THE PERFECT GIFT DURING THE PERFECT TIME OF YEAR
The holiday season is a time for giving. There are many less fortunate people in our country, and we all do our part to help them, whether through a donation of change at the Salvation Army red kettles outside of stores or giving of our time to a local charity. Sportsmen have certainly made a large impact on the needy. They are able to do this through donations of venison from their hunts. All over the United States, game meat is generously given to food banks and shelters. By sharing their harvests with others, hunters make a huge difference during a time of year when many go hungry. This wonderful exchange of venison is made possible through state programs like Hunters for the Hungry, Hunt to Feed, and many more. A study commissioned in 2011 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that 11 million meals and 2.8 million pounds of meat were donated in the year prior. The Midwest and South, where large population of white-tailed deer exist (and thus larger deer hunting seasons), had the greatest number of donations, at 1.3 million and 1.25 million pounds respectively. [caption id="attachment_6832" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Image via nssf.org[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6833" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Image via nssf.org[/caption] In many places, these programs are administered by conservation departments to ensure safety and proper use of the meat. Hunters take their deer to approved processors, who then package the meat for local organizations so that it is the freshest it can be. Sometimes (but not always), this is done at the cost of the hunters, who are not only donating the meat but financing its placement as well. This is a fantastic way to get nutritious, high-quality protein to people who desperately need it. Miller County (Missouri) Conservation agent Eric Swainston summed up his state’s Share the Harvest program:
“Hunting is an economical and effective way to limit the size of the deer herd. While some hunters like to hunt to put meat in the freezer, there are some who enjoy hunting for only the trophy buck. Most people tend to agree it’s wasteful to kill deer that won’t be eaten, so what can they do with the venison? It’s easy to donate . . . It provides food to the hungry.”
R. Matthew Hough, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, lauded the hunters who participate in the state’s Hunters Sharing the Harvest program:
“We’re proud not only of the charitable need Hunters Sharing the Harvest helps to fill, but also about what the program shows about the generosity of Pennsylvania’s hunter . . . our hope is that our gift is one that keeps on giving, and one for which many will be thankful.”
We second that sentiment. Sportsmen, not just with venison but other meat and fish donations as well, are doing a great service to their fellow human beings. Let’s continue to support these wonderful programs that allow them this opportunity, and support our sportsmen who make a great impact on society. Please seek out and find your state's program if you are interested in learning more about what they do or if you would like to donate your own harvest.