Venison donations down from 2012

Columbus — With a nearly to-date six-ton shortfall in donated deer, the DNR Division of Wildlife is encouraging the state’s sportsmen to participate in the annual Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program.

So far, the program has seen 1,170 deer donated with a total processed weight of 58,500 pounds of venison.

Last year at about the same time, the Ohio branch of the nationally coordinated project had seen 1,405 deer donated with a total weight of around 70,250 pounds of venison being processed.

Totals last year included 70,250 pounds of processed venison, while the all-season contribution amounted to 104,400 pounds of venison.

Vicki Ervin, wildlife division spokeswoman, says donations are down from 2012, not only in Ohio but across the country.

“No one is sure why, either,” says Ervin.

Obviously, Ohio’s deer hunters have some ground to make up. Which is possible given that the remainder of Ohio's lengthy archery deer hunting season – which runs through Feb. 2 this year – is still in play.

Each contributed deer provides about 60 pounds of venison, which offers around 200 meals, according to the wildlife division.

The program is national in scope but is run and coordinated by chapters within each state.

Ohio ranks fifth nationally in venison donations and has 33 Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry chapter coordinators. These chapter go-to volunteer program managers work with a total of 77 venison processors located across the state, typically butcher shops.

Ohio's involvement with the program began four or five years ago, Ervin says, with the plan’s floor plan calling for each chapter to work out the details themselves but within a general set of guidelines.

That locally run action plan includes rounding up processors, working out agreed-upon processing prices, and then figuring out which  food banks will become venison recipients.

“Some chapters are single county while others handle multiple counties,” Ervin says. “And the chapters themselves hold fundraisers to help defray the expenses though many processors donate their services.”

Ervin says the current leading chapter is in northwest Ohio, while a few chapters located in the state’s traditionally strong deer-hunting counties are not far behind.

“We always do well with (the latter) counties,” she said.

Also, says Ervin, the Safari Club International hosts its own independent Sportsman Against Hunger as does Whitetails Unlimited.

And some counties have separately run venison/food bank drives. This is the case in Lake County, where Mentor butcher Joe O’Donnell accepts deer for processing at his Leroy Township business for later delivery to any number of local food banks.

Regardless of which venue a hunter chooses, the processed venison is much needed as well as much appreciated, Ervin says.

“There’s still plenty of time to harvest a deer and to donate it to one of these programs,” Ervin says. “We encourage hunters to spread the word and to make a donation.”

For further information about the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, visiting the organization at http://www.fhfh.org/.

Meanwhile, the Safari Club’s approach is available for review at safariclubfoundation.org and that for Whitetails Unlimited can be accessed at whitetailsunlimited.com.

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