Hunters Donate 6,500 Deer to Help Feed the Hungry in Wisconsin

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Hunters Donate 6,500 Deer to Help Feed the HungryMADISON –The generosity of Wisconsin deer hunters is evident again this year as numbers come in from meat processors participating in the venison donation program, according to Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. Preliminary reports from the processors count more than 6,500 deer donated to date. All deer from the CWD zone are tested for presence of the disease before processing.

“This is a great program that helps needy families put high quality protein on the family table – and we know that meat is deeply appreciated,” said DNR Secretary Matt Frank. “We really thank hunters who have taken the time and effort to contribute deer to this program. The need continues and I urge hunters to consider bagging a deer for food pantries during the late bow season or holiday hunts.”

Most deer seasons are now complete but some deer are still expected to be donated from the just completed statewide antlerless gun hunt, the Dec. 24 – Jan. 4 holiday firearm season in the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone and the late archery season which also ends Jan. 4.

Since the 2000 fall hunting season, hunters have donated more than 68,000 deer, which have provided more than 3 million pounds of ground venison to needy families. This year, 123 participating meat processors in 55 counties contributed to the effort. There is no cost to the hunter beyond transporting the registered deer to the processor.

A large network of volunteers including sports groups, church groups, civic organizations and food pantry staff work together to distribute the meat from the processor to the food pantries. Department of Natural Resources staff, USDA – Wildlife Services staff and county staff help administer the program.

In non-CWD zones, processing costs are paid for by revenues from the sale of bonus antlerless deer harvest permits and a surcharge on deer hunting licenses. In the CWD zone bonus permit sales and the surcharge are supplemented by dollars raised through a coalition of community organizations called Target Hunger. The coalition covers a portion of the processing costs and handles distribution of venison.

Hunt For The Hungry in northeast Wisconsin, is also a strong partner in the Wisconsin Deer Donation 2008 program.

Wildlife officials say it won’t be until the end of all hunting seasons before final deer harvest numbers are known, and the same goes for donations. Preliminary kill numbers from the recently completed nine-day gun deer hunt are down from the previous couple of years and that may have an impact on the number of donations. There is also speculation that with the economic downturn, hunters may be keeping more meat for their own use.

Lead in Venison
Testing of hunter harvested venison in several states has revealed the presence of very fine particles of lead in venison harvested with lead bullets. The particles are often too small to be seen and can disperse far from the wound channel. Although lead in venison does not rival lead paint in older homes as a health risk for the public, the risk is not low enough to ignore.

Children under 6 years of age and pregnant women are at the greatest risk from lead exposure. The amount of lead found in a small percentage of venison samples suggest that long term effects of lead consumption could occur in people who regularly eat venison shot with lead ammunition. State health experts say however, that there is currently no known evidence linking human consumption of venison to lead poisoning.

More information on lead in venison is available on the DNR Web site.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Fike, – (608) 267-7974