Butte News

Nov 9, 2012 7:58 PM by Katy Harris - MTN News

Some Butte businesses refusing elk and deer hides

BUTTE - Some local businesses are refusing elk and deer hides for the first time because of low prices.

During hunting season, hide broker Paul Lemay, Jr., makes trips to Great Falls, Columbus and Butte, gathering up elk and deer hides to sell.

"I go where the money is at. If the money is better outside the US then that's where they end up going. It all comes down to who pays the highest dollar," Lemay said.

He usually buys elk hides for $8 to $10 a piece, and deer hides for $3 a piece. Lemay attributes a declining hide market to the economy.

"You have to ask yourself, is this really worth doing? But I would imagine that probably every business in this country has crossed that gateway at one time and the hide industry is no different," Lemay added.

It's also the first year that H and H Trading Center in Butte is turning away game hides. Co-owner Ron Hjelt also says they're not profitable.

"By the time you buy them, put the cost of handling and shipping, it becomes non feasible for us," says Hjelt.

Tanneries are now rare in the United States, and shipping hides to Nova Scotia on a truck is too expensive for Hjelt.

After hides reach Nova Scotia, they're shipped to countries like China, Korea and Italy.

"There used to be a lot of business in Montana, and Idaho and the western part of the state. It's just kind of gone," adds Hjelt.

"A lot of these outfits only do this as an added sideline and if it's becoming more burdensome, it's more beneficial to the business to omit that and let somebody else like myself who handles hides do that and deal with it," says Lemay.

Even though the hide market might be struggling right now, leather should always be in strong demand.

"Leather isn't going to leave today, it isn't going to leave tomorrow. There's always going to be some form of a market out there for the hides. It may drop down pretty low, but it takes people that are dedicated to stick to what it is that they do to keep the industry alive. We have to just bite our teeth and bare it and hope that next year is better," says Lemay.

He will find out what the final market price for his hides will be around Thanksgiving, and hopes to get $14 a piece for elk hides and $6 for deer.

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