Hunters Donate 176,000 Pounds of Venison

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Wisconsin deer hunters donated 176,000 pounds of venison to food pantries across the state through the Wisconsin Deer Donation Program in 2001. The program provides hunters with a way to extend the enjoyment of their sport and help out folks who may be having difficulty putting meat on the table.

"This a very popular program with the food pantries who tell me that the meat just flies out of their coolers," said Laurie Fike, a specialist in wildlife damage and abatement at DNR. "Donations are down from last year's total of about 350,000 pounds but we also had fewer counties participating in the program this year, and hunters had fewer free tags to fill. All in all, hunters put a lot of meat on tables across the state where otherwise, there may not have been any."

The donation program is part the Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program (WDACP) and is paid for through a $1 surcharge on deer hunting licenses and from bonus deer harvest permit sales. After field dressing and registering a deer, hunters can drop off the carcass at a participating meat processor who butchers and packages it for distribution. The meat processors are then reimbursed through the WDACP.

New for 2002 will be additional opportunity for hunters to contribute to the venison donation program. Beginning in March 2002, hunters purchasing a deer, bear, turkey or small game license (including patron and sports licenses) will have the option of donating a minimum of $1 or more specifically to the venison-processing program. Also, more counties will be able to participate in the program.

Many important partnerships between federal, state and county agencies, nonprofit volunteer organizations and processing plants statewide contributed to the success of the program in 2001 according to Fike. These partners include 109 participating venison processors, Hunt For The Hungry, Safari Club International, Hunters Against Hunger, US Dept. of Agriculture - Wildlife Services, Waupun and Rhinelander Districts; Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and food pantry volunteers statewide.

"This year's donation program was the smoothest yet," said Fike. "Each year the paperwork flows more smoothly, the processors have fewer questions or problems and more hunters understand and are aware of the program."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Fike (608) 267-7974