Deer Hunters Asked to Aid the Needy
Iowa deer hunters may be among the state's most benevolent. More than ever, they are being encouraged to harvest more deer to curb the herd's growth, and while they are at it, they are also prompted to give the deer they don't need at home to the Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program.
In its first year last year, HUSH collected more than 1,600 deer, donated by hunters to any of about 30 lockers, yielding about 80,000 pounds of ground venison, or more than 300,000 meals to customers of social service agencies in central Iowa. The Food Bank of Iowa coordinated the pick-up and delivery of venison, and administered payments to the lockers for processing the deer.
"There has never been such a win-win program for those-in-need, for hunters, for lockers, and for deer population control," claimed Jeff Vonk, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, who initiated HUSH last year.
"Not only did hunters donate 1,600 deer, but about 4,000 hunters each gave $5 to HUSH when they purchased their deer permit, helping us to pay lockers for the processing," said Vonk. Hunters who donate deer to HUSH are still required to have a legal deer permit, but that extra $5 they can choose to pay when they buy the permit is a voluntary contribution.
According to DNR's Ross Harrison who manages HUSH with the Food Bank, the HUSH quota is being increased to 2,000 deer this year and payments to lockers are going to $55 per deer. Harrison said HUSH is hopeful that 5,000 to 6,000 hunters will give $5 this year to meet the increase in deer and costs.
Lockers last year got $50 per deer for processing and the Food Bank $5 per deer for distribution and administration, for a total HUSH cost of $88,000. The DNR promoted HUSH and raised most of the money from hunters, donors and its own budget. Major donors giving $3,000 or more included the Farm Bureau, Hunter Specialties, Knight Rifles, Whitetails Unlimited, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance and Iowa Bow Hunters Association.
The list of lockers accepting donated deer and more information is on the website: www.iowahush.com.