Deer Hunting Season Keeps Business Bustling For Ohio Butchers

Dec 5, 2019

Warning: This story contains vivid descriptions and images of how a deer is butchered.

Ohio opened its deer-hunting season to hunters with guns this week, which means butchers like Jay Mosley of Mosley's Meat Market are working overtime. 

“This is a whole doe,” Mosley says, gesturing at the dead deer on the floor of his Hilliard  shop.

He ties its back legs together, then strings it up on a butcher’s hook hanging from the ceiling.

Then he begins the process of caping the deer – removing the skin from the carcass in one piece that a hunter might hang on a wall.

“We run down the legs, make your seams of your leg,” Mosley says, cutting the tendons and snapping off the leg with a twist and a crack.

The shop smells like wet dog, and blood. 

“The smell is different, it’s something you get used to when you do this stuff,” Mosley says, laughing. “All this wet fur, and it lays in the blood and the water and stuff.”

In one smooth motion, Mosley yanks the fur off the animal, pulling it from its back legs down to its head. He cuts the first vertebrae of the neck, spins the neck around, and yanks off the head.

Deer hunting season is the busiest time of year for Mosley's Meat Market in Hilliard.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

“I don’t like seeing the animals go from fur to carcass,” he says. “Just because I love animals, that’s why. It’s funny from a butcher, huh? When I was a kid, I wanted to be a vet.”

Mosley moves the carcass to a cutting block and it lands with a thud. He removes the back legs and sprays it down like he’s watering a flower garden.

In one smooth motion, Mosley pulls the trachea out. Then he removes the tenderloins.

“A lot of people think the back straps are tenderloins, cause they’re the size of beef tenders, but they’re not. These are the actual real tenderloins,” he says, slicing the meat from the bone. “This is the most expensive piece in the deer.”

The discard pile in Mosley's Meat Market contains deer heads, hooves and bones.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

He moves to the ribs, scraping off congealed blood from the bullet hole.

“I’m from the country, and these city boys do not know how to hunt, that’s for sure,” Mosley says, his green eyes smiling in amusement.

“They don’t know how to clean their deer, hunt, half of them don’t know how to process them,"  he continues. "My grandpa and people I was raised with, they’d tell you you shouldn’t be hunting if you don’t know how to do it.”

Mosley says he butchered his first deer when he was only 8 years old.

“Now that we’ve got this peeled, we’re going to take the back strap off,” Mosley says, running a gloved hand along a piece of meat on either side of the spine. “This is the piece that everybody loves.”

Jay Mosley processed 1,400 deer during last year's gun hunt. This year, he says he's already on track to surpass that.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

After he sets asides the pieces that the hunter requested, he grabs a tub full of the rest of the meat and heads to the grinder.

“There’s stuff you can do with every piece of the animal,” he says. “We’ve probably got 50 pounds of grind right here too.”

The grinder whirs to a start, and Mosley uses a piece of PVC pipe to stuff the meat into the hole. After the first grind, the meat comes out red with white speckles of fat. After the second grind, it's fully pink.

“That’s pretty much your basics of processing deer,” Mosley says.

Mosley grinds meat for one hunter who wanted his deer meat in hamburger form.
Credit Paige Pfleger / WOSU

He has about 25 more deer to go today, and it’s not even the busiest day of the hunt yet. “I’m in for a fun night," he says.

Mosley tosses a deer leg and head into a can to be discarded.

“There’s body parts flying everywhere in here,” he says. “That’s deer season for ya.”