Hunters planning to hit the woods Oct. 17 for Arkansasâ€™s muzzleloader season and Nov. 14 for modern gun deer season may want to check with the deer processor they normally use to make the most of their harvest. Some processors who handle domestic livestock may be seeing a backlog from recent direct-to-butcher purchases at the beginning of this summerâ€™s meat shortage.
According to Jeremy Brown, assistant deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, some smaller processors have been booked solid through the fall taking in reservations for local beef and pork production from new customers.
â€œWhen news spread of a possible shortage of meat, it wasnâ€™t because cattle and pork producers didnâ€™t have the livestock, it was because large-scale processing plants were being closed from social-distancing precautions,â€ Brown said. â€œMany people reached out to their local producers to buy directly from them and arranged processing through a smaller, local processor.â€
While the purchases were a real benefit to local producers and kept supply lines flowing, it also caused some of the processors to fill to capacity right at the beginning of deer season.
â€œSome of the smaller processors depend on deer season to make their money, and many of them have still reserved space or have the ability to add a few more hands to their shops to keep things on track,â€ Brown said. â€œOthers who are more general may have all of their space reserved until well into the season. It would be smart to give a quick phone call to the processor you normally use or plan to use this year to make sure they can take your deer in.â€
Brown says calling ahead also is a good practice so you will be prepared to explain how you would like your deer processed should you have success this season. On opening weekend, many processors will see hundreds of deer come in, and a hunter who knows exactly how they want their deer processed will help keep things moving for everyone.
â€œIt may also be a good time to invest in a grinder, vacuum sealer and a few other tools to debone and process our deer at home,â€ Brown said. â€œItâ€™s not hard to do, but it does take some extra effort that many people would rather leave to a butcher.â€
Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aje4WKuIGeM to view a video of AGFC Deer Program Coordinator Ralph Meeker deboning and breaking down a deer for transportation from the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone.
Additional helpful tips on game processing and cooking can be found at www.agfcnaturecenter.com.