Harvesting a deer is just the first step, but learning how to choose a deer processor is next.
Once a hunter kills a deer and reports the harvest to the proper authorities, they generally have two options for how to proceed. First of all, if the deer is a trophy buck, they can consider having part of it – the head, at least – preserved by a taxidermist. This can be a great way to remember a kill and a hunt fondly for years to come, and can give a hunter great bragging rights when entertaining other hunters at their home. The hunter can also throw thoughts of posterity to the wind and simply have the deer processed and prepared for eating. After all, the primary reason that many people hunt is to feed their families: why should they waste valuable meat on taxidermy?
However, just as finding a skilled taxidermist is a difficult task, locating a trustworthy deer processor can take time and research. For this reason, many hunters eventually teach themselves how to butcher their own kills, finding that doing so gets them more meat and saves them money in the process. Not everyone has a stomach for skinning a deer and cutting it up into small pieces though, and if you can’t see yourself making it through that task without losing your lunch, then it’s better to leave it to the experts.
In Case You're Wondering...Check Out This Illustrated Deer Meat Guide
But what makes an expert, and how can you find someone you can trust? Look around online or ask your friends for recommendations on local deer processors, then make a list and start calling them up. By addressing the following questions in an informational interview of sorts, you can find the processor who will become your go-to guy during hunting season.
Will I get my own deer back?
This is the number one concern of most hunters when choosing a deer processor, and for good reason. During deer season, a processor can be incredibly busy, so much so that their meat locker ends up absolutely filled with deer carcasses. Asking about the timeliness of a processing job and the tagging methods a processor uses to keep their meat locker organized can help you determine whether or not you will end up eating your own deer meat. Not only do you want to eat the meat of the animal you killed, but you also don’t want to end up with meat contaminated by someone else’s shoddy field dressing job. If a processor can’t look you in the eye and tell you honestly and invariably that you will get your own deer back, walk away.
What are the processor’s methods?
All deer processors have different ways they like to work. Some want you to bring in a full animal to be skinned and completely butchered on scene. Others prefer you to do the beginning dirty work and then bring in a quartered animal. Some specialize in one type of meat preparation (ground venison burger, steaks, chops, sausages, jerky, etc.) while others can do any and all of them depending on what you prefer. Finding out this information will help you differentiate between processors and choose the one who best meets your needs.
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How much is it going to cost?
Even if you get a glowing recommendation from a deer-hunting friend on who he thinks is the best deer processor in all the land, you should still look around a bit on your own to see how prices vary. Paying extra for a deer processor who you can trust and who prepares the meat how you want it is worth it, but looking around can’t hurt and will let you know whether or not you are being ripped off.