Hunters face fewer whole-carcass deer processing options in Douglas County this fall
Douglas County’s largest processor of venison carcasses said it does not plan to take the entire deer this year, but will continue to take trimmings for sausage making.
Miltona Meats normally processes 700 deer during rifle season in November, said owner Bonnie Johnson.
“This year we are not taking carcass deer because of the COVID,” she said. “If one of my employees would get it, what am I going to do with all that deer hanging here?”
While beef can hang for weeks, aging, venison can’t, she said. The way venison is killed, with wounds at various parts of its body, is different from the managed, controlled way beef is slaughtered.
Miltona Meats is not alone in not being able to take whole carcasses of deer in Douglas County. Lake Country Meats in Alexandria will not be taking carcasses, but will also take trimmings of wild game to process into sausage, brats, etc.
Klinder Processing of Carlos will continue to process carcasses, said owner Scott Klinder.
His business does about 400 carcasses a year. During the hunting season, they take a break from hogs and beef for about three weeks, bring on extra help and work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Klinder said he will take carcasses first come, first serve and that he won’t be able to boost production to take more.
“I’m only going to do so many,” he said.
Two other processors, Evansville Meat Market and Garfield Smokehouse, only take trimmings.
“We haven’t done carcasses for years,” said Rich Waldorf, owner of Garfield Smokehouse. “We’ve just grown into other things.”
This year, meat lockers say they continue to be swamped with demands for other services, such as hog and beef butchering. That pressure came after some meat plants closed because workers were becoming infected with coronavirus, and Tyson Meats warned of widespread meat shortages in the U.S.
Johnson said she has been so booked with hog and beef butchering that she couldn’t even open spots for the youth deer hunt in October after her schedule had already filled up.
Mark Nohre of Alexandria, who is a regional director for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said the loss of carcass processing in Miltona will be a “big hit” but that ultimately, it wouldn’t affect most of the thousands of hunters in Douglas County.
“I believe they’ll find someplace else,” Nohre said. “A certain percentage will do it themselves because they have to, but most will find somewhere else.”
Hunters in local deer-permit areas 213, 214 and 215 will be able to take up to eight deer this fall, though five of those would have to come during a four-day period from Oct. 15-18 during the first early-antlerless season that was added in the area this year.
Some hunters, like Nohre’s crew, view skinning and cutting up venison as just a part of the hunt. But not everyone has the time or inclination to do it themselves.
“A lot of guys, they just find it easier to drop it off and have someone else process their deer for them,” he said.