As sportsmen and women, it’s part of our responsibility as ethical wildlife conservationists to give back to the lifestyle and heritage of hunting as much as possible. Whether it’s through mentoring, teaching the arts of outdoor pursuits, donating time or money to conservation and public land access – we must all share the load. Every year at this time, I dedicate these words and this column to a WVDR sponsored cause that makes a whole lot of sense and checks all the boxes labeled – giving back. Here are some words about the program.
Hunters and their families are not the only West Virginians who benefit from the state’s abundant supply of wild game. The DNR-sponsored Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) Program processes deer for needy families and individuals in the Mountain State.
The 2019 season will mark the 28th consecutive year the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Section has sponsored the HHH Program. Since the inception of the program, hunters, financial contributors and participating processors have enabled the processing of 26,387 deer. With their generosity and the assistance of two area food banks, 1,003,208 pounds of highly nutritious meat has been provided to needy families and individuals throughout West Virginia.
Hunters who decide to participate in the program take their deer to a participating meat processor, where the processor grinds, packages and freezes the venison. The Mountaineer Food Bank (Gassaway) and Facing Hunger Foodbank (Huntington), both members of Feeding America, pick up the venison and distribute it to the needy through their statewide network of 600 charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community centers, orphanages, missions, and churches.
West Virginia is fortunate to have the generous support of its hunting community. The HHH Program has the potential to donate thousands of pounds of venison to the needy on an annual basis, making it a worthwhile program. However, the total cost of this program has averaged $49,292.47 over the past seven years. There is considerable interest in the program, but the DNR is restricted from using sportsmen’s license dollars to fund the program. Therefore, the DNR must rely on the generosity of concerned individuals, businesses, conservation organizations, foundations, and churches.
Two of the largest sources of fundraising include the annual “Governor’s One-Shot Hunt”, as well as the annual “Share the Harvest Sunday” fundraiser. The Governor’s One-Shot Hunt an antlerless deer hunt that began in 2007, provides a source of venison and funding to the program. The West Virginia Council of Churches holds an annual “Share the Harvest Sunday” during the first Sunday in November. On that day, approximately 3,000 participating churches ask their congregations to donate $1, $5, or any amount they can afford to the HHH Program. Any church that wishes to join in this effort can contact the Mountaineer Food Bank at 304 364–5518 or the DNR District 3 Office at 304 924–6211.
Interested individuals, churches, organizations and businesses can help to ensure the perpetuation of the HHH Program through a generous monetary donation that can be made at any time.
Checks and money orders should be made out to Hunters Helping the Hungry and mailed to:
Hunters Helping the HungryWV Division of Natural
163 Wildlife Road
French Creek, WV 26218