Minnesota Hunters For The Hungry Program Now Free

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Deer donated to food shelves will be processed at no cost to hunters this year, thanks to a new program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture.

The program is aimed at providing a sought-after food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to help manage the deer herd by harvesting additional animals. Previously, hunters could donate deer to food shelves but had to pay processing costs themselves.

"DNR staff recognizes that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they can consume," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator. "Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate, at no cost to them, the extra deer they harvest."

Processing costs are being offset through a $160,000 appropriation approved by the 2007 Legislature as well as an increase in nonresident hunting license fees. Hunters may also donate to the program. When purchasing a deer license purchase, hunters will be asked if they want to voluntarily donate $1, $3, or $5 to the program and any interested individual can also donate by visiting one of 1,800 ELS agents statewide.

For 2007, a minimum of $280,000 is available to the program and will pay for processing more than 4,000 deer. Additional donations will allow for more processing.

"DNR has been working closely with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create a program that is easy for all parties involved," Cornicelli said.

More details, on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors are available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.