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Hunters may again donate venison for food pantries

MADISON – Wisconsin deer hunters are again able to donate venison for distribution to food pantries around the state. The Deer Donation 2003 program, is up and running and participating meat processors will be accepting donations until Dec. 31.

At no cost, hunters can donate additional deer that they harvest by delivering them to participating venison-processing facilities in Wisconsin. The venison is butchered and distributed to food pantries across the state.

The program is funded by the state’s Wildlife Damage Program, which is supported by hunter license dollars and operates in cooperation with the hunting organization Hunt for the Hungry. Other cooperators are the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services, County Land Conservation Departments and volunteers across the state.

“The process is really very simple,” said Todd Peterson, chief of public services and user programs in the DNR wildlife management bureau. “All the hunter has to do is bring a legally harvested, field dressed deer to a participating meat processor and sign a log sheet indicating a desire to donate the carcass. The processor will handle it from there. There is no processing cost to the hunter.”

A list of participating processors is kept up to date on the DNR Web site or people can call a DNR service center and ask for the closest participating meat locker.

“It’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure of the processor’s hours and whether or not they have room to take the carcass,” advises Peterson.

As of late September, there were 108 meat processors in 52 counties participating in the program. Between the years 2000-2002, hunters donated more than 17,000 deer, which provided over 750,000 pounds of ground venison to families across the state.

“Hunter response has been tremendous and from what I hear from the food pantries where the venison ends up, there is plenty of demand, the meat practically flies out of the freezers,” said Peterson.

Beginning in 2002, hunters donated more than their time and hunting skills. In addition to the license dollars used to fund the donation program, a voluntary program was started allowing hunting license buyers to voluntarily donate additional dollars to the Wisconsin Deer Donation Program. In its first year, 4,968 hunters donated over $18,000 to help pay for the processing costs.

“This is a great program,” said Peterson. “It provides high quality nutrition to individuals and families, it provides an outlet for extra venison and helps us with getting deer populations closer to prescribed goals. We’ve got a number of deer management units that are on the brink of being put into earn-a-buck seasons in 2004. Hunters raised to kill only what they can eat have a place for the additional deer we’re asking them to shoot, it takes away the problem of processing costs and home cold storage.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Todd Peterson - (608) 267-2948 or Laurie Fike - (608) 267-7974




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