Iowa deer hunters donated a record 6,820 deer harvested during the last hunting season, a nearly 7 percent increase from the previous year.
Most of the donated deer, 6,482, went to the Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program that the DNR started 4 years ago to help reduce the deer population and provide the venison to needy Iowans. Deer hunters pay an extra $1 on each deer license to support venison processing at 80 lockers where hunters can drop off donated deer. The Food Bank of Iowa arranges for distribution of the venison and makes the payments to lockers.
"A sincere 'thank you' to all deer hunters who donated this past season. Not only have you helped reduce deer numbers in Iowa, but you have helped many thousands of Iowans in need," said Richard Leopold, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Leopold said that more than 1.1 million quarter-pound servings of venison were received by Iowans through the network of food banks during the previous hunting season.
HUSH lockers are in about half of Iowa counties. Lockers receive $60 per deer to process the venison into 2-pound frozen packages. The Food Bank of Iowa is paid $5 per deer for its administrative duties. In addition to deer donated to HUSH, 275 deer were donated to two chapters of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), a national faith-based deer donation program that raises its own money locally to pay for deer processing and venison distribution to the needy.
"We are grateful to FHFH for participation in the Muscatine and Fairfield areas," said DNR's Ross Harrison who coordinates HUSH. Also, 63 deer were donated at the Yetter Locker in northwest Iowa for the Rockwell City Correctional Facility.
Income from the $1 HUSH fee was nearly $366,000, more than $60,000 short of paying for the program; fees from other licenses will cover the deficit. Lockers receiving the most deer included: Edgewood Locker in Edgewood, 422 deer; Milo Locker in Milo, 350 deer; Ruzicka's Meat Processing, Inc. in Solon, 264 deer; Corning Meat Processing in Corning, 247 deer; and Perk's Processing in Unionville, 235 deer.