SABATTUS — Nancy Provost of Sabattus Deer Processing takes between 60 and 80 phone calls each day from hunters who have shot a deer.

She can accommodate about 20 of those hunters looking to have their deer processed. She has to turn the rest away.

“It’s been a process, an absolute process,” Adam McFarland said after he checked in the 500th deer of the season at Sabattus Deer Processing in Sabattus on Thursday.

The small business has had to rely on family to get through Maine’s first deer season during COVID-19. The cutters who process the deer are typically butchers who work in the meat departments at supermarkets and small local grocery stores. During deer season, those butchers work additional jobs processing deer at the Sabattus business.

Not so much this year, Provost said. With worker shortages across Maine, those same butchers are choosing to earn overtime from their full-time employer rather than moonlight for Provost.

“Staffing because of COVID, bonus ‘deer’ permits and less butcher shops around” is creating long days for Provost and her extended family. “Put all those things together and it creates a backlog,” Provost said as she checked in deer number 501.

Provost’s three sons come in to help when they get home from work each day. Her daughter-in-law helps following her nursing shift. “Sister helps, nephew helps, it’s truly a family business,” Provost said.

Number 501 belonged to Chris Calise of Cape Elizabeth. He shot it at 7:15 a.m. Thursday with a bow in an expanded archery zone. Calise’s eight-point buck tipped the scales at 194 pounds. “He has a history of getting some big deer,” Provost said about Calise.

Chris Calise of Cape Elizabeth relives how he shot an eight-point, 194-pound buck with a bow on Thursday morning. Calise shot the deer in an expanded archery zone in Cape Elizabeth at 7:15 a.m. Thursday and delivered the deer to Sabattus Deer Processing in Sabattus before 10 a.m. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Will Detert of Brunswick shot deer number 502, a 187-pound, 10-point buck. Christine Pohopek brought in deer number 504.

Christine and her husband, Dick, own 100 acres in Woolwich. They each have their own spot to hunt from, but Dick Pohopek chose not to hunt Wednesday — after all, Wednesday was Veterans Day and Pohopek is a veteran. “I told her to take my spot because I had left a chair there that she could sit on,”  Dick Pohopek said.

Not long after Christine took a seat, a 144-pound, 10-point buck stepped into view. “I had one chance,” Christine said.

Dick Pohopek heard the shot his wife took from where he was in the house.

“‘Oh shoot, time to go to work,'” Dick said to himself. “We got the four wheeler and dragged him out in the dark.”


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