Deer Donation 2005 Closes With More Than 324,000 Pounds of Venison

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Wisconsin hunters donated nearly 7,207 white-tailed deer to the Wisconsin Deer Donation 2005 program, which ended Jan. 3, providing more than 324,000 pounds of ground venison for needy families across the state.

“Wisconsin hunters have again been generous to needy people through their hunting efforts,” said Bryan Woodbury, Wildlife Damage Program Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources. “We are grateful for their generosity and to the system of processors and volunteers that prepared the meat and distributed it to food pantries.”

The Wisconsin Deer Donation Program has been in existence for 6 years. In that time, hunters have donated more than 1.9 million pounds of venison to food pantries across the state

One hundred thirty Wisconsin meat processors in 58 counties participated in the deer donation program this year, boning, grinding and packaging venison for distribution to pantries. A large network of volunteers including sports groups, church groups, civic organizations, and food pantry staff worked together to distribute the meat from the processor to the food pantries. Department of Natural Resources staff, United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services staff, county wildlife damage staff and Hunt for the Hungry, headed by Lee Dudek of northeast Wisconsin, also partnered to administer the program.

The top meat processor in 2005 was Johnson’s Sausage Shoppe of Rio, followed by Pat’s Country Market, Arcadia and Cedar Creek Meats, Appleton.

Hunters can also make financial contributions to the deer donation program, and more than 6,000 hunters donated $17,000 to help the program in 2005. The monetary donation option implemented in 2002 allows hunters the opportunity to donate a dollar or more to the deer donation program when they purchase their license.

The 7,207 deer donated in 2005 was a decrease from the 2004 all-time record of 10,938 deer donated but very close to the number of deer donated in 2003 (6,771) and 2000 (7,765).

DNR wildlife managers say that there could be many reasons for the decrease in donations from 2004, but it is likely that not having any Earn-a-Buck (EAB) units outside of the chronic wasting disease management zones and a drop in the over-all number of Zone-T units from 2004 to 2005 had effects. EAB requires a hunter to first harvest an antlerless deer in order to earn a buck harvest authorization. Officials believe that at least some of the extra deer harvested in EAB units end up being donated to the pantry program. Also, the number of EAB hunting days in the CWD zones was reduced in 2005.