Judging by the number of deer tags in my wallet, 2011 could result in an over-abundance of venison in my house this coming winter. Here in Nebraska, an aggressive deer management program has blessed hunters in many units with bonus antlerless tags. Personally, I have six deer tags to fill in the coming weeks, and that doesn’t include my Illinois archery license.
Now, I love wild game, probably more than most people, and I’m a bit of a meat hoarder, measuring the success of my season not in antler inches, but in pounds of venison in the freezer. But even I am going to be overwhelmed should I luck into tagging six deer this year. That’s why I signed up for Nebraska’s Deer Exchange Program, a database that matches hunters with people willing to take deer meat.
While the Deer Exchange Program is handy, it’s not as comprehensive as other programs throughout the country to help hunters feed the hungry or homeless with donated game meat. These programs, or associations, go by many names–Hunters Helping the Hungry, Sportsmen Against Hunger, Project Venison–and each has its way of making sure donated game meat makes it onto the tables of America’s less fortunate. Many of these organizations partner with local charities, food banks, and butchers to help defray or cover the cost of the processing, providing hunters with added incentive to donate their deer.
No matter the name, all of the organizations are worth supporting, either through the donation of game meat or providing funds to help cover their expenses. Just one deer can feed several families. In 2010, Kansas hunters donated more than 1,100 deer that provided nearly 225,000 meals for families in need. If you have an extra tag in your pocket this season and no room in the freezer, think about helping a needy family. To find a program in your area, check out the NRA’s information clearinghouse here.