An active deer season has area meat processors working nearly around the clock to fill the orders.
Last year's warm winter, coupled with an increase in deer population has forced some processors to limit how many they take each day, with several having to send customers to other processors.
Hank Hearn, owner of The Buck Stops Here in Bovina, said they have processed between 800 and 900 deer so far this season, which is in line with previous seasons. What is different, Hearn said, is the timing they are receiving the deer. "I think it's two things," he said. "I think the small acorn crop is making those deer go look for food more than they usually do, so people are just killing more of 'em. The other thing is we had warm weather early, so when it got cold, everybody started killing'em in those two weeks around Christmas and New Year's."
Hank Hearn, owner of The Buck Stops Here, prepares deer sausage for shipping Saturday evening at this shop in Bovina. Hearn has stopped taking orders to process because of the overwhelming demand. Photo by Justin Sellers - The Vicksburg Post
Last spring and summer, does likely moved over wider areas of Warren County then usual as they searched to find water during a dry and early fawning season, state deer biologists said in the summer.
Combined with a good mast crop, or the fruit eaten by deer from forest trees, has Mississippi's deer population in good health. William McKinley, a deer biologist with the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, estimates the deer population in Mississippi to be 1.75 million.
Leland native Ed Horton was looking for hunting equipment and clothing Saturday a Sports Center on Pemberton Boulevard. He said that while he has not had problems processing his deer in the Delta, he understands why local processors are busy.
"Up there, it's not like it is down here," Horton said. "I hunt over in Arkansas and there's a bunch of sausage and deer processors up there. There's just a lot of people that do it on their own instead of just a few."
Warren County, which is bordered on the west by the MS River and the south and east by the Big Black River, provides a perfect habitat for a large deer population.
In 2009-10, the most recent deer program report available, 2,763 bucks were harvested by 91 participants in Warren County in the agency's Deer Management Assistant Program. Both figures were tops among the state's 82 counties in the program.
Added deer means processors' freezers are staying filled, preventing them from accepting anything that might spoil.,
By December 28, B&L Meat Processing on Standard Hill Road had stopped accepting deer and sent their customers to The Buck Stops Here, Hearn said.
B&L owner Danny Bowler said he did not have an option.
"Once you get full, you just have to turn them away cause it'll go bad," he said. I'd rather turn them away then let the meat go bad."
Bowler agreed with Hearn, saying most of the deer came in a short amount of time. "I think more people hunted from Christmas to New Year's Bowler said.
Now, Hearn is taking deer by appointment-only, saying that they are backlogged on what they already received.
"I'd rather tell them no than take a deer we can't get done on time," Hearn said. "You know, you lose one deer and 10 people know, but if you do it right only a couple know, so we have to just tell some customers we can't take them."
Hearn said he has had to send customers to other processors, such as Dave's Custom Meats on U.S. 80 where staff were working late into Saturday night to process meat. (This is where we take our deer to be processed)
The pressure placed on Vicksburg processors has driven some to travel to other areas, such as Utica and Crystal Springs.
Dwight Traxler, owner of Dwight's Deer Processing in Utica, has run his processing business for five years and has been processing meat for 13 years.
"I've noticed a pickup from Vicksburg, Clinton, Madison - just all over," he said. "Being right on Highway 18, I kinda pull from all over."