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State wildlife officials encourage hunters to donate venison

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say the 2008 Venison Donation Program in Wisconsin is up and running with 120 cooperating meat processors in 53 counties signed up.

Hunters participating in the 2008 regular gun deer hunting seasons that runs Nov. 22-30 as well as the Dec. 1-10 muzzleloader hunt can check the DNR Web site for processors in their area.

During the 2007 season, hunters donated 9,200 deer to food pantries. A network of 126 processors in 54 counties butchered and ground the venison into more than 414,000 pounds of packaged venison

"The process for donating extra venison hasn't changed from previous years," said Laurie Fike, DNR venison donation program coordinator. "If you think you'd like to donate to the program there are only a few simple steps you need to know.

"First, call ahead to the processor to be sure of their hours and workload. Then harvest, tag, field dress and register the deer as you normally would. Once it's registered simply bring it to the processor," she added.

Fike noted that there is no cost to the hunter other than transporting the deer.

"Donating deer to the program does more than provide food to families," Keith Warnke, DNR big game ecologist. "By harvesting additional deer you also help reduce crop damages, deer-vehicle collisions and the impacts of selective deer browsing on the forest."

Since the fall hunting season of 2000, hunters have donated more than 63,200 deer, which have provided over 2.8 million pounds of venison to needy people across the state.

A large network of volunteers including sports groups, church groups, civic organizations, Hunt for the Hungry and food pantry staff work together to distribute the meat from the processor to the food pantries.

U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services staff, DNR staff and county wildlife damage staff also help administer the program.