Big weekend ahead for deer hunters and meat processors

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- Thousands of hunters will be flocking to the woods early Saturday morning as the opening weekend for fall firearms season starts. Conservation officials have tips for hunters and Michael Deere shows how one local meat processing company is gearing up for the busy days ahead.

This weekend is setting up to be quite the weekend for deer hunters here in the Ozarks. Howell County typically sees more deer harvested each year than any other county in the state. That means two things: there will be a lot of orange in the woods and a lot of green helping the local economy.

"I anticipate with the weather this weekend, it's going look nice, so I would say we are going to have a lot of hunters in the woods," Matt Franks said.

Howell County Conservation Agent, Matt Franks says hunters need to take care of permits now.

The Conservation Department's free app can help hunters along the way.

"The app allows you to buy your permits online. Off your mobile device you can also, if you harvest an animal, you can notch your permit and you can also telecheck your animal right from your smartphone."

Franks says that the tree canopy is thicker this year and visibility may be an issue.

"You must wear a hat, a hunter orange hat and a shirt, vest, coat or some type and it has to be plainly visible from all sides with hunter orange. Also a big thing to remember is that hunter orange that is the camouflage hunter orange does not satisfy this rule in the state of Missouri."

Hunters are asked to check the regulations in the county they will be hunting in and Franks says don't forget about gun safety.

"Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Always make sure you identify your target and what's beyond it. Never shoot at any type of movement, sound or color."

Chronic Wasting Disease is also something hunters should be mindful of.

There are 31 counties, including Ozark County, in the state that require mandatory sampling following a kill.

Just two weeks ago, a deer tested positive for the disease in Oregon County.

That's the first confirmed case in the Ozark Region covering south central Missouri.

Folks in Howell and Oregon Counties can voluntarily leave their deer head at two locations to be checked for the disease.

The stations will be manned from 8 am to 8 pm.

"So on November 10th and 11th there will be voluntary stations set up at the Alton Forestry Shed and here at the Ozark Regional Office in West Plains."

This weekend and the firearms season means big business for Barnett's Meat Processing in West Plains.

So far through archery and youth season, John Willis says they've seen a 30 percent increase in the number of deer brought in.

"We actually doubled my staff. We actually have about 10 people that will be here in the building throughout the day. We have extended hours through deer season," John Willis told KY3.

Barnett's is known for their breakfast and summer sausage.

Willis says right now, with increase in business, it's taking about two weeks to get people their meat.

"Just shear the volume we've received....we are a little behind but we are getting caught back up."

In 2016, over 96,000 deer were checked during opening weekend of firearms season. Howell County led the way with nearly 2,100.