By Clay Newcomb, BHM Publisher           

     I was able to go and pick up a bear skull that I recently had cleaned by dermestid beetles. A big discussion and unknown amongst hunters with trophy class skulls is – how much do they shrink? I did measure this skull before and after cleaning so I know exactly how much it lost. And, yes, it did shrink a notable amount.

            It’s common knowledge that dermestid beetle cleaning is probably the safest and best way to clean a skull. Many taxidermist boil or simmer skulls with good success, however, in my opinion, it is more risky.  Some say the heat and inundation with water can cause the skull to shrink more. Or worse yet, cause damage to the actual bone of the skull as “cooking” could weaken it. However, if done right, there probably isn’t much damage done.

clay newcomb bear skull

            I killed this bear in August of 2013 in Ontario. The bear green scored exactly 20 0/8”. I left the bear in the freezer until May of 2014 and just got the cleaned/dried skull back yesterday, October 12, 2014.  I scored the skull with official calipers and it scored 19 13/16” (though I can’t officially score my own trophy. It was a test run). The skull shrank 3/16 of inch, missing the Boone and Crockett (BC) Awards by less than a quarter inch. However, in the bear world that’s a long ways.  Ideally, if you kill a potential record qualifier you should get the skull cleaned immediately and have it scored immediately after the 60-day drying period. I don’t think my bear would have made BC if I had done this, but it would probably have saved me a few sixteenths. This could have been the difference in a BC trophy.

Bear skull and huskemaw binoculars

            To put this bear in perspective lets make a comparison between BC bear scores and BC whitetail scores. Here goes.  The BC typical minimum for their awards book is 165 inches. The BC Awards minimum for bears is 20 inches. Technically, a 20-inch bear is a BC bear. My bear scored 99.05% of the awards minimum. In comparison to a Whitetail rack, this bear would be equivalent to a 163.43-inch net, typical buck.

skull hooker

            Big bears are like big Whitetails, they are hard to come by.  The 20-inch mark is hard to reach and it takes a heck of a bear to make it. My Ontario bear weighed 432 pounds and looked like a Volkswagon coming towards my stand. Though I have killed another bear that weighed more, at this time this is my largest skulled bear. If you’ve got a big skull laying around take the time to find an officially scorer and have it entered into Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett if it qualifies. It helps our sport if people actively participate in the records programs of the clubs.

clay newcomb ontario bear

            At the Bear Hunting Magazine office we’ve busting our tails getting the Nov/Dec issue ready for the printer.  Publishing deadlines can be demanding, but the reward of holding a new, print magazine in hand after the hard work is very rewarding. The Internet is here to stay and I love it, but so are niche, print magazines. We aren’t going anywhere and are as relevant as ever. Because of the time crunch I was only able to bear hunt one time this week as I still have an Arkansas and Oklahoma bear tag in my pocket.  The baits have died off considerably as storms have blown the majority of the acorns out of the trees. However, I haven’t given up. 

*A classy way to display your bear skull is with a Skull Hooker. They are cheap and easy. Check them out at