Judging by the Facebook posts I have seen from small meat processors across the country, Deer Season 2021 has been a huge success. Actually, it’s almost been too successful – there have been multiple reports of full freezers and posts asking customers to come and pick up their orders to alleviate the crowded conditions.

In the midst of deer season, it’s hard for processors to do anything more than just keep up with the workload. There may not be a lot of time for analysis, but it’s always worth noting, in the heat of the moment, what is and what is not working. Have there been any hiccups in your drop-off process or documentation? Have you seen a lot of rejects? Are people asking the same questions about your venison offerings?

If you can, take notes during this deer season, and when you are planning for next year’s season, think about your process and if there is any way to improve it. Think about new or different products you can offer. Take a look at some of the software options that are available now for small processors and see if it makes sense for you to automate some of the paperwork. Make sure than you are clear about your rules and regulations, so that your hunters know what to do and what not to do. Inundate them with information. Email your regulars a month or two in advance about your requirements, and send it a couple times prior to the start of deer season. The last thing you want is a deer carcass that you’ll have to reject because the hunter did something incorrect. Even though it won’t be your fault, you may still end up with hard feelings, so there’s nothing to be lost by telling your customers, early and often, about his to get their deer to your establishment.

Naturally, you’ll still end up with a half-dressed deer carcass covered in leaves and dirt that was left outside for two days and stuffed into a lemon-scented trash bag, and the hunter will be absolutely shocked that you can’t turn it into a couple dozen venison steaks. But a little planning and a lot of communication will help to minimize those occurrences.

Sam Gazdziak