Generous Hunters Help Sportsmen Against Hunger Have Banner Year

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PIERRE, S.D.—In 2007 the South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger organization chose “Feed the Need” as its new slogan. And the state’s hunters did just that, making record contributions of venison to the program that helps feed the less fortunate.

“The hunters of South Dakota really outdid themselves this year,” said Jeff Olson, president of Sportsmen Against Hunger. “They donated 75,000 pounds of venison, up from 45,000 pounds the year before.”

In the 2007 deer hunting seasons, hunters donated 1,757 antlerless deer and another 380 big game animals including bucks, antelope, elk and bighorn sheep. The previous year there were 391 antlerless deer donated to the program plus another 541 other big game animals.

“One big change this year was the availability of $50 processing certificates directly from the processors,” Olson said. “Many processors took that certificate as full payment.” The popularity of the certificate program meant that Sportsmen Against Hunger paid $87,850 to processors.

“The success of this program relies on generous hunters and the processors who are willing to participate,” Olson said. “We’re also indebted to the Game, Fish and Parks Department and the GFP Commission for their financial support and the manpower they provide.”

The program is funded largely by hunters who agree to donate while applying for hunting licenses. Donations and grants also came from Scheels, Wal-Mart, the Elmen Foundation, the Sioux Falls Canaries and Ultra Dent.

“One donation that really raised our organization’s profile this year was a grant from the Black Hills Advertising Federation,” Olson said. “That translated into more than $100,000 worth of advertising for us.”

The growth of the Sportsmen Against Hunger program has coincided with a growing need for meat in South Dakota. “With consumers facing rising gas and grocery prices, the need for food assistance is growing at an almost alarming rate,” according to Matt Gassen, director of the Community Food Banks of South Dakota. “Our pantries in Sioux Falls and Rapid City are seeing nearly a 25 percent increase in the number of clients being served during the first quarter of 2008 as compared to the same time last year. We’re also hearing the same type of news from pantries across the state.”

Another type of news about venison originated in North Dakota where there were some concerns raised about the safety of lead in deer meat. Sportsmen Against Hunger, GFP and the S.D. Health Department took the concerns centering on pregnant women and infant children seriously. Food pantries participating in the program have been given brochures detailing the possible risks of lead contamination.

“The eating of hunted game meat has been going on for a long, long time without any real problems,” Gassen said. “However, it needs to be an individual’s choice as to whether they want to consume that type of meat or not. That is why we’re providing each recipient with information identifying potential risks and listing recommended serving amounts.”

The board of directors of Sportsmen Against Hunger is gearing up for the next round of deer hunting seasons. “The need for ground venison continues,” Olson said, “and as long as that need is there, we’ll work to meet it.” Olson noted that hunters already have an opportunity to give to the program this year if they want to make a donation on their elk hunting license applications.

In addition to donations made by sportsmen applying for hunting licenses, anyone interested in helping provide meat for struggling families can make a tax deductible donation by sending a check or money order to South Dakota Sportsmen Against Hunger, P.O. Box 1172, Pierre, SD 57501. To learn more about the program check its Web site at www.feedtheneedsd.com.

–GFP–

 – South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks  –