Michial Coffman doesn't mind getting a middle-of-the-night phone call from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
It means it's his turn to remove a deer carcass from a roadway.
"I say, 'All I have to do is put on my shoes.' I keep a gutting knife in the truck," the 56-year-old Lecompton man said.
Coffman is one of about a dozen people who are on a list that sheriff's officers can call when a deer meets its demise at the front of an automobile bumper. He's been on that list for nearly 20 years.
"This really adds to my food storage," he said.
Coffman takes the deer carcass home and uses his own equipment to butcher and process the meat. He has three freezers for storage.
The deer meat allows Coffman to save about $500 annually on food bills, he said. He injured his back several years ago in a traffic accident and lives on a limited income provided by disability payments.
He has a pulley system on his truck to help him lift and move the carcasses. Sometimes a sheriff's deputy or Kansas Highway Patrol trooper will help him get the deer off the road, he said.
Coffman doesn't sell any of the deer meat because the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't allow meat from wild deer to be sold.
Whitetail deer, which are the most commonly hunted deer in this area and often involved in traffic collisions, are wild animals. Redtail deer are domesticated, farm-raised animals, so their meat can be sold if it is USDA-inspected.
Whitetail deer meat can, however, be given away, and Coffman said he is generous with his extra meat.
"There are other people who are worse off than I am, and I will give packages of meat to those who are less fortunate," he said.
A busy season
- Bill Shurtleff, Olathe, talks about two buck deer fighting.
- Michial Coffman is on the sheriff's list to pick up deer carcasses from roads and highways, and talks about how good dear meat can be when its fixed right.
- Mitch Prudden, owner of Steve's Meat Market in DeSoto, talks about cutting up a dear for its meat.
Steve's Meat Market in De Soto is a popular place this time of year with deer hunters. Missouri is in the middle of the season when deer can be hunted with rifles. In Kansas, it is the middle of deer bow hunting season, and the firearm season for hunting deer in Kansas begins Nov. 29.
Hunters from both sides of the line bring their trophy deer to Steve's to be processed.
"It will be a zoo around here," said Mitch Prudden, who runs the market his family has owned since 1969.
Prudden estimates his market receives and processes 500 deer carcasses during the deer hunting seasons. Most of the hunters want deer chops, leg steaks and hind steaks, he said.
With a power saw and a butcher knife, it usually takes him only a few minutes to process a deer.
"It depends on how you cut it up, its size and how bad it's shot up, but usually it takes about five or 10 minutes," Prudden said. "Working a knife at any speed takes practice to do it safely. I've been doing it all my life."
Customers who want sausage from their deer must wait about a week, Prudden said.
"If things are hectic around here, you can wait two weeks, even three weeks," he said.
The standard $75 processing of deer includes skinning, butchering, cooling, wrapping and freezing. The cost is extra if you want different types of sausage.
In most cases, even deer that have been struck by cars or trucks still have quality meat on them, Coffman said. There is only about 40 to 60 pounds of meat that can be eaten on most deer, he said.
Coffman uses deer meat to make soup, chili and "thin steaks rolled in flour."
"There are a thousand different ways you can cook deer meat," he said.
Stories to be told
Deer hunters bring more than just the results of their hunt when they go to Steve's Market, Prudden said. They also have stories to tell - some better than others, he said.
Prudden doesn't have to think hard to come up with one.
"One lady brought in a deer," he said. "She hit it on the road, it went through the front windshield, all the way through the car, and was hanging out the back windshield. Before she went to the hospital, she brought her deer in to process it.
"Now that one's different."