Preliminary DNR estimates indicate the 2016 deer hunt was slightly less successful than the 2015 hunt, 196,785 deer harvested in 2016 compared to 198,057 in 2015.
Don’t tell that to Ralph Powers, owner of Powers Wild Game Processing located just off of Highway 65 north of New Richmond.
Powers’ business card says, “If you can kill it, I can make it taste good.”
Apparently a large number of local as well as transplanted hunters believe that’s true as they effectively maxed out Powers capacity to process deer this season.
“We’ve been working about 15 hours a day, seven days a week right now. We start at five in the morning and go until eight, nine, 10 at night. We’ll process around 650-700 deer for this season. Were aiming to try to close by Feb. 1. It will take until then to get caught up,” said a smiling Powers.
The closure of several other local butchering operations has made Powers the processor of choice. For an operation that opened in 2003 as more or less a hobby, Powers is more than grateful for all the business, but he’ll be the first to tell you it takes a toll physically and he’s looking forward to retiring.
“It’s hard on the back. It’s too much, I’m ready to retire now,” said Powers.
An old shopping cart parked wheel deep in mud in the middle of the driveway sports a cardboard box labeled “No More Deer or Trimming” in an effort to thwart new dropoffs. A garage is surrounded by several generator-cooled freezer units, several storage lockers, smokers and additional makeshift butchering facilities including a sausage-making station. On the ground, tarps cover scores of deer carcasses waiting for their turn at the hands of Powers and his small but efficient crew. Stacks of hides await transport to a local tanner.
Luckily the temperature has cooperated for the most part so far this season allowing for the outdoor storage as Powers and his crew work their way through the backlog.
Powers estimates it takes his crew about 30 minutes to process a deer. When all is said and done in another couple of weeks, he estimates they will have processed a record 200,000 pounds of venison not including sausage this season.
“We’ll be cutting for about four more weeks, after that we’ll just be making sausage. Last year, we made 49,000 pounds of sausage. We’re already over that this year,” said Powers.
A quick look at an order form identifies the many options hunters have for processing their deer from roasts and chops to sausage and jerky as well as an option to donate their harvest to a local food shelf, an option which Powers notes has been growing every year.
“We’ve ground over 900 pounds of venison for the food shelf this year already with more coming,” said Powers.
In case you are curious, Powers said he processed some of the biggest deer he’s ever seen this season, including the largest buck shot somewhere north of Somerset.
He reminds hunters to pick up their up their deer as soon as possible as space is at a premium and he needs to keep things moving if he expects to finish up by early February.
For more information, give Ralph a call at 715-246-4209.