First question I always get asked is, “Do they ever get out?” Matter of fact they do. They are great climbers and what they can’t climb they eat their way through. Sterilite, that hard plastic they use to make containers, no match for a beetle. Get a little dust on it and they will climb straight up. If that don’t work they will bore through. Wood is just an opportunity for a little fun. Good old hard glass is best. Tuff to climb and they aint gett’n through. Oh ya, the little critters can fly too.
So what if they get out, they are just a bug. NOT! The subversive little spies hide out like an Al-Qaeda sleeper unit plotting their next mission. I’ve never given one the microscopic look but I’m guessing they must be 50% teeth and 50% nose as they can chew through anything sniff’n for food. They love leather, tanned or not, makes no difference. Under the hair they go and by the time you notice, big clumps are falling. They also like carpet. In fact they have a nick name, Carpet Beetle.
You would think after the last two paragraphs that it takes a military squadron to keep the little units in check. Hardly, it just takes an understanding of how they operate and much of my understanding is from mistakes. Once you understand their wants and desires they are as easy to keep as a wife.
So how do you take care of a deer if you want it bugged? I’ll start with the best possible. Freeze it, right away, don’t wait any longer. It’s gonna cost you some flowers and then some, but sneak it past her and in the freezer. If you absolutely can’t get it in the freezer but it’s freezing cold out, that’ll do. Please bag it first as this will keep it from freeze drying.
No freezer? That’s ok, here is 2nd best. Skin the head, remove the lower jaw, eyes and brains. Do this in an enclosed area that is totally free of flies. Next put the head in front of a fan. In a few days it will be dried with very little smell. If your family begins commenting on a strange smell just tell them you’ve been having a little foot trouble and ask them if they would like to see your toes. That should close the topic.
One or two don’ts and we will move on. Don’t salt anything, use chemical or bug spray. That stuff kills the beetles too ya know. Salt cracks teeth and is at its worst with bears. Keep the salt on the popcorn and off the trophy.
Ok – Ok I’m gett’n there. I would guess about 2 days to totally clean a Whitetail. But I have to do some work. First I skin out the head and remove everything that is reasonably easy to get to. Eyes, lower jaw, brains and any meat I missed while making sausage. It’s best to dry it down at this point as too much moisture and you will get a nasty little mite in your beetles. The mite is bad news as it transforms the beetles into gov’t workers. Once bitten all they do is stand around and look at each other wondering why doesn’t someone do something.
When the beetles are finished with a gourmet meal of fan dried head meat I have to go to work. Dang mites, I think I must of got bit, now where was I. Oh ya, work. The skull needs to be degreased. If you don’t get the grease out it will break down and the bone will degenerate as well as turn yellow. Gett’n grease out of bone is like getting work out of—whats that?—ya I guess we did cover that already.
Peroxide is what is used to whiten the skull. Don’t use chlorine! It eats bone for lunch. About the time you have your mount on the wall and are feeling smug about a well done European, it will begin to crumble. Slowly at first but before long it’s gone. No bleach please.
The larva, which do most of the work molt an average of 9 times and then transform into the little black beetle. Adult beetles lay eggs and in just 3-4 days the creamy white eggs become a tiny hairy pupa that is barely visible. As the wormy critter goes through the stages of molting it becomes a beetle and the cycle begins all over.
Keeping beetles year round can be a chore. Like me their life revolves around the supper table. If they ain’t fed they ain’t happy. Thank God for spring bear season. About the time the spring rush is over bears start coming in and keep the beetles happy for most of the summer.
I guess I should explain “Spring Rush” as you probably think the rush coincides with the fall deer season. It does but, there are two peak seasons to beetle work, spring and fall. Spring Rush is created by wives who drive to work in the snowy spring weather with all the car windows down gagg’n and retch’n. You see, by now we have had several days in the mid 60’s and the fall trophy in the corner of the garage is beginning to ripen. The beetles and I would like to take this time to thank all the wives who give the ultimatum.
What’s that? How long will it take to get it back? Ha Ha, good one, now that’s funny. Everyone knows a good taxidermist lives in a perpetual state of frozen animation. Time is of no consequence. In the real world of hard working service oriented business you will have it back in 4 to 5 months. Och, dang mites, I think I got bit again.