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‘A dying art’: Pennsylvania deer processors face marathon days as hunting season heats up

November 28, 2022

When Doug Peffer opened his big-game butcher shop, deer hunters around the intersection of Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties could pick from perhaps a dozen full-service processors to carve their harvest.

About 45 years later, Mr. Peffer’s outfit near Ellwood City stands among fewer than half that many across greater Pittsburgh, estimated his son, Johnathan Peffer, 39, taking a breather Sunday afternoon from a line of new deliveries stretching out the door.

Just beginning a weekslong processing marathon, southwestern Pennsylvania deer butchers cautioned they were nearing capacity after statewide firearms deer season started Saturday. Fewer butchers — and strong turnout for the commonwealth’s combined buck and doe hunting — mean long days for the relative handful still behind the knife, they said.

“It’s the ‘Deadliest Catch’ but with deer,” said the younger Mr. Peffer, a co-owner of Doug Peffer’s Deer Cutting, Smokehouse, & Big Game Processing, referring to the reality TV show about crab fishermen. Staff shirts at the family business in Franklin, Beaver County, reference “a dying art — a way of life,” he said.