"Anybody who hunts should spend at least a day in a facility that processes deer," Jim Seder, of Seder's Meat Cutting and Farm Butchering, said on Monday afternoon.
Hunters need to understand how important shot placement is, Seder said, adding that with modern rifles and scopes, no deer should be shot in the hindquarters or the forequarters, much less the gut. A poorly placed shot will ruin meat by destroying meat with tissue damage by bullets, or by spilling stomach and intestine contents.
"A head shot is the way to go," he said.
Times Observer photo by Rob Andersen
Jim Seder inspects early arrivals from the Pennsylvania antlered deer season Monday afternoon. Getting the deer gutted, skinned and cleaned quickly is important to the meat quality and flavor. The weather this year is perfect for hanging and aging, according to Seder, with low humidity and temperatures in the mid to upper thirties.
Once a deer is down, gutting, cleaning and skinning should be done as soon as possible. "Leaving the skin on is like showering with your clothes on, " he said. The skin insulates the deer when it is alive, and keeps it from cooling when it is dead.
Seder added that he will not butcher road-killed animals because of the damage to the tissues. The bones splinter and penetrate organs and intestines, ruining the meat.
Many deer are brought to Seder with the skin still on, he said, so his emphasis is skinning, splitting and hanging the carcasses.
"The temperature this year is perfect for hanging and aging meat," he said. "The first day I just skin and hang them."
He noted that the low humidity is better for hanging than freezers, although his walk-in freezer has room for 165 deer.
Early Monday afternoon things were slow with hunters still in the woods.
"From about 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock, we will probably get 60 deer tonight," he said.
He has two people helping, one cutting and one wrapping the meat, but at 69 years old, he is cutting fewer deer each year. "I've had 20,000 deer under my knife. It used to be about 600 deer a year for 35 years, but now it's down to about 175."
As deer are brought in the door, they are tagged with a plastic number and logged in with the hunter's information and how the meat is to be cut. He said that some hunters want all hamburger, some want more traditional cuts of roasts, chops, hamburger and butterfly.
So far this year, the biggest deer he has worked on yielded 99 pounds of meat. He has a chart comparing live weight to meat yield, and this deer would have weighed around 225 pounds.
Seeing as many deer as he does, Seder said the antler restrictions have resulted in larger bucks. "They used to average 115 to 130 pounds, and now it's more like 145 to 180 pounds, with the average bucks carrying eight points," he said.
The biggest local deer, he said, come from the Akeley Swamp.
"The acorns, apples, beechnuts and hickory nuts this year is unbelievable," he added, although noting the hickory nuts were more tempting to the squirrels than deer.
Seder butchers more than whitetails. During the off-season, he butchers beef and pork on the farms. He said that he has customers bring in moose and elk from all over, including Quebec and Newfoundland. Seder said he has processed caribou, but doesn't care for the odor of the meat, or the small yields from a reindeer.
One of his regular customers, a Bear Lake native, now lives in Alaska and comes to Warren each year for deer season.
He also makes about 4,000 pounds of sausage each year. "The secret to good sausage is to season the meat before grinding it. We grind sausage once and hamburger twice," he said. After grinding, he will add eight ounces of water to ten pounds of sausage and let it stand for a few minutes before bulk packing it.
Seder said he started meat cutting when he was 13 years old, cutting for Warren Supermarket after working as a stock boy for six months. He then cut meat for the owner of the Savoy Restaurant before joining the army, then worked at the Holiday Market on Conewango Avenue.
Seder indicated he would like to find someone to learn the trade from him, then take over the business in the future.