Michael Pearce

November 27, 2011

Want $50,000 for a deer you shot? Good luck. . . .

Last week a friend of a friend showed me a photo of a local hunter with an exceptional whitetail deer.

Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

Last week a friend of a friend showed me a photo of a local hunter with an exceptional whitetail deer.

He provided an antler score, where the buck was killed and a little information about the hunter.

Before he could finish the story, I interrupted with, "Let me guess, Cabela's called right away and offered him a lot of money for the antlers."

He nodded and said something about $50,000.

Doubting the financial part of the story, and the dozens I've heard like it, I decided to check with Mark Dowse, taxidermy manager for Cabela's 34 locations.

"I never have and never will call somebody up out of the blue and ask if they want to sell something right after they've shot it," Dowse said. "It's all over that we do, though."

Dowse acknowledged that Cabela's buys many mounts for decorating their stores.

The normal process and amount paid are different from most rural legends.

Despite rumors running well into six figures, Dowse said Cabela's has never paid anything like $30,000 for a deer.

"We deal with Boone and Crockett animals, may pay $1,000 and often not even that," Dowse said. "We've paid $10,000, but that's for something like a state-record deer."

Dowse said many mounts in Cabela's stores have been purchased as part of a large collection, such as when a hunter dies and the family is trying to settle the estate.

He'd like to stop the rumors of big dollars paid for even medium-sized bucks so people would quit calling with something to sell.

"It's one of the biggest things I have to deal with every hunting season," he said. "It takes up a lot of time."

He would also like to stifle the rumor that Cabela's puts bounties on particular deer. For instance, promising an exact price if somebody kills a huge buck seen in a trail camera photo. They also don't pay hunters specifically to shoot huge animals.

"Despite what you're hearing Cabela's is not paying for somebody's gas, all their candy bars and salary to hunt a big deer," he said. "If we did that, I wouldn't be answering the phone. I'd be out shooting stuff."

They also don't buy off-color animals, like a pie-bald Texas whitetail buck widely rumored to have been sold to the company for $13,000 several years ago.

"Somebody gets an albino, melanistic or pie-bald deer and people think they're going to get rich, but we don't buy those," he said. "In a lot of states, it's illegal to shoot the animal if it's a strange color."

Dowse said Cabela's is concerned the rumors of high prices paid could be leading to poaching. He said most of their purchases are fairly well researched for legality.

Deer aren't the only animals people bring to his attention in hopes of making money.

"Last week I got a call from a guy who had a red raccoon he figured had to be worth a lot," Dowse said. "One time a guy trapped a bunch of white beavers and acted like they were worth something like a million dollars. He seemed surprised when I said we weren't at all interested."

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