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Shoulder Mount or European Mount?

By Paul AnnearJune 12, 2024

As a young hunter, I remember the quest for my first “wall hanger” buck. I viewed a mature buck harvest as a rite of passage into the bowhunting world. In terms of how I felt after I arrowed a solid 133” eight pointer, I wasn’t wrong. I felt relieved and a huge sense of accomplishment after laying my bow down on him after a rut-crazed 3-minute chase finally ended with a successful shot.

After reminiscing on the hunt later that evening, I told my Dad I wanted to get the buck shoulder mounted. The scene of this deer chasing off four other bucks in pursuit of the hot doe he was after is forever etched in my mind. The shoulder mount I have helps me relive the exact moment it all came together on that early November afternoon.

While shoulder mounts are a true artistic representation of your hunt—they are rising in cost and of course, require space. Additionally, shoulder mounts do require a little maintenance to keep a clean look, and they can be a burden for you and your family down the line. I am not advocating against your local taxidermist, but there are some reasons you might re-consider a shoulder mount for your animal.

Shoulder Mount Or European Mount?

Cost

It isn’t hard to understand this one. The cost of everything has risen quite steeply in the last few years and it’s no different with taxidermy costs. When it comes to taxidermy, you typically get what you pay for like anything else in life. Very experienced or award-winning taxidermists will charge more for their work.

What feels like just a few years ago, it was quite easy to find a great taxidermist who might charge $500-600 for a great shoulder mount. Today, a whitetail shoulder mount from a reputable taxidermist is likely going to cost you upwards of $750, with some prices creeping up towards $1,000. 

I can think of lot of other items I’d rather save for than constantly mounting the deer I bring home from the woods. Saving money by not mounting your deer could be put towards a new lease, saving money to buy a property, food plot implements—you name it!

Shoulder Mount Or European Mount?

A more cost-friendly way to preserving your memories is by doing a European “Euro” mount. Euro mounts are typically $150 or less and can be easily be swiveled, or removed from a hanger to see and feel much easier than a shoulder mount.

Laurie and Todd King of TK Mounts in Boscobel, Wisconsin have been doing Euro mounts nearly ten years and say that cost is a factor for many hunters. Laurie said, “Our 2023-24 base pricing was $80 for a whitetail which includes skull cleaning, whitening and degreasing. These prices are 10-15% of current shoulder mount prices and allow hunters to mount multiple bucks in a family room every year.”

While a basement hide-out packed full of shoulder mounts may impress your buddies, you will save thousands of dollars by not shoulder mounting your bucks, and that can free up your budget to go hunt out of state or help you pour dollars into other things such as habitat work.

Space

Who wouldn’t want cathedral ceilings full of bucks and a secondary trophy room packed with more shoulder mounted whitetails? The truth is space plays a huge role in whether you should consider shoulder mounting your bucks. Not every hunter has multiple rooms to pack in shoulder mounts.

Laurie at TK Mounts said “For some of our older clients, space is an issue. They may have several shoulder mounts in their collection from hunting for decades and want to get a European mount. Space may also be an issue for younger hunters that may live in an apartment or a smaller home.” 

Euro mounts can be a great option for hunters with limited space or a spouse who doesn’t love the look of a shoulder mount. 

If a spouse doesn’t enjoy the look of a shoulder mount, Euros will likely be the way to go since you’ll save space and money.

Too Many Mounts?

Turnaround Time

If you want a shoulder mount completed, plan to wait at the very minimum 8-9 months and in a lot of cases, well over a year. Not only will you pay top dollar for a great shoulder mount, but you’ll also have to wait. Top taxidermists are not in a rush, and you should plan on having patience if you do choose a shoulder mount.

For Euro mounts, the wait time is considerably less. Each time I have dropped off a head for TK Mounts, I receive a call in less than three weeks and when I have had them done elsewhere, it’s usually less than 3-4 months.

This type of quick turnaround for a shoulder mount will never happen unless you shoot a record deer that needs to be completed for a consumer or industry trade show, or you have a taxidermy friend who will prioritize your buck.

You Might Not Like the Quality of a Shoulder Mount

As I mentioned earlier, you get what you pay for. Even if you don’t have the keenest eye for detail, quality can vary greatly with shoulder mounts. If you are taking a buck in for a shoulder mount, make sure you research the taxidermist ahead of time to ensure they are trustworthy and will complete good work. After all, you don’t want to pay $800 to wait 18 months for a shoulder mount you don’t like.

With a Euro mount, it is pretty hard to completely botch and it can usually be touched up by yourself with some cheap products from a hardware store. Some Euro mount taxidermists get their skulls whiter than others, so a little word of mouth or a quick visit to their shop can be a good way of estimating quality of work.

Laurie told me, “In some instances, a disappointing turn-away from their shoulder mount taxidermist has been the reason for the skull mount choice.” Laurie continued, “We have had customers taking apart old shoulder mounts and having us mount them on replica skull mounts because they have grown to love the look of European mounts so much.”

Shoulder Mount Or European Mount?

Maintenance

Beautiful shoulder mounts are not maintenance free. Keeping a shoulder mount fresh requires annual maintenance. Gently wiping down your mount with a rag and dusting for cobwebs is something you should do every year. This is not a bad idea for Euro mounts either.

Shoulder mounts that receive a lot of sunlight or ones that are exposed to drastic temperature changes will fade faster, as will Euro mounts. Many parts of a shoulder mount will collect dust and lose some shine if you aren’t careful. 

In rare cases, you may run into bug issues if a cape wasn’t fleshed out just perfectly. So if you’re house is packed full of shoulder mounts, call your taxidermist or do some research on other creative ways to keep those shoulder mounts looking fresh.

Conclusion

Shoulder mounts can bring a hunt back to life and help you relive those moments more vividly than a European skull mount, but the cost and other factors involved with a shoulder mount don’t always make sense for every buck.

If you dream of perfecting a hunting property you have access to or saving up for a land purchase, consider going to cheaper route with a European mount.

For another great euro skull mounting option, check out our friends at Skull Hooker for a wide variety of skull mount possibilities. 

Paul Annear
Paul Annear is a freelance writer born and raised in the picturesque region of southwest Wisconsin's Driftless area. He currently resides in northeast Wisconsin. He is a proud father of three, willing mini-van driver, and a former 7' high jumper for the Wisconsin Badgers. 
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