The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

October 20, 2013

Hunters Helping the Hungry feeds families

Since 1992, hunter-donated venison has provided more than 1.2 million meals

BECKLEY — A survey came across my desk this week and to be honest, as a deer hunter and someone who enjoys nature’s wonderful bounties, it sparked my interest.  The gist of the national and state-level survey conducted by Responsive Management is that obtaining meat is an increasingly important motivation among American hunters to go afield. It probably comes as no surprise, especially for us sportsmen who have cherished the practice of farm/field to table meals for years, that hunting for food is a motivating factor. Besides, fresh venison is good for you, and if taken care of and prepared properly, tastes wonderful.

“Venison is an excellent alternative to beef for those concerned with healthier choices in their diet,” said Curtis I. Taylor, chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). “Venison is a healthy source of protein for many West Virginia families and has fewer calories and less fat than an equivalent serving of beef. With the changes in the 2013 deer harvest regulations, hunters this fall will have additional opportunities to harvest a deer.”  

Point taken, Curtis. Being sportsmen, we have an obligation to wildlife conservation and our responsibility of giving back to the sport and the quarry we so passionately pursue. In doing so, you may find yourself with a little extra venison this season and you may want to consider sharing the gift of good fortune with others.   

A great example of sharing nature’s bounty can be found here locally with the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program. Our hunters provide thousands of pounds of venison to needy families across the state.  

Over the past two decades, WVDNR has sponsored the Hunters Helping the Hungry program. Since its inception in 1992, hunter-donated venison has provided more than 1.2 million meals for needy West Virginia families.

According to the WVDNR literature, here is how it works. Hunters who legally harvest a deer and wish to donate the meat to HHH, can deliver the deer to the nearest participating meat processor. The meat processor will skin the deer; debone and grind the meat; freeze it in two-pound packages; and hold it for pick-up by the Mountaineer Food Bank, in Gassaway, or the Huntington Area Food Bank. These food banks are the only certified West Virginia members of Feeding America, a national network committed to feeding the hungry. Both are nonprofit organizations, inspected and approved by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. They distribute the ground venison to the needy through their network of qualified charitable agencies.

So who picks up the bill for the processing of the deer?  According to the website, West Virginia is fortunate to have the generosity of so many hunters. The potential for HHH to continue to donate thousands of pounds of venison to the needy each year makes it a wonderful and worthwhile program. However, the total cost of this program can reach over $90,000 in one year. There is a lot of interest in this program, but the WVDNR cannot continue the HHH program at this cost without finding additional financial contributions. The WVDNR is restricted from using sportsmen’s license dollars to fund this program, and is completely dependent upon funding for the program that comes from individual, corporate and organizational donations; from donations through the West Virginia Council of Churches’ annual “Share the Harvest” offering, and through money raised at the annual Governor’s One-Shot Deer Hunt.

According to this year’s Share the Harvest letter, the West Virginia Council of Churches has designated Sunday, Nov. 3 as the day for participating churches to ask each member to contribute one dollar, five dollars or whatever they can afford to the program.

As for me I’ll take to the woods this fall to spend time with family and friends, to reconnect with the natural world and to share nature’s bounty with the ones I love. And who knows, with a little luck I might just have enough to pass along too. And for that, I’ll give thanks.

For more information

concerning the HHH program, Share the Harvest Sunday

or to discuss tax-deductible

donations, contact Gene Thorn at 304-924-6211 or

e-mail eugene.r.thorn@wv.gov.

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