Local volunteers increase annual leather drive efforts

Local volunteers from Lake Stockton Elks Lodge 2858, Stockton, have kept far busier than usual during the 2019-20 deer season.

Beginning in the late 1940s, Elks lodges from coast to coast have participated in the collection, cleaning and preservation of deer hides which are shipped off, tanned and turned into leather kits used as a therapy tool for disabled veterans.  

“We just came off working 13 days straight on these hides,” local Elk and volunteer Ray Wimsatt said of recent donations from outside the group’s normal collection area. “We’ve had more opportunity this year because the retail market for hides isn’t as strong. More people are willing to part with them this season and they’re definitely useful to us.”

Wimsatt, along with his son Patrick, Terry Cumins and returning volunteer Don Hunt have spent their deer season fleshing, trimming, salting and bundling hides as fast as they are delivered to the group in an effort to stay caught up with the year’s dramatically increased bounty.

Noteworthy of mention is Hunt’s return to the group.

Hunt recently battled and overcame kidney cancer, then suffered injuries which included a broken back after falling from a ladder earlier this year.

The entire group collectively said Hunt’s presence and assistance was missed during his health-related absence and they were glad to have him back in the fold when it came to this year’s deer hide efforts.

The local group of volunteers also has solicited material assistance and donations from several area businesses as they near the end of their yearly effort.

“We’ve got a lot of people to thank this year,” Hunt said. “When we have a complete total and we make our announcements, there’s a number of people here in town who really made this year come together and we’re definitely going to recognize all of them. They deserve a lot of credit for helping us deal with this many hides.”

The group of local Elks volunteers will continue this year’s venture through the January 2020 deer season’s end and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Chronic Wasting Disease culling, which typically takes place in late January or early February.  

The groups said the final hide total is not something they will release at the current time, but alluded to it being an impressive number surpassing previous efforts.

Additional information regarding the Elks organization and continued veteran fundraising efforts can be found by visiting them on the web at www.elks.org or by calling the local Stockton lodge at 276-1388.

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