Hunters are conservationists but did you know they are activists for the hungry? Years ago when conducting seminars at the Great American Outdoor show in Harrisburg PA I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John Plowman, the director of Pennsylvania’s Hunters Sharing the Harvest program. He introduced me to Pennsylvania’s outstanding program where hunters are donating wild game meat to a designated butcher who then in turn processes the meat and forwards the meat to food banks, churches, and other organizations that provide protein to people that are in need. Since then I’ve become an advocate for all state programs that provide game meat for those in need.
Times have changed since then and more and more people are in need of help. What better way to assist or aid our neighbors than to help provide protein to them and their families? We get to spend more time in the field, lower deer populations where needed and assist local families. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.
The NRA website Hunters for the Hungry has a description of the national and all state programs. The statistics are amazing, over 8 million meals served annually, over 2 million pounds of meat are harvested each year. The top five states include Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Hunters in Virginia have donated over 7 million pounds of meat since inception 1991 which equates to over 29 million quarter-pound servings. The NRA site has a link to each state’s program which contains endless information regarding donating wild game meat, money, events, etc. with many more links to assisting our neighbors in need.
State Programs: Donating Wild Game Meat
Each state has specific regulations when donating wild game meat, most all require the deer to be field dressed, some take quarters of meat, some take all members of the deer family and a few states also accept fish. All meat must be legally tagged and must be harvested within the state of being donated. Many states only accept meat from certified designated participating butchers while a few will accept road kill or meat from your freezer.
After researching many states web sites I’ve become even more impressed with the organization and operation of these Hunters for the Hungry programs. These state programs are organized, effective, and efficient when it comes to getting donated wild game meat and fish to people of need.
I am equally impressed with the number of people that participate by donating as well as receiving.
States that have CWD zones usually require testing the meat from those zones before the meat is processed which ensures wholesome quality meat to its recipients. There are many ways to donate and/or participate other than just donating wild game meat and/or money. Donate your time at food banks, purchase raffles or merchandise, participate in events such as banquets, competitions, sponsorship, donations, even “in memory of”. States like Louisiana conduct “Freezer Day” donating the meat from previous season to food banks, or participate at fishing rodeos, each state has very creative ways of developing partnerships and sponsorships. I always donate a buck for the pot at sports shows or even when purchasing my hunting license. States such as Pennsylvania have programs that harvest deer from state parks, battlefields, and communities that have overpopulated deer herds, they bring in sharpshooters, refer trucks, and harvest and process all the meat which goes directly to the hunters sharing the harvest program.
This is an overview of how the programs work. You donate your deer to a designated reputable butcher. Most states process for free, although there are states that ask for a nominal fee for skinning etc. The Butcher processes your deer into ground meat. (easiest and most convenient for processor and recipient) The processor distributes to specific food banks, churches, etc. These sites distribute to our neighbors in need.
The reason states require hunters to bring the meat to a designated butcher is to guarantee that the meat is going to be wholesome and palatable and processed in a sanitary manner and facility.
Butchers face many problems processing game meat delivered by hunters. Many times hunters mishandle the meat in the field, at camp, or at home, before they deliver the meat to the butcher. This may include soured meat from heat, bloodshot ruined meat, gut-shot contamination by poor shot placement or poor field dressing and many other issues. We must handle the meat donated as we would if we were preparing it for our freezer and dinner table.
Please consider taking a young hunter to the field, reducing the overpopulated herds, and donating the meat to your local butcher that participates in the hunters feeding the hungry program. The meat stays in your neighborhood and feeds your neighbors. What better way to teach a young hunter conservation from field to table?
You can learn more about the program details here: http://hfth.nra.org