By: Kirstie Pike
CEO Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women
Ok, so anyone who knows me knows I have this weird allure to skulls. No, not human skulls. That would be weird. And I suspect illegal. I simply find great beauty in skulls of animals and birds. While this may border on obsessive, I clip the heads of all birds I hunt. I save the heads of just about everything so I can make European mounts or just to collect the skulls. While this looks like some deep, dark confession, I happen to know I am not alone here. Skulls are just freaking cool.
For years, I have boiled bird skulls. Picked flesh. Re-boiled skulls. Re-picked flesh. I enjoy the process and really love when a skull turns out. Bird skulls have such delicate beauty. I must admit though, my husband has about had it with the smell of boiling brains and the mess of bird faces left in the sink. He apparently doesn’t find the process as fun as I do.
So with that, I decided that this year I would take to working larger skulls myself. The result has been pretty much typical of about everything I attempt. I have about finished my first coyote skull. This particular project should have been done months ago, but for some reason I felt compelled to bring my half finished project into the garage. And I lost it. Just temporarily…I found it in a tub with horse treats and a bottle of Armor All. I am still trying to figure out how those items found their way together, but I am guessing it was some hasty clean up maneuver.
Go big or go home. I harvested a nice, young bull this year during archery season and decided to give it a whirl. I got the head picked clean(ish) in camp. (I learned that I am extremely challenged when it comes to removing eyeballs, but that is a story for another day.) We packed the elk out and I decided to just set the head on the shed roof until I could get it to the boiler.
Much like the coyote skull…I forgot about it for about a week. Suffice it to say, if it isn’t written down, I will not remember. It wasn’t until I went to the shed that I got an olfactory reminder that I needed to start working on this project or my husband would give me the look. You know the look…thinly veiled annoyance. Thinly veiled. I got everything set up, lit the propane and filled the boiler with water. As I pulled the head off the shed, I suddenly realized just how nasty that thing had gotten.
The skull fit perfectly in the boiler and I was pretty excited to be on track.
Then I noticed maggots floating to the surface. I hate maggots. Absolutely abhor them. And they just kept coming out of the nooks and crannies. Literally, they covered the surface of the water. I admit, it was a bit horrifying. However, I took great pleasure in knowing those suckers would drown and boil.
But they didn’t. They just kept wiggling and swimming around the water. I turned up the heat out of spite.
I sat eagerly waiting for my pot to boil, then remembered that said watched pot shall not boil. I did the next best thing. I went grouse hunting and left my maggoty mess in the yard to boil.
Only…it never boiled. I came home 3 hours later to my husband and ‘the look’. It turns out the water never boiled. Which means the maggots never died. Which means the fetid smelling skull was still fetid…and wet. You see, if it is windy outside, the flame doesn’t stay lit. Who knew?
Ugh. Next step- MacGyver a tinfoil block for the flame. Stay tuned for more!