Mike Connelly of York drags a deer into Wantz Brothers after shooting it in Warrington Township.
Mike Connelly of York drags a deer into Wantz Brothers after shooting it in Warrington Township. (Bil Bowden photo)

David Swartz couldn't get his 18-year-old grandson out of bed at 6 a.m. Monday morning.

So he headed out to hunt with his son instead for the first day of Pennsylvania's 13 day firearms deer season.

"It was colder than hell out there," said David Swartz with a laugh.

He shot a doe near the Codorus Furnace in Hellam Township and dropped it off just before noon at Wantz Brothers to be processed.

Wantz Brothers is one of the seven deer processors in York County serving as a checking station for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to collect deer samples to test for chronic wasting disease.

By noon on Monday, 26 deer had been dropped off at Wantz Brothers, and only two had been shot outside of the 600-square-mile Disease Management Area.

Bob Livengood of Dover took son Owen for his first morning of deer hunting at the Pennsylvania State game lands on Joseph Road. The two wandered through
Bob Livengood of Dover took son Owen for his first morning of deer hunting at the Pennsylvania State game lands on Joseph Road. The two wandered through the area for a couple hours without even seeing a deer before heading back to the truck. (Bil Bowden photo)

The DMA was set up in parts of York and Adams counties after two deer at an Adams County farm tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

Several York County hunters, like Swartz, said they were not worried about CWD since it was only found in animals in a contained area.

If anything, Swartz said he thinks that the state could do more to regulate deer farms a bit more.

He was concerned however, about whether or not he would be able to get a neck roast from his deer.

The tender neck roast is at the top of Swartz's list of preferred meat cuts, along with rump roast and hamburgers.

But with processors being required to send the brain stems away for testing, he wasn't sure if there would be a neck roast this year.

Since the brain stem is in the neck of the deer, Joe Wantz, co-owner of Wantz Brothers, had to pop open the neck of each deer and pull the brain stem out before labeling it and adding it to a collection for the Game Commission to pick up for testing.

The deer will be tested and results should be returned in 2 to 8 weeks, Wantz was told.

"We have a lot of new customers this year because of this," said Wantz. "If I wouldn't be doing it here, the closest place they would have to go is East Berlin."

"I've never seen them come in here so fast," he said.

Anyone who wanted a deer mounted had to use one of the seven taxidermists working with the Game Commission within the DMA as well, because the deer killed are not allowed to leave that area.

Wantz was having people take their meat home to freeze until the results from the Game Commission were returned.

That way if any of the deer were to test positive, no one will have to worry about their meat having been mixed in with that animal, he said.

Some hunters were disappointed that they could not butcher their own meat this year because of the stipulations.

Daniel Leonhard, 32, of Dover has been butchering his own deer for years because that way you know the meat is yours and you can use all of it.

Leonhard shot an 8-point buck in Newberry Township on Monday morning and headed back out in hopes of getting a doe.

David Swartz left Wantz Brothers on Monday in hopes of another deer as well.

"I've been doing this for years," said Swartz. "I hunt and I fish. Both of them are relaxing sports."

His son Travis, whom he taught to hunt, shares his love for the outdoors.

Last year Travis Swartz shot an 11 point buck on the first day of the season.

"You never know what's going to happen when you're out there," said Travis Swartz. "You don't know where the deer are going to be or what's going to drive them in a certain direction."

Next year when he is retired, the elder Swartz will be moving back to Centre County, where he grew up, and will hunt there instead of in York County.

"Deer taste like deer no matter where you get them," said David Swartz.

But his son Travis disagreed, explaining that deer killed in the mountains tend to have a gamier taste because of their diet.

The deer in York County are the best, Travis Swartz said. Here they graze on a lot of corn and "taste more like beef," he said.

- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or cshank@yorkdispatch.com