Dec 10, 2018

Feeding Wisconsin Wild Game

Donating unneeded venison, other wild game can provide a big impact to hunger in the state

By Allison Rauscher

When you picture poverty and hunger, chances are you envision countries other than the United States of America.

As outdoorsman, we can likely agree that no one should have to starve or wonder where their next meal is coming from. Some may argue that those struggling would benefit from hunting and fishing for their food, but as many of us know, lifestyles like ours don't come cheap. The equipment, the gear, the permits and licenses all add up.

According to Feeding America – a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks – about 41 million people, nearly 13 million being children, are struggling with hunger. In 2015, 5.4 million seniors were reported to be struggling to afford food. Feeding America claims the U.S. population needs approximately $22 billion more per year to meet our citizen's hunger requirements.

With increasing numbers of deer, turkey, bear and other wild game, the amount of damage to crops and property has been on the rise. As a result, permits to harvest the animals are issued to farmers, airports, military and other agricultural institutions. These agricultural tags – along with recreational hunting tags – allow more animals to be harvested than most families can consume before the meat expires.

 

Sub: Making a difference

Outdoorsman have been donating their wild game for many years. In fact, more than 11 million meals and 2.8 million pounds of game meat are provided to our country's food banks, shelters and church kitchens every year. According to The Congressional Sportsman Foundation, the average sized deer yields 50 pounds of meat and can feed up to 200 people at just 25 cents per serving. Venison is versatile and can be made into steaks, roasts, ground hamburger, jerky, etc. Ground venison can be used in hearty meals like spaghetti, chili and tacos.

Hunters Helping the Hungry indicates a total of 6.5 million whitetails are harvested on average in a year. Six and a half million whitetail equates to about 1.6 million meals, 400 million pounds of meat, and $6.5 billion worth of food.

Other wild game donated to various distribution programs includes pheasant, waterfowl, rabbit, bears, feral pigs, elk, moose and antelope. In the last 10 years, donations of wild game have grown approximately 20 percent. States with the largest numbers of donations include Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Texas. However, regionally, the Midwest provides the most meat with 46 percent of total donations.

Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Hunters Helping the Hungry, Hunters Sharing the Harvest, and Sportsmen Against Hunger are just a few programs across the country that contribute to hunger efforts. These programs are established in many states to facilitate the processing of meat and the donations to food banks.

However, there are also individual programs within some states. An outreach program created by the Sportsman Channel – called Hunt.Fish.Feed. – provides game meat and fish donated by outdoorsmen. Hunt.Fish.Feed. hosts annual tours to serve cities in America with the greatest homeless and poverty rates, one of those cities being Milwaukee. These tours together serve up to about 30,000 meals.

State-level programs, like Iowa's Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program, brought in 3,000 deer last year, providing more than 600,000 meals. Since 2000, the Wisconsin Wild Game Donation program has acquired over 90,000 deer and over 3.6 million pounds meat.

 

Sub: Helping the cause

In Wisconsin, you can donate by field dressing, registering, and then dropping off your legally harvested deer at any participating processor by the end of January. Some metro deer management units may accept deer up until the end of metro hunting seasons.

A list of participating processors can be found online, but make sure to call before taking your deer in. By calling, you can assure the processor has the space to accept your deer.

Handle and care for the carcass as if it were going to be served on your own table. Keep it clean and on ice. Make sure to write down your registration confirmation number to help fill out a Hunter Deer Donation Log Sheet. This can be found on your GoWild account.

Don’t forget that any deer harvested in Adams, Crawford, Grant, Green, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Lafayette, Portage, Racine, Vernon, Waukesha, Columbia, Dane, Iowa, Richland, Rock, Sauk, and Walworth counties are required to be tested for chronic wasting disease.

Not only is legally harvested meat accepted, but so, too, are hides and monetary donations. Monetary donations help cover processing costs, which is sometimes where obstacles lie in the process. However, hunters do not have to cover the processing fee.

If the meat has already been processed, and your freezer is overflowing with meat, donation programs can be contacted to arrange pick-up or drop-off. Details and other specifications can typically be found on the donation program's website.

Some people think of third world countries when they think of hunger and poverty, but this is an issue in our own backyard. As outdoorsmen, we can help by donating our wild game to food banks and shelters. There are so many benefits to being an outdoorsman and conservationist, and donation is a wonderful way to show the benefits of our lifestyle and why it is so important.

 

Allison Rauscher is a freelance outdoor writer and outdoorsman from Lake Mills, Wis. Rauscher has been an outdoorsman for 17 years, learning how to hunt from her father and grandfather. She also enjoys fishing and bowfishing, however her greatest passion is bowhunting whitetails. You can find more of her work on her blog at allisonrauscher.squarespace.com.