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Illinois hunting and fishing

Chris Young/The State Journal-Register
A variety of products packaged at Illinois Deer Processing in Carlinville are wrapped, frozen and ready for the hunter’s freezer.

Deer processors keep busy

December 12, 2009 at 09:49 AM

Springfield State Journal-Register

Donate venison

Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program accepts deer donations

Carl Willis of Plainview had one deer in the truck, and he said he didn’t need another.

“One deer in the freezer is enough,” Willis said.

For those deer hunters with a deer in the freezer already and multiple tags remaining, the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program is accepting donations of whole deer to be processed into ground meat to help feed the hungry.

According to the Illinois Conservation Foundation, the program has coordinated the donation of more than 573,000 pounds of venison, providing nearly 2.3 million meals.

More than 106,000 pounds were donated during last year’s deer season.

Hunters are encouraged, if they are able, to make a $50 tax-deductible contribution to help defray the cost of processing the donated deer. Hunters may donate deer without making a monetary contribution.

About 50 meat processors are participating. For a list, visit

Monetary contributions may be sent to the Illinois Conservation Foundation, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271.



Deer processors see their business rise and fall right along with the fortunes of hunters. The more hunters wearing smiles, the more smiles on down the line.

At Illinois Deer Processing in Carlinville, 300 to 400 deer pass through during a typical hunting season.

Nine came in Thursday, the first day of the second segment of the firearm deer-hunting season, which ends Sunday. And just before noon Friday, the second deer of the day arrived via pickup truck.

“First season was slow,” said manager Ron Stokes. “Our numbers were down — approximately half.”

The business is in the process of expanding its focus to include pork and beef. But at the moment, deer still is No. 1.

“It’s a very big percentage of our business right now,” said owner Dave Burcham.

At Y-T Packing in Springfield, deer season just makes a busy time of year even more hectic.

“We’re always busy during deer season,” said owner Joe Turasky. “The firearm seasons are set on either side of Thanksgiving, and we’ve got Christmas coming up.”

Turasky said it is nearly impossible to determine what percentage of his business comes from deer processing.

The number of deer processed, or made into various types of venison, is proportional to the deer kill. But even if that number is down, Turasky said there’s plenty of work to do.

“Deer season has been down a bit, but we still run a regular meat-processing plant 52 weeks a year,” he said. “And deer season only runs about three to four months of the year.

“We’re going day and night now.”

Trevor Shapiro is one of those hunters who might wonder where all this talk about deer harvest numbers being down is coming from.

Shapiro downed a buck that scored 201 inches gross — based on the size of the antlers — a trophy by almost any estimation.

He was hunting north of Hettick in Macoupin County, northwest of Carlinville. Shapiro has been hunting deer, rabbit and squirrel for 13 years.

His stepbrother shot at the deer two weeks ago with a bow, but the arrow found a shoulder, not a vital area. It wasn’t until Shapiro took his deer in for processing that he learned the whole story.

“He would tell us about (the buck he shot that got away), and no one believed him,” said Shapiro with a laugh.

It turned out that the arrow found matched the story perfectly.

“He was happy for me, but I actually didn’t tell him that day,” he said. “I told him the next day because I knew he would be mad.

“He was hoping to get that buck for himself.”

After the storytelling is through, there is the business of what cuts of meat are best.

“The pastrami and slim jims usually are the best,” Shapiro said. “The salami is pretty good, too.”

“We have our salami — two different kinds,” said Stokes of the products produced by Illinois Deer Processing. “There are barbecue sticks, hot sticks, jalapeno and cheese salami, seasoned roast, fresh cuts, butterfly loins, cut steaks or roasts.”

Not missing a beat, he continues ticking off some of the many ways venison can be prepared and packaged.

“There are three different kind of burger, too, including plain venison, or mixed with pork or bacon.”

As with any business, diversification keeps workers busy when one side slows down.

The facility just got state approval to start packaging pork products and is getting ready to gear up for beef.

“Now we’re a state-inspected Type II plant,” Burcham said. That means the company can process and package as a service for the hunter or farmer but can’t sell its products retail.

To get his business to the next level, he’s formed a partnership with Hickory Grove Pork Farms of Gillespie.

Burcham said he has spent his whole career in the field of meat processing.

After managing packing houses “all over,” he decided to come back to Carlinville and start his own company about seven years ago.

“I’ve been in the meat business my whole life,” he said. “I started working in a packing house at age 15.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Still amazes me people take thier deer into processors.  The prices they charge are out of control for one thing.  Secondly, you never get back your deer.  They just mix all the deer togther and start making salami, sausages, stixs etc.  Third, I take pride in doing my own processing.  It makes me feel good knowing I put in the time to scout them deer, kill them deer and process them deer.  Anymore its just a bunch of people out headgear hunting and care not about the meat.  I don’t see how anyone can enjoy just killing to killing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 12:39 PM

and i bet your deer salami is the best in the world

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 01:43 PM

The shop south of St Joe makes awesome cheddarwurst.  I agree about the batch processing.  I have heard a number of reports about getting burger back that is terrible and doesn’t match the condition you may bring your animals in.  I once skipped getting burger altogether when I saw some of the field dressing some had did and the weather was warm.  I find its a tradeoff of time and effort and if its too warm, its a no brainer, straight to the locker.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 02:30 PM

How can we take a perfectly good topic and turn it into something bad….Must be the Charlie Brown syndrome(see Charlie Brown Christmas), least its not DNR’s or Outfitter’s fault this time…maybe it is?  hmmm..

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 03:27 PM

Hey FultonCtyHunter, (aka Scott) haven’t you lost hunting rights and got kicked off ground because you let deer hang in the barn and spoil and then wouldnt even dispose of the carcass when asked? Or should we ask you stepdad about that? Maybe YOU should have taken it to a LOCKER? Just a thought.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 04:14 PM

Wondering how long it would be before you would try to start crap again Bryan….I see your still a jealous little boy trying to drag other people down by trying to degrade them on the internet…must really suck to be you.  It must be mommy issues you have….remember you scrawny lil boy, you weigh a whole 100 lbs soaking wet and you live so close to me…..hate to be in your shoes if I ever run into you again…going to not be such a lovely xmas when your laid up in the hospital after I snap you like a twig you poor excuse for a humanbeing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 05:05 AM

now its getting interesting…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 05:33 AM

Christmas spirit is alive and well….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 07:55 AM

Sorry guys, just sick of this punk…every dang website he is going around spreading lies and stirring crap that isn’t true…not for sure what is wrong with this guy…think it’s a bit of jealousy or something along those lines. He’s mouthy as heck on the internet but doesn’t dare to open his mouth when he’s face to face with anyone.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 08:25 AM

sometimes deer hunting , especally shotgun season , brings out the worst in people , like these 2 guys airing out their dirty laundry on the internet .

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 08:55 AM

maybe this is fun but u two r kids if this is all u do maybe next time u can call cornfed fulton an get some help processn ur deer then u both can kiss an make up an be better respectable citizen in public u both can really show ur true colors maybe u two r just too good to hunt an r way better than anybody but whatever the case kinda makes me sick seein my family tradtions carried out then ppl like u guys who are destroying the sports respect in the ppls eyes so maybe just help each other invite them on a hunt u know how good it feels to help a friend shoot a deer an put two brains together an connect on location an stand setup my buddy sat me up last year took me out an got me a deer on his twenty acres he didnt shoot anything then lost the property due to a leasee with deep pockets an stil was happy i got a pope an young an he didnt get a shot this is what its about so dont forget what ur father taught u growin up only ethics are the good ones in hunting otherwise u r basically a outfitter

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/13 at 09:04 AM

well that was interesting the dnr is clearly to blame here or wait maybe its the outfitters either way im sure a lawyer has contacted cornfed to sue fltn cty by now with the world ending in 2012 maybe the deer are leaving early?Grow up BOYS

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/14 at 11:31 AM

Deerdominator, I hate to be the grammar police but a little punctuation would be great. Reading that makes my brain hurt.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/14 at 01:01 PM

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