Deer season begins challenges to Stengel
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 email@example.com 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.
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