Deer hunters aren’t sharing as much of their harvest as they once did, perhaps because they’re not killing as many deer.
A recent report by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) showed that 4,487 deer hunters donated 227,000 pounds of deer meat in 2013 as part of the state’s Share the Harvest program. The numbers reported were the lowest totals for the program since 2009.
The decline in meat donations could be attributed to smaller statewide deer harvests, or it may represent a decline in hunter participation in the program. Hunters could be keeping more of their kills than they did several years ago, or the reduction in donated deer could be a result of the reduction in total kills. In 2013, Missouri hunters killed over 252,000, the lowest number of deer taken in more than a decade.
The Share the Harvest program was created by MDC to help supply food banks and pantries across the state with venison. MDC works with meat processors to prepare the donated venison and get it distributed to food pantries, where the deer meat is then given to families in need.
Simply take your deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison you wish to donate. The processor will package the meat, which will be picked up by local sponsoring organizations and taken to a charitable agency for distribution.
The Conservation Federation of Missouri reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated. This allows processors to reduce processing fees to hunters. In addition, many processors have local money available that allows deer to be processed for free or at reduced cost. Be sure to contact individual processors to determine if funds are available. The cost of processing the deer is your responsibility when local funds to help cover the full cost are not available.
For more information about the Missouri Share the Harvest program, go online to http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/deer/share-harvest. Local meat processors taking part in the program are Davis Meat Service in Steelville (573-775-2531) and Heintz Processing in Cuba (573-732-9938).
In Cuba, Three Rivers Publishing, parent company of the Cuba Free Press, pays for all meat processing costs at Heintz Processing in conjunction with Share the Harvest.