During the massive deer harvest taking place through January 2013, local hunters must kill at least two does before taking down a buck.
For many, does are just an obstacle to get the main prize. But two men are hoping to change that by encouraging all hunters to drop off their does at a nearby farm in Davidsonville for free processing that ultimately feeds local families in need.
As licensed and approved participants in Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), Davidsonville’s Eric Brown, 28, and Brad Doepkens, 30, use their deer processing business, Back 40, to provide hundreds of pounds of deer meat for families facing hard times.
By partnering with FHFH, Brown and Doepkens accept registered deer donations, usually does. They then process the meat into ground venison, freeze it, and then ship it through suppliers to various churches and community organizations to help underprivileged families. By working with FHFH, the business owners are also guaranteed that their donations will go to families throughout south county, Brown said.
“A lot of guys are trophy hunters, but they get out there and they are full of does. They can shoot as many as they want on their property and bring them to us,” Doepkens said. “Just bring them in. It’s helping out. People are getting fed.”
As co-owners of Back 40, a deer processing business, the two friends began small in 2007, working out of Doepkens’ father’s basement and processing deer for friends and family. After realizing they were actually good at it, the two expanded and in 2011, the local men processed nearly 300 deer. So far in 2012, Back 40 is on pace to double that.
As a FHFH partner, Back 40 was one of many businesses who helped donate a total of 76 tons of meat throughout Maryland in 2011.
However, as times remain tough for people throughout the country, Doepkens and Brown are as eager to help nearby families as they are to make money.
“Knowing that some of your neighbors are going to the food bank, it’s just nice to know that [the deer meat] is staying local and that we can give back in a way that’s special,” Brown said. “You wouldn’t think cutting deer helps, but it does. A lot of people wouldn’t realize it’s possible.”
Processing a deer means skinning it and utilizing the various edible parts of the animal. It doesn’t mean gutting the deer’s organs—mainly just getting the various cuts of meat removed from the body once it’s been killed, Brown said.
Usually, the two men process the deer into approximately 30-40 pounds of various cuts including steaks, tenderloins, inner loins, roasts and ground venison for about $70 per animal, depending on its weight. But when processing donated deer, there’s no cost to the hunter, Brown said.
Back 40 also makes its own deer bologna, infused with spices and a special recipe.
“The bologna is to die for,” Brown said.
“Muzzle loader” hunting season began last week, but as shotgun season looms on the horizon after Thanksgiving, the men behind Back 40 hope to encourage more hunters to donate the does they’ve killed.
The only requirement is that the hunter “guts” the animal before dropping it off for meat processing at Back 40.
“I hate doing that stuff,” Brown said with a smile.