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Teenager finds gold in 'pickling' deer hides

December 13, 1997

Teenager finds gold in 'pickling' deer hides

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Most boys his age earn extra money with paper routes or by clerking in grocery stores, but Marshall Noll finds gold in a stack of greasy, smelly deer hides in an old shed behind his house, a stack that's getting higher every day.

Noll, 15, a Waynesboro Area Senior High School freshman, is a wholesaler of deer hides. He buys them from hunters and sells them to a middleman who sells them to a tanner. The hides are turned into gloves, vests and other apparel and accessories.

Hunters learn that Noll buys hides from a sign he stuck in the ground at the end of Pine Hill Road where he lives or through a small local newspaper ad that he ran. He also parks his wheelbarrow in front of his driveway with a hide in it. Often, he said, he finds one or two more have been dropped off in it. "I leave a note telling people to leave their names so I can pay them, but they mostly never do. Deer hides aren't worth much to hunters," he said.

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Noll pays $3 for a hide in good condition, one that's not been shot full of holes or has been carelessly dragged through the woods. He pays $3 for any hide that covers a sheet of plywood that he lays on the ground. A hide that doesn't cover the board brings $1, he said.

He lays them upside down on the pile in the shed, spreads a layer of dry salt over them to draw out any moisture and blood from the skin and any flesh left on it when it was skinned, a process he calls "pickling." Noll declined to say how much he makes on his hides.

"It's not something he'll ever get rich on," said his father, Michael Noll, 44. His father taught him the business.

Noll said the man he sells his hides to buys about 70,000 a year from around the state. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission hunters killed nearly 351,000 deer in the 1996 season.

Noll started buying hides last year based on word of mouth. He sold about 20, he said. This year he expects to move about 150. He uses money from his savings account to buy the hides. He said he's trying to save enough money to get his 1979 Jeep pickup running.

Noll also buys a few beef hides and supplements his inventory with muskrat, raccoon, opossum and fox hides whenever he can trap or shoot one. He has about 30 muskrat skins hanging from drying racks in another building.

He considers himself to be an avid hunter. On the side of his bed is the hide of a deer he shot when he was 12. Somebody else tanned if for him, he said. He plans to learn the process himself someday, he said.

He also dabbles in taxidermy, having mounted a couple of squirrels and a mink that he's proud of and a duck "that didn't come out too well."

Noll said he hopes to become a professional taxidermist when he gets older.

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