Deer Hunters Asked: Reduce Deer Herd, Feed Needy

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Iowa deer hunters are being asked to pull double duty this hunting season.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking them to shoot more deer, does in particular, to reduce the deer population. With the hope that hunters will shoot more deer than they want for themselves, a program has been set up to get the extra venison to the needy.

Help Us Stop Hunger, or HUSH, was announced today by the DNR, the Food Bank of Iowa and a number of other partners. DNR Director Jeffrey Vonk said that in this first year, HUSH will be piloted in a 55-county area of central and southeast Iowa. Most of the lockers that process deer in this area are participating, he said.

"Any deer hunter can take their legally harvested deer, any sex from any season, to one of the participating lockers and fill out a card. It costs the hunter nothing, and the locker gets paid $50 to process the deer into pure ground venison. The Food Bank of Iowa will arrange for the venison to be picked up and delivered into the system to feed the needy," Vonk explained.

Karen Ford, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Iowa, explained how valuable this new source of protein would be for its member agencies (pantries, soup kitchens, etc.) who feed the ill, the needy and children.

Several Iowa organizations and companies, most of them hunting related, have donated cash to pay for the venison processing, he said. Hunters will be given a chance to donate $5 when they buy their deer permit, beginning in a few weeks, according to Vonk.

Vonk said the motive for HUSH came from legislation last year that asked the DNR and the Department of Corrections to cooperate in getting deer hunters to donate venison to feed prison inmates. He said the prison program is still being developed, and an announcement will be made soon on how it works, and added that HUSH will encourage more hunters to shoot more does and it will be more widespread.

"This is another example of how important our natural resources can be. They can provide high quality outdoor recreation with the additional ability to help the needy," said Vonk.

Deer hunters can buy several permits during the seasons this fall and winter, depending on which seasons they choose. After a hunter purchases the first antlerless-only (doe) permit for $26, subsequent antlerless only permits are only $11 each. More than 30,000 additional antlerless-only permits will be available this year, compared to last year.

Contributions to the Food Bank of Iowa to pay for venison processing have come from the Iowa Farm Bureau, Whitetails Unlimited, Hunter Specialties of Cedar Rapids, Knight Rifles of Centerville, Iowa Bow Hunters Association, Iowa Outfitters and Guides Association, Safari Club, Izaak Walton League and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

More information about HUSH and deer seasons is available on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.com.