The year was 1991 when the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association began the Hides for Habitat program.
The idea was for successful deer hunters to “recycle” the deer hide by donating the hide to participating chapters. The chapters cleaned and salted the hides and then a tanning company would pick them up.
The local Riceland Whitetails chapter has participated in the program every year since the start except for 1997 when they could not find a place to work on the hides. In the early years, they depended upon chapter members to process the hides. Then for several years the Sentence to Serve group processed the hides for the chapter through 2017 but they had to drop out.
During this time, a total of 10,500 hides have been donated that have generated over $48,000. These funds have been used for various habitat projects in Aitkin County. One of the main uses has been funding the purchase of clover seed used by the wildlife office and the county land department to seed log landings, access trails and wildlife openings. It has also funded the brush cutting of wildlife openings.
The net per hide has ranged from a low of $2.23 in 2001 and a high of $8.90 in 2014 with an overall average of $4.72.
The salted hides generally go to China for tanning with the tanned leather returning to the U.S. for various uses. The program almost ended last year when changes in environmental rules in China changed.
Unfortunately, the Riceland Whitetails will not be collecting hides this year because they could not find anyone to process the hides for them. They will hopefully find a way to resume the program next year.
The chapter encourages successful hunters to seek out other hide drop stations in which to donate the hides.