Deer Creek Deer Processing owner Chad Staley is ready for the biggest part of the deer hunting season to get underway. He expects to see anywhere from 350 to 600 deer at his official state check site. Most of those animals will remain at his processing facility to be turned into steaks and sausage.
In 1997, when Staley first began to process deer, he did it mostly for himself and friends.
"That year we processed 85 deer. A few years later that number had grown to 380 deer," said Staley.
Today, his processing plant is a large, clean building with plenty of parking and an automated hook system. But, it wasn't always so.
"We started out in our old barn. People had to drive down a steep hill with their deer, sometimes getting stuck," recalled Jeremy Newgent, Staley's stepson and fellow worker.
Staley is busy from around the first of October when the archery season opens, but it is the November gun season that keeps him in the processing plant for long hours.
"It takes a lot of us to get everything processed. We have a lot of family and friends who all pitch in to help," he said. "We can turn out about two deer in an hour. With four or five people, we can do five in an hour.
His standard processing fee is $75. For that, a customer can choose what cuts of meat they want. Hamburger, steaks cutlets and loins are common cuts.
"Growing up, I watched my dad and mom cut up deer. We just kind of follow that. We cut up the deer the way we would like it. A lot of shops use a bandsaw and can get chips of bone mixed in. We don't do that. We use a knife to make sure the product is good quality," he added.
They also make sausage and jerky in their processing plant.
"We've been making three pound rolls of sausage for while now. It's a great Christmas gift and we sell a lot of it," said Staley.
Local outfitter Neal Masten uses the deer processing center, bringing many of his out-of-state guided hunters to the facility.
"We see bow hunters, non-typical bow and gun hunters and have many returning customers. We've also processed moose, elk, antelope and bear," added Newgent.
Deer Creek Deer Processing is also a state check-in for hunters. Staley doesn't receive any money for being a check-in site, but believes he gets a lot of business from providing the service.
Staley goes to great lengths to ensure that all hunters gets their own deer back when it is processed.
Deer Creek Deer Processing is expecting to have a pretty good year based on the number of deer.
"Our deer herd is very strong. Hunters have every reason to be excited before they go out in the woods each morning," said Indiana deer biologist Chad Stewart on the state Department of Natural Resources Website. "In terms of early archery season, the harvest has exceeded 25,000 the past three years, and I anticipate similar numbers this year.
"As for the total deer season, I expect at least another 125,000 deer to be harvested this year, with a chance for the statewide harvest to exceed 130,000 for the first time ever," he stated.
Staley doesn't advertise much. He hasn't had to. Most of his business comes from word of mouth. He and his group of about 20 helpers are gearing up this week getting ready for what they hope will be a record year for processing.
"We really appreciate all the customers who trust us to take care of them. We've been very fortunate in having a lot of return customers. We try to keep our costs as low as we can, especially in this economy. We're really looking forward to seeing a lot of our old friends this season," said Staley.
Deer Creek Deer Processing is located just south of Greencastle at 4181 S. C.R. 25 W. They can be reached at 653-2525.