The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 20, 2012

ON THE HUNT

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Mark Chapman arrived in this world exactly one minute ahead of twin brother Matthew, so, theoretically, that makes him the boss.

Actually, there is no sibling rivalry — or superiority — when it comes to running Chapman’s Deer Processing.

You might call it Deer-R-Us.

“Mark’s the boss,” twin Matthew deadpanned.

“He was born one minute earlier. He’s been around a lot longer.”

That’s what the twins do, along with other family members, when deer season rolls along, so this means letting their home building/remodeling enterprise take a back seat so they can process venison for southern West Virginia hunters.

Before the season is out, the family likely will have cut and packaged 400 deer.

Even before the firearms season opened Monday, the family had its hands full, taking care of deer hauled in by bow hunters.

“It keeps us busy,” Matthew Chapman said.

“Everything we do, we bone out. We debone and tenderize steaks and hamburger. A lot of people here depend on this for their winter’s food. Everything we do, you can see here. It’s a good, clean product. We take extra care and pains with it to make it good.”

Mark’s wife, Tammie, and two sons, Joe and Josh, were busy with a rush from opening day. Justin, a son of Matthew, also is part of the business.

“If the whole family didn’t pitch in, we couldn’t do it,” Matthew said.

Their work leaves scant time for the family to do any hunting. Besides, Matthew says age has become a factor.

“As we got older, we couldn’t get out and couldn’t climb the trees, so we just spend our time here,” he said.

“What you get into, the hunter kills that deer first thing in the morning, and a lot of times you don’t get it until dark. He’ll hunt until plumb dark. We try to stay open from 7 to 7.”

Two customers certainly didn’t wait all day before turning in their prizes.

A 10-year deer hunter, Jim Harrah of Pemberton, bagged a spike buck while hunting on Backus Mountain in Fayette County.

“I always bring them here because they do a good job,” he explained.

Even with someone with success over the past decade, the thrill of dropping a buck in its tracks — as he did with his Remington 30-30 — hasn’t diminished.

“After you shoot ‘em, the fun ends,” Harrah said. “Then you have to gut ‘em and drag ‘em.

“This one wasn’t too bad dragging, because it was downhill all the way, right to the road. That made it a whole lot easier.”

Harrah is banking on a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and leaving the venison in the freezer for winter nutrition.

A retired Peabody Coal Co. coal miner, Harrah said he feels deserving of the fall hunt.

“I help my wife all year long, then hunting season comes, and she’s a widow,” he laughed.

One shot with his Browning .270 is all longtime hunter Byron Meadows of Beaver needed to bring down a 4-point in his favorite spot, the old Cooper Creek mine property, of which he is part owner.

In his 33 years or so stalking deer, the Beckley Water Co. pipefitter hasn’t failed to bring home the venison. This year, he hopes to wind up with two, since he bought an extra buck stamp.

Meadows uses an all-terrain vehicle to get near his spot, then hikes about 75 yards, partly uphill. One unexpected visitor gave him a few uneasy moments, but the big black bear wasn’t accompanied by cubs, so he quickly calmed down.

Until the buck surfaced and then the adrenaline exploded and Meadows admittedly felt that old-time excitement.

“I always do,” he said.

“When you lose the excitement, you might as well quit. I shot him about 50 yards away. He came right in top of me, right at daybreak. At first, I thought it was a doe. Then he turned his head to me. I saw the horns. I hunt for meat, not for horns. I love to eat it.”

And so apparently does Meadows, getting a lift out of applying his culinary skills.

“I’ll take the backstrap, like fillet, and butterfly it, open it up, put jalapeno in it, then put in cream cheese, Lawry’s season salt, and then wrap bacon around it,” he said.

“Then I bake it in the oven. And  it’s the best you’ve ever eaten in your life. I love to cook.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com