Two days after the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) announced it would suspend its popular Hides for Habitat Program for the 2018 deer season, the group has changed course.

“Fortunately, an 11th-hour agreement between fur buyers and MDHA for a higher price for hides will enable MDHA to avoid a one-year pause in the program,” a release on Oct. 12 said. “MDHA has worked hard with fur buyers to negotiate prices that would allow the program to continue uninterrupted.”

On Oct. 10, the MDHA had announced it would suspend the hides program for the 2018 deer season. Among reasons it cited was China’s decision to add a 25 percent tariff to all deer hides entering that country. China is the largest buyer of all U.S. hides for leather products.

In August, the Chinese government proposed imposing 5 to 25 percent tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. imports to the country if the United States went ahead with levying tariffs on the $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

The deer hunter’s association collects deer hides throughout the season and sells them to fur buyers who trim, salt and prepare them to be shipped overseas. The association said in its original news release that the tariffs were one of a few factors that forced them to believe they would have to suspend the program.

“As of August, China will no longer allow tanning of hides in the country, which did not allow enough time for tanneries to react and create new facilities in countries such as Vietnam,” the deer hunter’s association said in its first release. “A current oversupply of tanned hides from last year is also in the market. These factors have created a climate where little to no market exists for MDHA to sell their hides to the fur buyers.”

Two days after making that statement, the group was able to negotiate a price to make it worth reopening the program in Minnesota.

Alexandria’s Mark Nohre, the Region 7 Director for the MDHA, said the Alexandria chapter was still trying to figure out if it was feasible to run the program in Douglas County this season as late as Monday morning. But by Monday afternoon, the local group decided that it would have boxes set up at drop stations throughout the area again.

“We’re for sure doing it,” Nohre said.

Nohre was originally concerned because there is no place to store the hides locally once they are picked up, and they do not have the manpower to salt them themselves. Getting hides to the fur buyers that are already salted means lower labor costs for the buyers.

Nohre said chapters in parts of outstate Minnesota also have the added cost of fuel for pick-up, which drives down prices for the hide even more. He knows the program may not generate as much money this year as the group would like, but whatever money they do raise was deemed worth it to keep it going.

“We probably won't make a lot of money on it, but we want keep people donating hides to MDHA,” Nohre said. “If we make $300 on it, we make $300. If we make $400, we make $400. It’s still money we can spend here on local food plots.”    

Hides for habitat details

Since its inception in 1985, the Hides for Habitat Program has generated nearly 865,000 hides and $5.23 million to help fund statewide habitat projects. Included in that is money used to fund the corn and soybean seed that goes to Alexandria chapter members for food plots.

Nohre said the program provided almost $1,200 worth of seed last year.

“Which doesn’t sound like a lot of money,” he said, “but it takes a lot of hides to make $1,200 at $4, $5 apiece.”

At the program’s peak when hunters were allotted up to five deer tags locally in some zones, Nohre said he remembers the group collecting almost 1,100 hides during deer season.

“I think we collected somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 hides last year, which was good,” Nohre said.

Some deer permit areas around Alexandria, including 213, went from a management zone and a two-deer limit last year to a three-deer intensive area this fall. That means more hides might be available this season to help alleviate some of the loss from lower prices.