A programs is underway again this year that takes unwanted deer hides from hunters across the state and uses them to help veterans.

Spokesperson Lisa Widick says the hides can be turned in at Elks Lodges across the state for use by the Veterans Leather Program.

“The hides are salted and stored here in different places in Iowa, and then they are shipped to a tannery, I believe in the Kansas City area,” Widick says. “And then they are tanned and they are turned into leather pieces.” Widick says the leather is then used to make kits that are taken to the veterans homes in the state where the veterans turn the leather into usable items.

“They make moccasins, they do purses, they do coin purses, they do anything you can make out of leather, the veterans do those things,” Widick explains. “And then they are also…there’s also a company that does manufacturing of wheelchair gloves — so that the veterans who are in wheelchairs use those gloves to keep their hands from getting calluses. And those are really beneficial to our veterans.”

Widick says many of the items the veterans make are sold to raise money. “To go back to help fund different things that the veterans need. So, it’s a wonderful big circle project. The hide comes in, it goes out to make a product that is not going to waste,” Widick says.

Hunters donated some 3,300 hides to the program last year, and she encourages hunters to donate hides again this year. “You can go to Elks.org and there’s a lodge locator. Type in your zip code and it will give you the one nearest you,” Widick says. “You can all that lodge and see if they take hides. If they do — most lodges will arrange pick up from you as well.”

Widick says the deer hides are often left behind as most hunters don’t keep them.

“There are few that do, but rarely do you see that. They just lay out there where the deer has been skinned and that’s where it stays. And we’d much rather have it come to us so that we can do something good with it,” she says. Hunters in Iowa take around 100-thousand deer during each hunting season.

(Photo courtesy of DNR)