Deer hunters donate meat to feed families
James Pellar of Yukon killed his first deer of the archery season Saturday morning while bow hunting in Canadian County, a nice 16-point buck that field-dressed at 170 pounds.
As he does with his first deer each hunting season, Pellar took it immediately to Terry's Taxidermy in Oklahoma City and donated the meat to Hunters Against Hunger, a program that provides ground venison to needy families across the state.
“Every year I have taken one, the first one goes to the community, then I worry about myself,” Pellar said.
Since 2002, deer hunters like Pellar have donated more than 500,000 pounds of meat through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Hunters Against Hunger program.
The meat is processed into ground venison by participating businesses and then distributed by regional food pantries in the state.
Jack Miller of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma said the deer meat is very much needed by their clients.
“It is a very meaningful and great program for those in need and gives us some additional protein we wouldn't normally have,” he said.
“We just don't get a lot of protein donated. It's very important, and it's a great addition for us when we are able to get it. The need is pretty great when you don't have any meat at all on your table.”
Terry's Taxidermy is one of 19 meat processors in the state that volunteers to be a part of Hunters Against Hunger. Hunters wanting to donate to Hunters Against Hunger must take their deer to one of the 19.
Other meat processors in the Oklahoma City area that participate are Sallee's Meat Processing in Guthrie, the Goldsby Meat Company in Washington and Lucky Day Sports Center in Shawnee. The complete list can be found at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Hunters also are asked by the Wildlife Department to contribute a tax-deductible donation of $10 to help defray the costs of processing. The Wildlife Department provides a partial financial reimbursement to the meat processors, as well.
After the meat is processed into ground venison, it is picked up by the food banks and distributed in 1- and 2-pound packages, Miller said. Three pounds of ground venison “will feed a pretty good size family for several meals,” he said.
Oklahoma's 16-day deer gun season opens Saturday. It is the most popular of all the hunting seasons in the state as the Wildlife Department estimates more than 187,000 hunters will be in the deer woods.
“There are not a lot of states that their health department will let them process a wild animal like this,” Miller said. “Oklahoma is unique in that.”
Don Brown, spokesman for the Wildlife Department, said the agency encourages hunters to donate meat, especially if their freezers are full, and the department would like to get more meat processors involved.
"We want to grow the program," he said.
Oklahoma has a deer population estimated anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million and has liberal bag limits for hunters. An individual hunter can kill as many as six deer in the combined archery, muzzleloader and gun seasons.
Pellar said he sometimes donates more than one deer during the hunting season to Hunters Against Hunger, depending on his success.
“There is a lot of people out there who need it more than I do,” he said.