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Successful hunters swamp deer processors

Butchers and hunters alike have mixed emotions on how the state's changes to hunting season have affected the sport.
Credit: WNEP

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Rifle deer season in Pennsylvania is in full swing, and for the third year in a row, the season started early.

Those changes, meant to attract more people to the sport, mean that deer processors have been overwhelmed.

George Fetch dropped off his 12-year-old daughter's first deer while she got ready for dance class.

The trip to Smokin' Joe's near Mount Cobb ends what's already been a successful rifle deer season.

"We got two doe," Fetch said. "I got mine yesterday morning, and my daughter got hers 15 minutes before last shooting. So, it was exciting, her first doe. I've been waiting for that one for a long time."

"Even if we don't shoot deer, I like to get together with my cousins and the guys and having a good time. It's more about that. If you get a deer, that's like a bonus," said Kevin Olenchak from White Plains, New York.

This is the third season that hunters have had bonus days with an earlier start.

"I keep saying that today feels like a Tuesday or a Wednesday, but yeah, it's a little strange with the weekend hunt," Olenchak said.

"You don't get to relax after Thanksgiving. It's like hurry up and go. Which is fine, I mean, I like it," Fetch said.

While the early start to rifle deer season is a good thing for the hunters, there is a downside for the deer processors. They tell us they're swamped. Even three years into this, they're still getting used to it.

The staff at Smokin' Joe's butchers more than twice the amount of deer they used to and for the first time, had to turn away hunters on Sunday.

Owner Joe Dombrowski says there are more deer being hunted but fewer professionals to process them.

"Guys are getting older. Even here, we're getting a little older, and it's a little bit harder only because there's less processors, and we seem to be doing more deer," Dombrowski said, urging hunters to think ahead.

"Make sure, if you're a hunter, you have a plan for a processor or a backup processor, if, in fact, processors are full—something the hunters need to be aware of. Like I said, we had to stop taking deer. I hate to turn people away, but we can only handle so much."

Rifle deer season in Pennsylvania continues until December 11.