Racking up game
Deer-hunting season may have just opened for Lee and Chatham counties, but Thomas & Sons Butcher Shop has been busy processing deer meat for more than a month.
Joining their eastern county neighbors — where hunters have been allowed to hunt since the deer seasons opened on Oct. 12 — deer-hunting season for guns, muzzleloaders and archery are all open for Lee and Chatham counties as of Nov. 16.
“We serve people from all over,” said Jay Thomas, owner of the butcher shop. “We stay busy through mid-October to the first of January.”
The week before Thanksgiving is consistently the busiest time for processing deer meat because people have more time off of work to hunt, he said.
Hunting season openings vary by state location, type of game and method of hunting, with northern and western counties able to begin hunting with guns this weekend, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission spokesperson Geoff Cantrell.
All deer hunters should wear an orange vest or other orange outerwear item that can be seen from a 360-degree angle, Cantrell said. There are nearly 1,500 Lee County residents with big game licenses, compared to Harnett’s 4,179 and Moore’s 3,767.
“The best thing that any hunter can do is know the regulations and requirements,” he said. “There are lots of different opportunities to go hunting.”
Cantrell also urged hunters to be vigilant when using a tree stand, adding that more hunters are killed or injured from falls than gunfire.
“It’s also important for hunters to tell their friends or family members the general area [where] they are going hunting and an approximated return time,’ he said. “If something were to happen and then you are not back by a certain time, they will know to find you and initiate a search.”
Selling deer meat is illegal in North Carolina, and Thomas only processes the meat for hunters. Customers usually request sausage or hamburger meat.
“You can see how the meat is so lean,” he said. “We start saving beef fat in July to mix in with it. It’s all gone by December.”
Some hunters bring meat to be processed to give to hungry families, Thomas said, and the number of deer he’s processed has increased since the recession.
“Ever since the economy soured, you’ve seen the number of hunters go up,” he said. “It’s a way to fill up the freezers.”
Big Game Licenses per County
Source: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission