Skull and void: Skulls Unlimited in Oklahoma City specializes in European mounts for hunters
Dec 4, 2010
Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman
Jay Villemarette has owned Skulls Unlimited since 1986. His company cleans and preserves all types of animals for scientists, educators, collectors and hunters. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
“There is nothing we haven't cleaned and there is nothing we won't clean,” said Jay Villemarette, owner of Skulls Unlimited in southeast Oklahoma City.
Villemarette, who has been a bone collector since he was a boy, started Skulls Unlimited in 1986.
His company cleans and preserves all types of animals for scientists, educators, collectors and hunters.
The deer gun season, which ends today, is one of the busiest times of year for Skulls Unlimited. The company gets about 50 deer per day during the gun season from hunters who want a European mount, or skull mount, of their trophy.
More Oklahoma deer hunters are opting for European mounts over the traditional taxidermy method, although it's still a very small number by comparison.
Villemarette thinks Skulls Unlimited is one, and perhaps the primary reason, for the increased popularity in European mounts.
“That might be a big head of mine thinking that,” he said. “We did give birth to all of this (skull cleaning) on a commercial level. I think we bred interest over the years.
“We get more deer in every year than the year before. When we first started the company, I can't imagine we were doing 30 or 40 a season. Now we are doing 1,500 a season.”
Villemarette said he's more interested in the science aspect of his business, but Skulls Unlimited receives animals from hunters all over the world.
Half of the skulls that his company cleans and whitens are from hunters, mostly deer and bear hunters.
There are several reasons hunters opt for a skull mount. It's cheaper than traditional taxidermy. Skull mounts take up less wall space. And some just prefer it.
“I love the European mount,” said Bryce Hulsey of Newcastle, who had been bringing deer to Skulls Unlimited for many years. “I prefer the look.”
Hulsey killed a big buck in southern Oklahoma more than 20 years ago and couldn't afford a a traditional shoulder mount at the time. His father persuaded him to try the European mount and he's been hooked on them ever since.
“That got me started on bones and stones,” he said. “I shot a deer of lifetime about four years ago and everyone told me, ‘You've got to mount it.' I said, ‘Yeah, I'm going to do a skull mount' and they said, ‘Whaaat?'
“But now I've got all my buddies doing it because they think it's cool.”
Jason Gage of Del City tries to put two big bucks on his wall every year. He's starting to run out of wall space.
For that reason, plus the cost savings, all of his new trophies are European mounts.
“Plus I just like the way it looks,” he said. “It's real white and it's real clean looking.”
Gage also thinks that skull mounts are less offensive than traditional shoulder mounts of deer heads to the non-hunters who visit his home, especially women.
“I'm not married but every girlfriend I've had over the years think that deer is looking at them. The skull mounts didn't bother them as much, but they didn't like any part of it.”