- Donate All or Part of your Deer
- 4,280 Hunters Donated 198,277 Pounds of Venison in 2016
- SHARE THE HARVEST Program is Sponsored and Coordinated
By Larry Whiteley
There are thousands of struggling, needy people here in Missouri (and everywhere). Even with government assistance, it’s sometimes hard to have enough food to put on the table and feed their families. If you end up taking more deer than you can use or you’re trying to control your buck to doe ratio, here’s a great way you can help these people. Many states across the country have a program to help the hungry.
In Missouri, for example, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) administer a program called “Share the Harvest.” It is available to deer hunters like you so you can donate any extra venison you might have to help feed those families through food banks and food pantries.
There were 4,280 hunters that donated 198,277 pounds of venison last year. That’s a lot of high-quality, naturally lean protein for people who don’t get near enough of that in their diet. Since the program started back in 1992, over 3.6 million pounds have been donated by deer hunters just like you.
To participate, you will need to take your deer to an approved meat processor and let them know how much venison you wish to donate. To find an approved processor in your area go to www.huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-share-harvest or call the MDC at 573-751-4115 or CFM at 573-634-2322. It can be as little as a couple of pounds of venison burger to as much as a whole deer.
The processor will then package the meat to be picked up by a sponsoring organization who in turn takes it to a designated food bank or food pantry in your area for distribution to those people who pass their guidelines for receiving the meat.
When you donate a whole deer, the cost of processing is your responsibility, but CFM reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated when funds are available. That helps the processor to reduce his processing fee to you. Some processors have other money available from local groups so that processing fees are free or at a reduced cost. This program is usually for whole deer donations only.
Sponsors of this cost-reduction program are the Missouri Department of Conservation, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Chapter Whitetails Unlimited, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Deer Hunters Assoc., United Bow Hunters of Missouri and Missouri Food Banks Association as well as numerous local sponsors.
Volunteering to help local organizations is another way you can be involved. You simply donate your time and vehicle to pick up and deliver the venison to the designated distribution organization. I have been involved in both, donating deer to Share the Harvest and also delivering deer for Share the Harvest in southwest Missouri for over 20 years.
When I take my truck full of venison to the food pantry it is usually close to Thanksgiving and again near Christmas. At these special times of the year, it is a blessing to know the venison I am delivering is going to help someone in need.
To me this great program would not be possible without the generosity of Missouri deer hunters.
They spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of the white-tailed deer and then to turn around and donate all or part of their venison to those less fortunate than themselves is truly exceptional.