With Thanksgiving past and the 2017 Nebraska firearm deer season is in the books, I stopped to reflect on the things that I am thankful for. When it comes to hunting in Nebraska, there are a myriad of reasons to be thankful. Here are a few of the things that I am thankful about, and I am sure that you will feel the same way.

I am thankful that Nebraska has plenty of animals to hunt, affording us the opportunity to go out and bag wild game. I know that some wish that the deer herd would grow faster and we may not have as many pheasants and quail as some years past, but overall Nebraska is home to numerous different species of game animals and most of them are abundant.

Conservation plays a huge role in Nebraska, with a multitude of sportsmen and sportswomen taking part. We can be thankful that the majority of people support our cause and contribute by buying licenses and donating to conservation groups.

Hunting is usually a social sport. Hunting buddies get together, sometimes year after year, and spend the week in deer camp or head out to the fields together on the pheasant opener. Friendships are forged through the fun times, tough hunting days and successful days spent helping each other process the meat. The comradery and occasional competitive challenge, bonds friends together in a way to make them better at what they do. We can be thankful for good hunting friends.

Memories are an integral part of hunting. This is the storing up of recollections throughout the years that we can reminisce with others of similar interest. Passing stories down through the generations, to our children and grandchildren, is one of the best parts about hunting. Making memories with friends, kids, and loved ones is something we will cherish for all of our life. Be thankful for the memories that you make today.

The opportunities that we have to enjoy the great outdoors and all of God’s creation is definitely something to be thankful about. Seeing the sun rise in the cool crisp air, with no sound around you but the leaves stirring softly in the breeze, will make you thankful that you didn’t just hit the snooze and roll over. If you are healthy and able to be in the outdoors, whether you have the opportunity to harvest or not, you have so much to appreciate.

Hunting in Nebraska is, for the most part, quite affordable. I know, hunting is not cheap. By the time you update your hunting gear, sight your rifle with expensive ammo, gas and maintenance on your vehicle, buy all the necessary permits and stamps, and process the meat, you’re wondering whether it is all worth it. But consider that in the majority of the world, only the wealthy and privileged have the luxury of hunting. In our country, the average person can take part in this sport, albeit maybe on a budget. If a person is conservative with what you buy and spend, nearly anyone can hunt. We should be thankful that these possibilities are available to us.

Take time during this season to be thankful for all of our blessings.

Taxidermy Tip of the Week: European mounts have regained popularity in the last couple of years. Partly because the costs of having a shoulder mount done have risen to be out of the reach of some people. It is also a consideration that some hunters already have several mounts on the wall, and whether they are out of room or low on funds, they opt to have a European mount done instead.

There are various methods for doing a European mount, and each taxidermist will have their preferred technique. One option is to boil the skull until the meat is cooked enough to clean off of the skull. This system works well to remove the majority of material from the bone, and cooks some of the grease out of the marrow. The down side is that it is still tedious and difficult to rid the skull of every tiny bit of meat and fat. Over boiling can do permanent damage to the skull, and cause discoloring. It can be a bit of a paradox as to exactly how long to boil without overdoing it.

Another popular process is to let nature clean off the skull. One word of advice, the skin will still need to be removed. Bugs and maggots will clean out the fleshy parts of the skull, but they do not like the skin, and therefore it will be left uneaten. The skin will then dry out and be stuck to the bone, leaving you with a skull that doesn’t look cleaned at all.

One can macerate the skull, letting it soak in water for an extended period of time, and allowing bacteria to rot the meat off. The skull will smell quite foul when pulled out of the water, but will be devoid of any fleshy parts, and after airing out will not be smelly. No grease will be removed from the bone, and so over time the grease will leach out of the skull, staining the bone. Any skull cleaned with maceration or naturally will definitely need to be degreased.

The method that I prefer, and we use in our shop, is to use flesh eating beetles to clean the skulls. Dermistid beetles have a voracious appetite for any fleshy parts, and a colony of them will clean up a skull in short order. We keep our beetle colonies in temperature and humidity controlled containers at a separate location. Flesh eating bugs in a taxidermy shop would not be ideal! Because of the danger of some escaping, the beetles are kept off location.

Beetle cleaned skulls do need degreasing, and that is another whole process that the bones will go through. The skulls are then whitened and attached to a nice wood panel for display. I hope that this information gives you an appreciation for the work that goes into a european mount. They are most certainly a nice option to the traditional mount, at a less expensive cost.

Daryl Keyes is owner of Pheasant Hollow Taxidermy. His columns on the outdoors are featured regularly in The Telegram.