animals this way and it worked great before bonding them back on so I could keep all the horns with the right skull caps as well. If you aren’t experienced doing this then definitely let the taxi do it. I still have a barrel of cut of horn cores I need to throw away. Lol

19-Dec-23
Man, a fella can learn a lot in this forum.

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