Elks Lodge Deer Hide Program Continues On; Program Traces Success To Local Businesses

Elks Lodge Deer Hide Program Continues On; Program Traces Success To Local Businesses
Courtesy Photo

The continued success of Elks Lodge #1688 Deer Hide Program is attributed to repeated assistance from the surrounding community.

Local businesses like Gateway Motors, Evans Feed, Merna Pack and Bow Booterie are credited with helping the lodge and it’s Hide Chairman, Earl Hansen, collect hides that directly benefit wheelchair bound veterans. Hansen retrieved the first donated hide of the 2021 deer season, on Nov. 10, from a collection bin at the north end of the Gateway Motors car lot.

While another bin is located at Merna Pack, both are cleared on a regular basis before being boxed and stored in Ansley. By mid-Jan. 2022 the hides collected by Broken Bow’s and seven other Elk’s Lodges throughout the state are then shipped to Tennessee where they are tanned and manufactured into gloves for wheelchair-bound veterans.  

“We’re going to display a pair of the gloves at Bow Booterie,” Hansen stated. “That way, people can come in and see what happens to the hides they drop off.”

Hansen added that there were nearly 855 hides collected in Nebraska and around 17,000 collected nationwide in 2020. The driver who hauls the hides to the tannery in Tennessee is from Missouri. His pickup truck is decaled with Deer Hides for Veterans and is attached to a sizable trailer that transports the hides for cleaning.

Once cleaned in Tennessee, the hides are brought to a veteran building back east. While there, the gloves are manufactured for wheelchair patients. The gloves are created for winter or summertime use. They are made from soft, strong and pliable hides, from alfalfa and corn-fed animals, that are then padded for added comfort. 

Broken Bow’s Elks Lodge began taking part in the collection about 15 years ago when Hansen was the lodge’s Hide Co-Chairman and a mechanic at Gateway Motors. When he retired in 2021, he had been employed with the company for nearly 60 years. Even though Hansen is no longer a company employee, he is treated like one and can use equipment there for the program. When Gateway Motors is quick to share mechanical supplies, Evans Feed, of Broken Bow, provides another necessity to ensure the program’s success, salt for the hides. 

“Whether it’s one bag or 50 bags, they furnish all of it,” Hansen recalled. “Those bags are about $7 a piece and that gets to be a pretty good donation.”

After retrieving deer, elk and antelope hides from Merna Pack and Gateway Motors, Hansen salts each one atop a 4×4-foot wooden table made with assistance from saw horses found in his garage. Once salted, hides are stored inside one of three 4x8x3 foot wooden containers found in his driveway.

Hansen was the co-Chairman until June of 2021, when Theodore Sherbeck, the former chairman, who resided in Ansley, passed away. Before his death, Sherbeck bequeathed the position to Hansen under the condition that hide distribution will stay at Ansley as long as Hansen remained hide chairman. Hansen said it takes less than 30 minutes to load up the hides that are collected.

After already collecting a hide from the 24-hour depot at Gateway Motors, on Nov. 10, and several more from Merna Pack, Hansen is confident lodge #1688 will meet its annual quota for the yearly event.  

“This is one of the best programs anyone could ever get into,” Hansen added. “Go down to a veteran hospital, in Grand Island and Omaha, and talk to someone who’s received them. Let them tell you about the gloves.”

Those interested in learning more about Deer Hides for Veterans are encouraged to contact Earl Hansen at 308-880-1372.