Whomp! A hunter drops a deer with a clean shot out in the woods, about three miles from nowhere. Then what? It is a moment of triumph, but until he has gone through the traditional round of handshakes and had a few snorts from a hip flask the hunter rarely realizes that his work has just begun. He still has to get the carcass back to civilization.
And that is the rub about hunting deer. They are too smart to be shot from the back porch, and there are also laws about that. Yet killing a deer in the boondocks is just a starter.
Butchering the animal and getting the venison into the freezer is a long and complex process. But merely getting the deer out of the woods in good shape presents a difficult problem: a hunter has a choice of straining his back or of ruining the deer's skin.
According to Mrs. Edna Meyer, an attractive, strong-looking woman who runs The Meyer House in Newfoundland, N.J., most inexperienced hunters forget all about the skin as soon as they have had the heady experience of killing the deer. More often than not, they simply drag their trophy out of the wilderness over rough terrain, ruining the skin en route.
Mrs. Meyer, who does not hunt herself but who has been in the deer business for about 20 years, has some very strict advice to hunters about preserving the hide. Like the tango, it takes two people. Once help is found, tie the deer's front legs together, then the back legs, and then cut a strong pole. Carry the deer without letting it touch the ground. If hunters will do that, she says, she can do something with the skin.
After a rough cleaning in the woods, the first stop should be the butcher's, where the animal is skinned and cleaned. The skin should then be taken to a deer shop like Mrs. Meyer's, where it will be salted and packed in cold storage until there are enough hides to send to an upstate New York tannery.
It costs $5.50 to have a hide tanned so that it looks and feels like what most people know as deerskin. After tanning, the skin is soft, washable, waterproof, odorless and has the quality of "breathing." Thus a deerskin jacket is less heavy and hot than an ordinary leather jacket.
Mrs. Meyer runs a sort of deerskin bank. If you shoot a deer one year, you can have its hide marked, and she will save it for you until you have enough skins to make what you want.
Generally it will take about four skins to have enough material for a jacket, four for a shirt, one for a woman's handbag, and one skin for a pair of moccasins and gloves. The $5.50 cost for tanning is standard, so that a full jacket will cost $22, plus about $25 for tailoring. Buying a jacket outright would cost between $65 and $80.
Mrs. Meyer also can produce a number of exotic items for lady hunters, including full-length coats in a number of colors, knee-high boots and an assortment of ski equipment, including bright, warm gloves and soft slippers.
If you run across anything else in the woods—such as a bear or a bobcat—Mrs. Meyer also will handle it for you. She has a huge freezer in the basement stuffed with cleaned skins, including those of skunks, which have no odor.
The styles contained in Mrs. Meyer's catalog, available by writing House of Deerskin, The Meyer House, Route 23, Newfoundland, N.J., are not exactly haute couture. But then again, neither is a deerskin.