"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Trophy Hides
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

When Indiana’s firearm deer season opened last Saturday, thoughts of trophy antlers, like visions of sugar plums, raced through the minds of most hunters. But there is another side (make that hide) to that story.

It’s true, when most hunters bag a buck with a big rack, the antlers are almost always saved for mounting and braggin’ rights . . . but the skin (hide) goes beggin’ in terms of use by the hunters.

It’s such a shame. A well-tanned deer hide, with or without hair, is just as beautiful as antlers, not to mention totally more functional.

For many years I had the hides of deer I took tanned (hair off) for my daughter to use in making various items of clothing., It is getting increasingly difficult to get deer hides tanned with hair off, but a deer skin with hair on makes a beautiful wall decoration, and it can be used decoratively or functionally around the house in many ways. (However, Phil Hawkins, the Franklin deer-hunting pioneer, points out that heavy usage--like rugs--can break the hollow hairs of a deer skin and, in time, create a mess.)

At times a deer skin can develop a friendship between landowners and hunters. Take the case a few years back when I was field dressing my deer under the barn lot pole light outside my host farmer’s barn. The farmer’s young sons asked what I would do with the skin, and I asked if they would like to have it. Their faces beamed the affirmative, so I told them I would have the hide tanned (hair on) for them. A few months later I delivered the skin, and they have since used the skin for a blanket.

About this time last year while using the farmer’s kitchen telephone just after dark to see if my butcher was “open for business,” those same boys were wide-eyed with wonder at the huge deer they had just helped me put in their father’s pickup truck.

“Still got your deer skin? I asked, and one of the two bounded out of the room and returned seconds later with their deer skin draped over his shoulders.

“Like to have another one . . . a big one?” I asked. And again their smiles left no doubt.

So one day soon I will deliver the tanned hide (hair on) of last year’s Mr. Big to Luke and Samuel. I am sure it will tell them every night as they sleep tight and comfy that deer hunters are not all bad.

ABOUT ANTLERS--Far be from this reporter the desire to pooh-pooh the desires of successful hunters to preserve the antlers of their deer and to use them to authenticate stories of the hunt. As a matter of fact, Hoosiers can be proud of our robust deer herd and of the quality of both the antlers and the physical dimension of their prizes.

Ryan Hatfield, assistant director of big game records for Boone and Crockett Club, tells me Indiana hunters last year registered 11 typical racks and seven non-typical, the largest typical rack being a 192 inch, 11-pointer (five right, six left), taken by Shaun M. Harvey in White County.

Hatfield says the top Hoosier typical of B&C records is a 195 1/8 (one eighth) taken In Parke County by B. Dodd Porter in 1985. The top non-typical of the B-C book from Indiana was a 251 4/8 (four eights), 29-pointer (15 right, 14 left), taken by Timothy J. Goode in Hendricks County in 1980.

Ryan also pointed out that B-C records show a total of 145 typical racks and 78 non-typicals for a total of 223. To qualify for the B-C book, a typical rack must score at least 170 inches. The standard for non-typical racks is 195.Noteworthy is the fact that Indiana deer regulations for many years allowed a hunter to take two antlered deer per year (one with bow and one with gun), but that regulation was changed for the 2002 season to allow a hunter only one buck.

When this regulation became effective for the 2002 seasons, biologists and brass of the Division of Fish and Wildlife doubted that it would (as hoped by some hunters) bring about more and bigger racks on Hoosier deer. There is no evidence that the one-buck rule is working such wonders, but the rule is designed to be effective for at least two more years.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

hide.JPG (51109 bytes)
A tanned deer hide (with or without hair) is a beautiful trophy.


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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