The 2000 firearms deer harvest is the sixth highest on record. Not surprisingly, the local Hides for Habitat drive had a record year as well.
On Thursday a truck was supposed to arrive in Baxter and load up about 1,200 hides for transport to Johnson Hides and Fur of Willmar, but blizzard-like conditions in southern Minnesota caused the trip to be postponed. The hides are expected to net the Brainerd chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association about $8,000. If matching funds are garnered from the RIM program and the Ruffed Grouse Society the final sum could be double that or higher.
"It's possible every hide will generate four times its original worth," said Casey Stengel, a Brainerd MDHA member who helped organize the local drive Hides for Habitat drive.
Stengel said he expects the hides to be sold some time next week. They were collected at 18 sites throughout central Minnesota. About 18 MDHA members picked up the hides from the various drop points and took them to a large garage in Baxter for cleaning. Tails and collars were removed -- the tails are worth 50 cents apiece -- and leg holes were slit open and excess fat was trimmed. Frozen hides were thawed on a grate over a furnace. Up to three pounds of salt was applied to each hide to remove moisture and preserve the hide. Every hide was handled at least three times. Stengel said the entire crew put in about 170 man hours collecting and cleaning hides.
All the money goes toward education, habitat improvement and research related to deer hunting and other wildlife. "We think this is a worthwhile project," said Jim Gau, state director of the local MDHA chapter. "It helps ensure we will have a healthy deer herd for years to come."
Hunters can help the drive by avoiding cutting through the hide when skinning a deer. Cut marks can reduce the price paid for the hides. Nor should hides be placed in plastic bags. Just tie them up with twine and place in the drop box.
"Many hides are lost each year," Stengel said, "because hunters put them in plastic bags. If it doesn't freeze they'll rot. We had to throw a bunch out last year after we had them stacked. The next week it got to 70 degrees."
Hides bring $8.50 or $2.50, depending on the quality. The Hides for Habitat program started in 1985 and through last year had raised $1.5 million. Thirty six of the 61 MDHA chapters participate in the program. Last year five chapters took in more than 1,000 hides.
This year the Brainerd chapter joins that elite group.
"We'd like to thank all the drop sites and the hunters, too," said Earl Montgomery, a director of the local MDHA chapter. "Without them we'd have nothing."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.