Lefors woman turns a profit with bones and beetles

LEFORS – 4C Skull Mounts is a small hobby business that specializes in European mounts and is ran by Hailey Callaway of Lefors.

Callaway was raised by her dad in Stinnett, who taught her how to hunt and mount her own hunted animals at a young age. Today, those skills provide both a hobby and a source of extra income for her.

“I started doing European mounts probably when I was 10. My dad was a single dad, and so we’ve hunted forever. He’s the one that taught me how to do them. So I have been doing my own mounts for a long time, but I’ve done them for the past six or seven years for clients. Before that, it was just for friends and family or my own (mount).”

The first skull Callaway mounted was a deer skull, and back in those days she would do so using the boiling method. The boiling method consists of essentially boiling the flesh off of the skull, a process that typically takes around four days to complete. Today, she has upgraded to the beetle method.

“This is my third season with the beetles. They are called dermestidae beetles and they are a flesh-eating beetle. You basically take the hide off and put the head in there (with the beetles) and they eat everything,” Callaway said.

While the beetle method can take around the same amount of time as the boiling method, the beetles tend to do a more thorough job and leaves the integrity of the skull intact. They also remove alot of work out of the process for Callaway.

“When you boil them (heads), it compromises the bone and makes everything spread out. The teeth will fall out or the nasal cavity will fall out.”

Callaway says that while the beetles do a much better job that boiling water can, she says the amount of time it takes for beetles to clean a skull can vary depending on how many beetles you have.

“How long it takes (the beetles to clean a skull) depends on how big your colony is. At the end of the season last year in January or February, it would take them around two days to clean a whole head. Now, I have a fresh colony, it’s smaller, so it will probably take a week or so to do one now. But they grow very, very fast,” Callaway said.

After the beetles have done their job, Callaway will take the skulls and do a small “clean boil”.

“It’s about a 30 minute degreasing process and it gets all the bugs out. Then I’ll take it into my shop and bleach it. I usually let it set for a day or two, and then at that point I wash it off again, boil the horns and put whatever mount you want on it,” she said.

Some of the more interesting skulls Callaway has mounted other than your typical deer skull  include a bear skull, some bobcat skulls, hog skulls and more. She also does turkey fans and cow skulls for clients that want them done.

Calloway’s experience and work speaks for itself- and she’s already off to a hot start this season after having a very busy season last year. Her prices are more than fair, and because of that she has no shortage of clients in need of her services.

“Last season I did 60 (mounts). And just this season, I’ve already done two elk heads and two audad (sheep) skulls,” she said.

The price of her service typically depends on the size of the head and how you want it mounted, but even her most intricate mounts fetch a fair price.

“If it’s a deer and if I’m just cleaning and whitening it with no plaque, it’s just $100. If you do a single plaque, it’s $135 and then if you do a three-piece pedestal, thats $150,” Callaway said as an example of how her prices work.

Outside of her hobby business, Callaway is a real-estate agent and spends time raising her two children. She is married to her husband, Jesse Callaway of Lefors.

If you would like to have a skull mounted by Hailey or if you would like to check out her work, you can call 806-367-0194 or visit her Facebook Page, 4C Skull Mounts.

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