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By Pete Wurdock

Deer season is underway for hunters in Michigan. Archery season began on October 1 and runs through November 14. Regular firearm Deer Season starts at sunrise on November 15 and ends at sunset on November 30. Muzzle loading runs from December 3-12.

If you are a deer hunter and plan on bagging a buck this fall, and don’t want to process it yourself, there is something you should know. This year many of the U.P. deer processors in the eastern U.P. will not be processing venison. A confirmed, partial list of who will not be processing includes Love’s Meats in Rudyard, Charlie’s at Mater’s Stop-N-Go in Seney, and DeGrief’s Processing in Pickford.

There are a few reasons for the shortage this fall. The first issue is that it is getting harder to find people who want to do the job. It is physically demanding, and some veteran processors have given up the trade.

Another reason is that small meat processing businesses are overwhelmed with beef and hog processing. Part of this is due to the Covid pandemic, because more and more people are finding alternative meat sources locally and these smaller places are overwhelmed. As a result, they are having to forego their normal deer processing. This is expected to continue due to national supply chain issues affecting nearly every facet of the U.S. economy.

But there are still some processors working in the area. Here are a few we found:

Ryan Maurer of Maurer’s Little Meat Shop in St. Ignace will be processing this year. Last year, Maurer began in September with the youth hunt and took orders until November 30, processing about 170 deer in all. Maurer charges $140 a deer and an extra $50 if you want the head saved to mount.

Some of Maurer’s business came from Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger, a non-profit organization that pays for the processing when hunters donate their kill to help a family organization in need, such as a food bank or pantry. Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger is an all-volunteer, 501c3 nonprofit organization, that was established in 1991. They coordinate with participating licensed game processors throughout the state as drop off locations for whitetail deer harvested by hunters during the hunting season and deer harvested through deer management practices.

Viau’s Super Market in Escanaba will also be processing, as will Solderman’s Meat Processing in Gladstone. Businesses like Love’s in Rudyard (not processing) will continue to make sausage for those who are able to bring in their venison.

There’s also a paperwork component.

It is a requirement that the deer processing operations in Michigan register and obtain a free permit. This is necessary for the DNR to administer and oversee commercial processors who accept wild animals for processing and storage.

When a deer is brought in to be processed, the hunter fills out an information sheet with their contact information and the processor checks the permits. Meat processing businesses are required to maintain records of each customer and animal accepted at their facility for 90 days.

These processors play an important role in the hunting season with the DNR. When a conservation officer has suspicions about a hunter—perhaps for taking an animal with the wrong permit, or something seems out of place—they will contact the deer processing outlets.

To get the best quality out of your deer, it is recommended that you make contact with your processor as soon as possible after the kill. Keep the deer as cold as possible, or get it to your processor so the deer can be stored in their freezer until it can be processed.

In other words, instead of toting your deer from camp to camp in a victory lap, take pictures and get yourself in line. With milder temperatures predicted throughout November, spoilage is possible.

Also keep in mind that all of the smaller processing locations are already busy keeping up with their local demand for beef, pork, and other meats.

You can reach Ryan Maurer at (248) 310-0122 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/maurerslittlemeatshop

Viau’s Super Market in Escanaba (906) 786-1950. www.facebook.com/ViausMarket

Solderman’s in Gladstone, (906) 428-2487 sodermansmeatprocessing.com

Above all, stay safe this fall and enjoy that venison!