Over the years I have seen several elk and deer hides left in the woods by hunters and I have to wonder why they do this? I fully understand and agree about getting the hide off the animal as soon as possible to cool the meat, but why not pack out the hide with you and use it? As far as I know there are no state laws that require you to take the hide home, but to me why waste such a beautiful part of the animal? Some might think they have no use for the hide or it costs too much to tan. Understanding this, here are a few suggestions.
I know prices will vary around the country for tanning but here in Colorado I can get a deer tanned for $85 and an elk at about $250. I know times are tough with the economy in the toilet but to me it is worth the cost. There are several uses for the hides around the home such as using them as a throw blanket while watching the game, a full bed blanket, a wall decoration, hung over the back of a chair or couch, or tanning them as leather to be used in making gloves, moccasins or other items. My wife and I have also given them as gifts for Christmas. I am sure there are other uses but this gives you a fair idea to start with.
I understand the cost of tanning might be a factor but there are other options too. First would be the do it yourself approach. I have done a few using solutions from Cabelas, it is pretty cheap and it is not that difficult. Of course you need the space and time to do this. Second option, if legal where you live, is to get the hides tanned and then sell them. You might not get rich but making a few bucks will not hurt. Third option is to ask your local taxidermist if they will buy them from you as they may sell hides as part of their business. I am sure most will at least take the cape off of a buck or a bull.
Of course what you do with the hide is your choice. I hope this will at least give you a few ideas on how to use the hide rather than leaving it in the forest or tossing it in the trash.