Making the cut

Maybell Processing kept busy slicing meat during hunting season

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Maybell Processing owner Dar Haskins looked around the building that was once, long ago, the Oasis Cafe in Maybell.

The former restaurant was humming with activity as November ended, with hunting season operations keeping a meat cutting crew very busy.

To Haskins, the co-workers are all very familiar.

"That's one of my sons, and that's another," Haskins said, pointing around the room. "Luke's my nephew, and that's my mother-in-law. This is my wife over here."

The cutters rarely glance up from their quick-moving knives as one of them slices elk meat off a carcass, and another carves out tenderloins and steaks, back-straps and burger meat.

Haskins stands off to the side, making breakfast sausage out of a container of meat, adding seasonings as he feeds the mixture into a grinder.

His wife, Julie, wraps each package with speed that only experience can account for.

Family friend Ty Bosick came in to town from Elk Springs to manhandle the carcasses from the cooler to the cutting tables.

Sons Josie and Jesse trim the meat and send the prime cuts down the line, while passing small pieces into a tub for grinding into burger.

"Elk bodies are different than beef," Haskins said. "Some parts of an elk you've got to make into burger."

Nephew Luke Wilson cuts steaks into manageable portions at the end of the processing line.

The wrapped bundles are put into a crate headed for the freezer.

Maybell Processing has been taking care of hunters' butchering needs for game animals in Northwest Colorado since 1990.

Haskins started the business, "because I needed to make money in the winter when the construction slowed down."

They process about 600 animals each hunting season, making quick work of pronghorn antelope, deer, elk and even a moose last year.

The business is open from early October until late November, and workers begin at 5 a.m.

Haskins, a well-known bareback rider in his day, has things operating smoothly, although it wasn't always that way.

"We weren't meat cutters when we started," he said with a smile. "We didn't know what we were doing."

Wednesday, the business was dealing with 22 elk from a special hunt that consisted of Craig and Steamboat Springs hunters guided by Wes Behrman.

Each elk was cut up and packaged in about 15 minutes.

"I'd say 90 percent of my business is return clients," Haskins said. "Some have been coming here since I opened 16 years ago."

He and his crew custom cut and package the animals to each hunter's request.

The familiarity of family keeps the atmosphere light.

Jokes fly as fast as the knives on this, the last day of meat-cutting operations for 2006.

"We have a good time," Haskins said.

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