When Southold Town made culling its deer herd a priority several years ago, one of the biggest problems the town ran across was that there was no one here who could butcher the meat.
Patrick Kaelin, who lives in Cutchogue, heard about the problem from Town Councilman Chris Talbot, who serves with him in the Cutchogue Fire Department. Southold was collecting deer shot during the hunting season in a refrigerated trailer behind the Peconic Lane Recreation Center, but a town employee was driving them to a butcher in Oakdale to be processed and donated to food banks throughout Long Island. Mr. Kaelin knew he could play a part in keeping the venison here.
Mr. Kaelin repairs small engines for a living, but he and his wife Oreanna are avid hunters who have processed their own venison for years in a small trailer behind their home on Route 48. He began researching the DEC and health department requirements for deer processing, got in touch with the Venison Donation Coalition, and began upgrading his equipment to allow him to process meat for the public.
Last fall, he began working with Southold Town to provide venison to residents for a small charge. He’s not allowed to charge for the meat itself, but he does charge between $2 and $3 a pound for the service of processing the meat. Though food pantries usually want the venison ground for chopped meat, he takes requests from individuals for steaks, roasts and stew meat.
Residents who would like some venison can contact Nancy Foote at the Southold Town Department of Public Works, who will pass their contact information on to Mr. Kaelin, who will let them know when a deer comes into his shop. Right now, the bowhunting and shotgun seasons are over, but Southold’s new nuisance permit program is just taking off, and a cadre of USDA sharpshooters have been hired by property owners in Nassau Point to cull the herd there later this month, so he’s anticipating he’ll have venison available for at least another month.
But when springtime comes, he said, even hunters who are allowed to hunt year-round on lands where they have nuisance permits tend to take a break. By then, fawns are being born, he said, and most hunters try to avoid disturbing deer while they’re raising their young.
“They have babies in May. I personally don’t hunt then. I just get sentimental. You can’t kill a mom with her babies,” he said. “There’s a moral aspect to most hunters. The majority of hunters are conscious of that.”
Read more about Mr. Kaelin’s venison operation in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.