Deer sea­son be­gins chal­lenges to Sten­gel

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Larry Rea Spe­cial to Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

If any­one knows how the 2018 deer sea­son is go­ing in West Ten­nessee, it’s Scott Sten­gel. Af­ter all, deer is at the heart of his busi­ness.

He’s one of West Ten­nessee’s busiest deer pro­ces­sors whose busi­ness dur­ing the 2017-18 sea­son pro­cessed more than 2,500 deer.

Through Thurs­day, 4,567 deer had been killed in Ten­nessee com­pared to 6,371 in 2017-18. A closer look at the har­vest num­bers since bow sea­son opened on Sept. 22 shows a dras­tic drop for most coun­ties in West Ten­nessee. For ex­am­ple, the top county for this sea­son is Fayette at 43, down from 59 a year ago. Harde­man is down 16, Madi­son 9, Shelby 22 and Tip­ton 10.

Sten­gel says the num­ber of deer checked-in so far at his busi­ness (Sten­gel Broth­ers Out­doors/sten­gel­broth­er­sout­doors.vp­web.com) is “about the same” from a year ago, which he says is sur­pris­ing due to re­cent hot weather and the lack of rain. The busi­ness is lo­cated off U.S. 64 near Somerville.

“It looks like it is go­ing hand in hand with last year,” Sten­gel says. “The last two or three years we have had hot weather like we did un­til the re­cent cool snap. We got an­other cool snap ear­lier in the sea­son, but our num­bers are ex­actly the same even though the state-wide kill num­bers are down. We’ve been for­tu­nate.”

Sten­gel and other West Ten­nessee pro­ces­sors are play­ing a num­bers game.

For one thing, there’s Chronic Wast­ing Dis­ease, which is a con­ta­gious and a fa­tal neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der that af­fects mem­bers of the deer fam­ily known as cervids. Im­port re­stric­tions have been de­signed to pro­tect th­ese na­tive herds. In Ten­nessee, cervids in­clude deer and elk. Other states have deer and elk pop­u­la­tions, too, but some also have moose, mule deer and other big game cervids that sports­men travel out of state to hunt.

“We need to ed­u­cate the pub­lic as much as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially those hun­ters who hunt deer out of state,” Sten­gel says. “Any­where out­side of Ten­nessee that an­i­mal has to be de-boned. If it comes into Ten­nessee it has to be de-boned. It’s the law. We’ve got to keep th­ese an­i­mals out of Ten­nessee.”

Here’s the of­fi­cial CWD no­tice posted by the Ten­nessee Wildlife Re­sources Agency on its web site (tnwildlife.org):

No per­son may im­port, trans­port or pos­sess in Ten­nessee a cervid car­cass or car­cass part from any­where out­side state ex­cept as pro­vided by herein – meat that has bones re­moved; antlers, antlers at­tached to cleaned skull plates, or cleaned skulls (where no meat or tis­sues are at­tached to the skull; cleaned teeth; fin­ished taxi­dermy and antler prod­ucts and hides (tanned or green) and tanned prod­ucts.

Sten­gel knows all the rules by heart. And, he is wor­ried.

First, there’s the part about skulls. He no longer can he do in-house skull mounts, be­cause he said, “We don’t want that brain mat­ter in the same fa­cil­ity where we are pro­cess­ing deer. They have not made that a law yet, but I’m say­ing we can’t do it. Essen­tially, I am not go­ing to process deer in a fa­cil­ity where we are do­ing the taxi­dermy from a head that may or may not have CWD.”

Not do­ing skull mounts will put a big dent in Sten­gel’s wal­let.

“We do a lot of skull mounts,” he said. “It is def­i­nitely go­ing to hurt our busi­ness.”

His prob­lems don’t end there. Un­til this year he has sold deer hides to China, where there is a big mar­ket for them. How­ever, China is no longer ac­cept­ing hides at this time, he said.

“We try to keep our prices the best can for our cus­tomers,” Sten­gel said. “And, one of the ways to that is that we get about $12 for a salted hide. At the end of the sea­son we would have be­tween 2,000-2,800 hides, which helped ab­sorb some of the cost and keep our costs to the cus­tomer down.”

In 2018-19 he will throw the hides away.

“They are not worth hous­ing,” Sten­gel said. “That will cut into our busi­ness quite a lot. It is an ever-chang­ing busi­ness. We’ve just got to be in­no­vated and pro­tect the hun­ters and those who are con­sum­ing deer meat. “

That is why he has raised the price of his reg­u­lar cut pro­cess­ing $20.

“We don’t like it, but it is what it is,” Sten­gel said. “We’re go­ing to con­tinue to of­fer cus­tomers the best prod­uct. There is no other way other than rais­ing prices. So far, our cus­tomers un­der­stand and we haven’t had any com­plaints.”

The TWRA is cur­rently seek­ing pub­lic in­put re­gard­ing deer man­age­ment in Ten­nessee. Three pub­lic fo­rums where held in early Septem­ber in Jack­son, Murfrees­boro and Knoxville.

Twenty five states and three Cana­dian prov­inces have doc­u­mented CWD.

This year’s Water­fowl Breed­ing Pop­u­la­tion and Habi­tat Sur­vey of­fered mixed re­sults for hun­ters and oth­ers who ap­pre­ci­ate North Amer­ica’s mi­gra­tory birds. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice (USFWS), to­tal pop­u­la­tions of breed­ing ducks were es­ti­mated at 41.2 mil­lion birds in the tra­di­tional sur­vey area, a de­crease of 13 per­cent from last year’s es­ti­mate of 47.3 mil­lion. How­ever, to­tal duck num­bers re­mained 17 per­cent above the 1955−2017 av­er­age. In ad­di­tion, pop­u­la­tions of the most abun­dant duck species were above their long-term av­er­ages, ex­cept for north­ern pin­tails and scaup.

Got an item or note? E-mail Larry Rea at lrout­doors@att.net or go to his web site at lrout­doors.com; lis­ten to Larry Rea on Out­doors with Larry Rea on Satur­day morn­ings from 6-7:30 on ESPN 790-AM and 1520-AM and 95.3 in Brownsville, Tenn., and 6:30-8 on News/Talk 101.5 in Jack­son, Tenn.

MIXED RE­SULTS:

Scott Sten­gel, who owns Sten­gel Broth­ers Out­doors near Somerville, usu­ally sells skull mounts at his busi­ness. Not so this deer sea­son due to re­stric­tions and con­cerns over Chronic Wast­ing Dis­ease. LARRY REA / SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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