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Pennsylvania hunters struggling to find deer processors

Hunters struggling to find deer processors
Hunters struggling to find deer processors 02:02

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For hunters, it's a big time of year.

But a problem for them is trying to find who will process their deer. Signs saying "full" are becoming a bit more common for deer processors around the region.  

"There's three in this area, and they're all great. They're all full, and they're working their butts off to get reopened up and accept deer," Dino Ciafre of Ciafre's Deer Processing said.  

Ciafre's place is one of three in the Mars, Butler County area. By noon Sunday, he took in 200 deer and had to stop taking any more. In the last two days, he's had to turn down 200 other people between calls and walk-ups.  

"There's only so much cooler space. You can only hold so many deer," Ciafre said.  

Once a hunter makes a kill, the clock is ticking to get the deer processed.  

"There's not a whole lot of processors out there," hunter Josh Watson said.  

"I feel bad for them. I don't know what they're doing with the deer," Ciafre said.  

What's not helping the industry is some shops have closed over time. In others cases, it's people getting out of the business and others not being able to find help.  

"The labor shortage is an issue. It's hard to find hard workers and keep them," Watson said.

"It's nothing but work, and it's hard to find a kid who wants to work nowadays," Ciafre said.  

The next challenge is there are more opportunities to get a deer during rifle season. The season now starts on the weekend as opposed to Monday, and there are opportunities to get antlerless deer. 

Over the next few days, processors will work days up to 18 hours long to get the deer meat together. 

"They're filling up. Rifle season is always hectic in Pennsylvania," Watson said.  

If you can't get to a deer processor, you can take steps to make sure it lasts until a spot opens up. Ciafre said you need to field dress it well, get it clean, put ice on it and let it hang.   

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