Story time! I’ve been dragging home treasures that I find in the woods since I was a tiny kid. Here’s some of what started it all.
For part of my childhood we lived in a subdivision that butted up next to a few hundred acres of woods. I spent many, many hours out there roaming and exploring. That place had vibe to it that I’ve never really been able to describe. Just felt ancient and alive and buzzing with energy. Still one of the coolest forests I’ve ever been in.
There was an old man that lived way out there that a friend of mine and I stumbled across one time. He was a gruff mountain man kinda guy but he was very nice to us. He had some gorgeous and huge (to little kid me anyway) four-horned Jacob’s rams and lots of peacocks. Sent us both home with fistfuls of peacock feathers.
I found my first skull (groundhog) and my first arrowhead while playing in those woods.
There was an old cemetery out there with worn out and broken headstones dating to the late 1700s. Lots of baby graves in it.
There were also the remains of an old farm house that burned down near the cemetery. Nothing was left of it except the foundation stones, a few piles of bricks, and where they dumped their trash. We found tons of pieces of broken glass, crockery, old nails, silverware, horse tack, and other odds and ends one would find in an old farm house. I always brought whatever I found home with me and tucked it away. Just scraps of trash but they had a history that I didn’t want to see lost. I need to get a giant jar and just put all of it in there some time.
Sadly those woods are no longer with us. They were torn down about ten years ago to put in more subdivisions. Damn shame.
Striped Skunk Skull.
I found this guy back around 2006 in my grandmother’s front yard while visiting her one day. He’d been hit by a car and some buzzards had drug it pretty close to her house. The scent glands had burst so the smell was brutal. Of course, my grandmother wanted it moved and I wanted the skull so I suited up and went to work.
I hadn’t exactly come prepared to play with dead stuff* but we did have some plastic grocery bags and a shoe box. Better than nothing.
Skunk stink was all over the ground around the carcass so to keep the smell off my shoes I put the shoe box on one of my shoes and the lid on the other. Then I put some grocery bags on my hands and my shirt up over my nose and shuffled out to collect my quarry. He’d decomposed a bit already so I twisted the head off, bagged it, put it in the shoe box, and then carried the carcass way out into the woods. Then I went home with a big dumb grin on my face and took a shower.
So that, folks, is the silliest I’ve ever looked while collecting dead stuff.
*I’ve learned from years of experience and am -always- prepared now. I have an entire kit in the trunk of my car at all times for collecting dead stuff and I’ve always got a bag or gloves in my purse or backpack. You really never know when or where a dead treasure will turn up.
Made rebloggable by request.
Oh my, where to begin? Is there anything in particular that you are wanting to learn about, Anon? Because I’m just going to ramble on about whatever comes to mind right now, haha. Maybe you’ll find some of it helpful.
It’s terribly important to be aware of the laws regarding dead stuff. If you are in the US check out this incredibly helpful site that the fabulous Lupa (thegreenwolf here on tumblr) put together. It has a lot of the laws from each state listed as well as quite a few international ones. Good stuff to read up on. For instance, in some states, like here in Tennessee, it’s legal to collect roadkill. In many other states though, don’t even think about it. So familiarize yourself with the laws and you should be good to go.
Always be safe too! Wild animals can carry a variety of diseases and parasites but most of those either die off or move on within hours of the animal’s death. Still, it is very important to always wear gloves! And face masks and protective glasses if there is a risk of inhaling any hair or bone dust or splashing any gunk into your eyes (not something I recommend). And always wash your hands thoroughly after handling any dead thing.
If you go into an unfamiliar area to bone hunt take a buddy or two with you. If you can’t, keep your phone with you at all times.
Never use bleach when cleaning bones. Never, ever. Bleach will cause bone to become brittle and flaky and unless the bones are sealed to prevent further deterioration they will completely break down over time.
Boiling is bad too. It will cook the bone and cause damage to fragile areas like the sinus cavities. It will also set grease into the bone, making it very difficult to remove later.
To clean bones I recommend either maceration (put the carcass into a bucket of warm water, cover it up, and let it rot), dermestid beetles, letting nature clean it, or carefully and under a very watchful gaze, simmering. After the skull is free of meat and tissue it’s time to degrease it. Let the skull soak in hot soapy water for a few weeks. And after all that, let the skull soak in hydrogen peroxide until it is as white as you want it to be. Use an open container out in the sun and get the 3% solution sold in a brown bottle at grocery stores. You can get higher solutions that whiten more and faster but be very careful handling them.
As for where to find bones, some of my favorite places to scavenge are around creeks and rivers. Stuff washes in from miles around so you never know what you might find in one. Check around the bases of cliffs and in ravines too. Hunting around pastures and along the sides of lonely old country roads has always proved successful for me as well. And of course, you can also buy dead stuff! I’m always hitting up yard sales, flea markets, and antique stores for dead treasures. Ebay and Etsy are good places to check out too!
Hope you found some of this helpful! If you have any other questions feel free to send me another message, Anon! Best of luck to you and happy collecting!
I just saw something really weird. It’s starting to get a little stormy around here and I was looking out the window for some lighting when I saw a bright light appear down near the creek. I’m thinking it was either ball lighting or possibly a UFO, haha.
I’m pretty sure it had to have been ball lightning. I was a big round whitish light that flashed on out of nowhere, was super bright, and just sorta hovered around for a bit before disappearing. It was actually visible for around 7 or 8 seconds.
I’ve seen some amazing atmospheric phenomena in my life but this was one of the weirdest things yet. So damn cool.
Well I’ve still got a few yet, but good Lord, I didn’t realize how much dead stuff I need to clean until today! I’ve amassed quite a collection over the winter, haha.
I’ve been working on organizing it all this morning and so far on my To Be Cleaned list I have:
Two whole grey squirrels, whole fox squirrel, whole possum, whole muskrat, whole otter, four or five coyote heads, three wolf skulls, two fox skulls, a bucket full of juvenile raccoon skulls and bones, three raccoon skulls, whole domestic dog skeleton & skull, two Carolina dog skulls and one skeleton, some mink skulls, six or seven whitetail buck skulls with large antlers, six or seven doe skulls and buck skulls with antlers cut off, badger skull, couple of hog skulls, xxl catfish skull and skeleton, four or five cow skulls, bunch of cow bones, mustang skull, arab/quarter mix horse skull, four squirrel skulls, a bucket full of rodents and shrews, and absolutely scads of other random odds and ends.
Halp I’m buried in dead stuff.
EDIT: Oh crap and now I found a bag with a mostly whole snapping turtle in it. It never ends!
I just pulled a little male American toad off of the swimming pool cover and carried him out to my fish ponds to join his buddies who were calling for mates. He started singing in my hand while I was carrying him. I just stood and held him for a while and he sang his little heart out. So freaking cute.
So I just used Mapquest to hunt down the name of this tiny little road that runs alongside the interstate. Why? Because while driving on said interstate today I saw a deer skeleton laying beside that little road and I need to figure out how the hell to get to it.
Hopefully I can check it out later this week. Anyone else ever use mapquest for bone hunting? ;)
I got a nice batch of raw heads in the mail today from a taxidermist friend. I took some neat shots of them that I’ll be posting here over the next couple of days. Two of them are coyotes with really cool dental pathologies.
So yeah, bunch of nice macabre shots and I thought some folks might like to use them as reference too.
Anyway, just a heads up for the gore. I’ll put “dead animal” and “gore” tags on them in case you want to block them.
My apologies to anyone that was stuck behind me in traffic tonight. If my trunk full of funky old dead stuff smelled as bad outside of the car as it did inside of it then you have my sincerest condolences.
Now time for the Walking Dead and puppy dog cuddling. :)