Decapitation and Preservation

Last fall, I shot my first whitetail deer. It was my third year hunting for deer and my first real chance I had at shooting one, so I took it.

I had my doe permit and therefore was legally able to shoot one. I am not a sport hunter looking for a big rack. I just want good, fresh, local meat to put in the freezer to feed my family. So, on opening day, minutes after the sun came up, my eyes followed a doe walking towards me and when she came closer, I pulled the trigger.

She dropped dead instantly. I had shot her through the heart.

A doe, dead on the ground, with a bullet hole through her chest.

Meet your meat.

After dragging her out of the woods, I hung her up and removed her hide. I rolled it up and put it into my freezer. I knew I was not going to have time for it now and would save it for another time (coming soon!).

I broke the body down and iced it. I had never butchered an animal bigger than a chicken before but I was determined to do this myself. I’ll spare you all the details — you can read about those in a book. I recommend The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food by Jackson Landers. It was my guide and it served me well.

Removing the backstraps from the deer.

Breaking down the deer. Notice the book behind me.

What I want to write about here though is what I did with the deer’s head.

I had read about burying the head in the ground to let the bugs clean it up and decided I’d give it a try. I took my ax and severed the head from the body. The deer’s eyes were glassy and it’s tongue hung from it’s open mouth. This was a death metal album personified.

I dug a deep hole near my vegetable garden and tossed the head and legs in. I then covered it with soil (not before snapping a pic) and placed an old plastic bin over the top of it to keep the animals away.

The deer head in a hole in the ground.

It’s like planting vegetable seeds, only it’s far more brutal.

The leaves fell and the snow came.

Throughout the winter, I often thought about that frozen deer head in the ground, wondering if it would still be there come spring. I mean, there was always the off chance that it would get possessed by a demon, dig itself out of its grave, and torture me in my sleep.

Too many horror movies. Too much death metal.

Well, spring arrived and the ground begin to thaw and I began to think of the head more and more. Eventually, after a few months of thawed ground, I decided it was time to dig it up.

I went outside as the sun began to set and like some perverted grave robber, began to dig up the shallow grave.

Daylight was fading fast so I was working quickly. I hurriedly but carefully dug as not to damage the skull. When some dirty white began to show, I dropped the shovel and used my hands to clear the dirt away.

Digging up the skull and bones.

Isn’t it beautiful?!?

I pulled the skull up out of the ground and was overwhelmed by a pungent stench. Some skin and fur still dangled from the head and from out the back of the skull dripped some partially decomposed brain.

It was fucking disgusting.

I retched but did not vomit. Excitement quickly overcame my disgust.

I grabbed the hose and began spraying the skull and bones. Whatever fur or flesh was left on them was now peeling off with ease. However, the brain-mush was still attached in places inside of the skull. A knife and screwdriver were necessary to remove those bits.

After the bone was free of all flesh, I gave them all a quick wash and placed them into a bucket of Hydrogen Peroxide. I felt like a goddamn mad scientist. Check out the video of the peroxide bubbling:

I left them there for days to whiten them.

I then removed the skull and bones, sprayed them off once again, and let them dry in the sun. After they were dry, I sprayed them with a clear matte glaze to better preserve them.

Lastly, I attached the skull to a piece of live-edge wood.

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It was all a hell of an experience (probably the most metal thing I have ever done and I’ve seen Mayhem live). I hope to take part in it again this coming year. Only this time, I hope to get myself a buck because although I earlier stated that I did not care about getting a big rack, that was only partially true. I would absolutely love to have a big rack to mount on my wall.

Lucky for me, I’ve spotted a buck only a short walk from my home. Unlucky for him, I know he’s there. My 30.06 rifle scope is sighted-in and I’m ready to kill again.


Soundtrack for digging up a decomposing deer head:
Cannibal Corpse – “Skull Full of Maggots”

This needs no explanation. Of course I picked this song!

It’s not every day you get to live out the lyrics to a Cannibal Corpse song without being put in prison for the rest of your life. Hashtag blessed! (Did I do that right?)

Lying there cold after a torturous death. Your life ended fast you took your last breath. Dead in a grave, your final place. The maggots infest your disfigured face.

Spring Oysters growing on a small poplar tree.

Spring Oysters

Ahhh. Springtime in Maine. The sounds of bird chirping, the glistening morning dew, and the smell of anise. Wait…what? Did he just say the smell of anus?

No, no, no — the smell of anise. Y’know? Black licorice. Sweet and spicy. That’s what Spring Oyster mushrooms smell of.

Being one of the first edible mushrooms that are available in spring in Maine, Spring Oysters (Latin name: Pleurotus populinus) have come to symbolize the beginning of a prosperous year of mushroom foraging.

While I only own a single acre, I happen to be surrounded by 6,800 acres of public preserved land known as The Kennebec Highlands. I literally walk to the end of my driveway, cross the road, and I am entering into these woods.

Here on this preserved land (and in other nearby preserved lands), I have foraged and hunted for a variety of foods, including Spring Oysters.

While walking with my wife in the Kennebec Highlands this spring, we stumbled upon a grove of small poplar trees and instantly noticed mushrooms growing on some of the trees.

One whiff of the mushrooms and there was no doubt in my mind — we had found oysters!

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Tender, young Spring Oyster mushrooms.

We gathered them up and hastily made our way for home.

Days earlier I had harvested some young Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms from a different location and these oysters were to make a lovely addition to our mushroom feast.

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A handful of young Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms.

I battered and fried the Dryad’s Saddle. The Spring Oysters, I tossed into a hot cast iron skillet with some venison backstrap pieces from the doe I had harvested in the fall.

The meal, while boring to look at (due to it’s lack of color variety), was absolutely scrumptious. Surprisingly, the battered Dryad’s Saddle were the spotlight. It reminded both my wife and I of battered clams bellies. Whether that was due to the method of cooking or to the mushroom itself was not quite clear, though I lean more to the prior than the latter.

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Battered Dryad’s Saddle w/ Pan-fried Venison and Spring Oysters

Weeks passed and I found no more Spring Oysters, until one night, while taking a quick after-dinner stroll in the woods, I stumbled upon a broken Poplar tree. Half of it still stood, while the other half lay on the ground in pieces.

On one of those pieces (approximately 4 ft long) there grew, from every which way, large, white Oyster mushrooms. They were gone past and ridden with bugs, but I was nevertheless thrilled.

This log was coming home with me.

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I picked it up, exited the woods, and walked down the road to my property. There I set the log in a damp, wooded patch alongside my driveway. While I would not eat these Oysters this year, come next spring I would almost surely be guaranteed a meal or two of delicious Oyster mushrooms. And I wouldn’t have to venture farther than a few steps to get it!


Spring Oyster Soundtrack: Helloween – “I Want Out”

After being cooped up all winter, you start to go a little crazy, wondering if you’ll ever see spring or if the insanity will get to you first.

This song from German power metal band Helloween perfectly describes that restlessness.

“I want out – to live my life alone.
I want out – leave me be.
I want out – to do things on my own.
I want out – to live my life and to be free.”

There is a triumphant feeling to spending a spring day outside in the woods, after barely escaping the physical and mental prison of the winter. No stuffy office and no stupid rules — just total freedom in the forest!

Turn up the metal and get to the woods. Freedom awaits you.