Arundel deer butcher has big appetite for work

December 10, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

It's a funny thing, says Paul Braun, but often when he' cutting up a deer, he gets hungry.

"The texture of a deer is really nice," says the grizzled senior citizen, turning a doe's bloody carcass on a work table at his Arnold home. "It makes me starved while I'm cutting it up."

Mr. Braun has operated a skinning and cutting business out of his house for 20 years, pulling in $35 to $50 per deer. Every November, his hand-lettered signs go up along Ritchie Highway in Severna Park. "Your deer cut and wrapped," they offer, with his telephone number and a price.

But the retired Naval Academy butcher says he doesn't do it for the money. He does it for pleasure.

"I love cutting meat. If you're a meat-cutter and you like it, it's great," he says, holding up a deer shoulder he has split in two.

Mr. Braun can skin a deer in five minutes. He can cut one up in an hour, passing the segments of ribs, rump or legs to his wife, Mary. She wraps the parts in clear plastic, then heavy paper and labels them.

She also grinds and wraps meat from the chest cavity in a machine that sits in the Braun's modest kitchen, close to the round table where she sorts and wraps.

The messier work of skinning and cutting is done at a long work table on a porch that Mr. Braun added to the house. Four freezers hold the finished product.

The couple's children, Rhona-Ann and Greg, also help them to turn out what Mr. Braun proudly announces is "clean deer" -- parts that don't have hair on them. "It's a small thing, but it's nice. When people take meat home, there's no hair on it," he says.

So far, it's been a slow season. Mr. Braun says he has cut about 50 deer since the season began. In a typical year, he would have cut at least 100 by now. "Some years I've looked behind me and seen 40 deer waiting," he says.

He doesn't know whether "the kill is slow" or whether folks are just taking their business elsewhere, says Mr. Braun.

There are two other deer cutters in the county, in Glen Burnie and Edgewater. All three are members of Harvestshare, the project that encourages hunters and cutters to donate meat to the Maryland Food Bank.

Mr. Braun occasionally receives calls from irate animal-lovers who think deer should not be killed, but he says he doesn't "pay them mind."

"The deer population is very large. There are so many, my goodness."

The bow season began in early September, followed by the shotgun or rifle season, which runs roughly the two weeks after Thanksgiving. Next come two weeks of muzzle-loader season, followed by bow hunting again.

Mr. Braun doesn't much favor bow hunting, because it's easy to hit a deer in the mouth and not kill it, he says.

"They don't die for days, and I don't like that."

But he has no qualms about the process. Venison is a staple on the family menu, Mr. Braun says.

"For steak, you put it in flour and cook slow. For ground deer, you add green peppers or onions. I love ground deer. It's not fattening."

The only part of the business he dislikes is boning the upper

neck where the many small bones make it easy to waste meat. Mr. Braun hates to waste things.

"My father always taught me not to waste anything, and it's very hard to get all the meat in the neck," he says.

Hunters who don't want their catch to go to waste should have it cut as quickly as possible, within 24 hours, Mr. Braun suggests.

Although his signs list prices from $35 to $50, he says he is willing to negotiate with customers who may not be able to afford the full price.

"If I have to, I'll do it for less," he says. "You don't want to waste the meat."

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