How to Clean Deer Antlers

by Joe Steel
An antler wall hanging provides a unique decorative touch.

An antler wall hanging provides a unique decorative touch.

Whether you've acquired them during a hunt or stumbled across them on a hike, deer antlers can add a rustic touch to your den wall. If you've had the antlers for some time and they've just grown a bit dusty, cleaning them is a snap -- just wipe them with a damp rag and perhaps a drop of soap. For fresh antlers, though, you'll want to take a few extra steps to remove the grime, any flesh or hair that remains, and any bacteria that have made the antlers their home.

1. Remove the antlers from the skull if they aren't already separated. Use a hacksaw to cut through the antlers at the base of the skull cap. You may need to clamp the skull cap down while doing this.

2. Scrub the antlers thoroughly with a wire brush. This will remove any remaining hair or organic matter. Give the base of the antlers a particularly good going-over. A smaller wire brush will help you get into the nooks and crannies more easily, but a wire brush from your grill will work.

3. Fill a large pot with water and a pinch or two of salt and set it to boil. Immerse the antlers in the water for about 30 minutes. This will kill any residual bacteria. The antlers may feel soft when you remove them but soon will regain their hardness.

4. Air-dry the antlers. If you air-dry them outdoors, don't leave them in the sun all day or some of their color will be bleached out.

Tip

  • It's best to boil the antlers outdoors, perhaps over a cooking stove, since they will emit a pungent odor while boiling.

About the Author

Joe Steel is a Northwest-based editor, writer and novelist, former news editor of an outdoor weekly. He also was an editor at a Seattle-based political weekly and editor of a monthly business magazine. He has been published in the "Seattle Times," the "Washington Post" and the "Foreign Service Journal," among other publications.

Photo Credits

  • Nick White/Digital Vision/Getty Images