The fact that upwards of 4,000 Texas County deer have appointments with the grim reaper every November leads to one inevitable reality: someone has to tend to all those carcasses and process all that venison.
For almost four decades now, a significant portion of that job has been handled at a processing plant near Summersville that for the past nine years has been owned by Ernie Zimmerman.
During a typical firearms deer season rush, Zimmerman’s Meat Processing slices and dices literally hundreds of whitetails. The result is a whole lot of processed deer meat that comes in many forms.
“We always kind of look forward to the season,” Zimmerman said. “But we do get tired of it after awhile, and we’re glad when it’s over.”
The number of whole deer carcasses handled each year at Zimmerman’s ranges from a low of about 425 to a high of around 675. Including deer parts brought in, the total number handled this year is expected to be around 900.
The venison product most often purchased from Zimmerman’s is sausage. But jerky, steaks, burger, hot dogs and bratwurst are also available to anyone who drops an animal and then drops it off in Summersville.
“The sausage seems to pick up more every year,” Zimmerman said.
While he doesn’t know the total number of pounds of venison his company will produce this year, Zimmerman said sausage and jerky alone account for between 14,000 and 18,000 pounds. About one-third of the company’s deer season business comes from Houston hunters.
To compensate for the annual deer stampede, Zimmerman’s employs a dozen people in and around firearms season. During the remainder of the year, the number is usually about eight to 10.
When they’re not dealing with deer, Zimmerman’s workers process plenty of beef, pork and other types of wild game, including elk and antelope from the west.
“We’re doing more and more of that every year,” Zimmerman said.
A Canadian transplant from Prince George, British Columbia, Zimmerman came to the Ozarks as a logger 13 years ago. He got into the meat business in hopes of eventually working with his family, which consists of a wife, four girls and one boy.
“But I’m afraid I might be burned out before I get there,” he jokingly said.
Zimmerman’s Meat Processing is four miles north of Summersville on Highway 17. Scheduling and appointment for processing is recommended. For more information, call 417-932-5557.