Meat processors have record year after strong deer harvest

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ASHLAND – For hunters, the ten day firearms deer season is prime time to harvest meat for their families. For meat processors, it’s a 10-day madhouse.

Bill Crane, owner of Crane’s Meat Processing, said this is a record year for his business.

“We haven’t been this busy since back in 2000 when we had 80-degree weather during opening weekend,” Crane said.

It’s been so busy, he had to turn down customers.

“On Monday, we filled up,” Crane said. “We filled everything, couldn’t hardly get the doors closed. We had to quit taking them.”

Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) officials reported deer hunters harvested 96,131 deer during the opening weekend of firearms deer season. Last year, hunters harvested 93,896.

Callaway and Boone County harvested the most deer in mid-Missouri with 2,825 in Callaway and 1,823 in Boone.

KOMU 8 News contacted six other meat processors for an interview and they all said they were too backed up to talk.

MDC deer biologist Kevyn Wiskirchen said weather played a big role in the strong deer harvest.

“We had really good weather this year, which helped the deer up and moving and also encouraged hunters to get out and spend a lot of time in the field,” Wiskirchen said.

He said many people don’t think deer hunting affects them, but it does. Wiskirchen said deer hunting is an important economic driver in Missouri and gives a $1 billion annual boost to the state and local economies.

In addition, deer hunters donate to the Share the Harvest program, which distributes deer meat, or venison, to local food banks.

“It’s a really good program that impacts people outside of the hunting community,” Wiskirchen said. “A lot of people benefit from that program.”

Crane said he participates in it every year.

“We’ll take in at least 100 head of those [Share the Harvest deer] before it’s all over,” Crane said. “The deer doesn’t go to waste like it used to.”

Wiskirchen said deer firearms season runs through November 22. Archery deer season will open again November 23 and run through January 15.