Posted: Nov 9, 2012 4:39 PM by Katy Harris KXLF News
This is the first year that some Butte businesses are refusing Elk and Deer hides.
Hide Broker Paul Lemay Jr. says, "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."
During hunting season Lemay makes the rounds to Great Falls, Columbus and Butte, gathering up Elk and Deer hides to sell.
He will buy Elk hides for $8 to $10 a piece, and buy Deer hides for $3 a piece.
He says the hide market fluctuates up and down, and that a still struggling economy has caused a decline in the market.
"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," adds Lemay.
This is the first year that H and H Trading Center in Butte is turning away Elk and Deer hides.
Co-owner Ron Hjelt says the hide market isn't feasible for them anymore.
"By the time you buy them, put the cost of handling and shipping, it becomes non feasible for us," says Hjelt.
Tannery's are rare in the US now and the cost to ship hides to Nova Scotia on a truck is too expensive for Hjelt.
Once 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.
He is hoping he will get $14 a piece for Elk hides and $6 for Deer hides