Each fall when the Texas deer hunting season rolls around, the things get busy — crazy busy — at Clay’s Processing and Smokehouse in Dublin.
Clay Estes and his son Scott Estes are co-owners of the business, at 111 W. Elm St. in Dublin. That once was the site of Country Morning Foods, which closed about 18 years ago.
Clay’s, formerly known as Clay’s Deer Processing, first opened for business at a location on State Highway 6 in 1991. The business moved to Elm Street in 2009.
Scott Estes said the numbers start ramping up when deer season arrives.
“We do about 4,000 deer a year,” Scott Estes said. “We’re probably one of the largest processing facilities in the area. We draw a lot of hunters from Fort Worth, Granbury and Abilene. We pull from a lot of areas surrounding Erath County. We’re known for (the fact that) each deer is processed individually.”
Clay’s also does full processing of beef and pigs, in addition to deer.
“We do it all,” Scott said, noting that they also have a full smokehouse. “We offer custom cuts, tenderizing, and we do all our smoked sausage in-house. We make our own jerky. The best thing, when the customer brings us their deer, they get their deer back.”
The have 11 employees, including five full-timers who work year-round. Scott said it normally will take two to three weeks to process a deer, depending on how busy they are at the time.
Scott estimated that about 80 percent of their customers live outside of the county. He also said that approximately 80 percent of their overall customer base consists of repeat customers.
Because Clay’s also processes beef, he said, they are subject to regular USDA inspections.
“Ninety percent of deer processing places don’t have to be inspected,” Scott noted. “We do. The USDA inspects our facility year-round. It makes you keep your facility to a higher standard.”
Clay’s business hours are normally 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. But once deer season begins, they’re open seven days a week (also from 8-6). Their beef processing is put on hold during during the busy wild game season.
For hunters who arrive after hours, Clay’s has a 24-hour refrigerated drop-off, featuring video surveillance.
Clay’s current hours, along with pricing and printable cutting order forms, can be found on the website (www.claysprocessing.com). The phone number is 254-445-4180.
Scott, who is 42, said that his dad had a meat market in Colleyville until 1991, when the family moved to Erath County.
“I was 11 years old,” Scott said. “I knew guys who brought deer in when I was a kid. Now we’re processing their grandchildren’s deer. I lived in Dublin. I graduated from Stephenville High School in 1994.”
Scott is the owner-operator of a separate business called Baby Clay’s Meat Market, at 3054 W. Washington in Stephenville.
“We hand-cut all our meat,” Scott said of Baby Clay’s, which opened on Sept. 1. “It’s only prime or choice cuts. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we pride ourselves in customer service.
Scott said that Baby Clay’s also offers “a bunch of custom-blended seasonings — probably 50 different ones.”