Hunters can help feed the hungry

Published 1:20 am Saturday, October 12, 2013

Outdoorsmen all over the state are preparing bows and rifles for the start of hunting season, with dreams of big bucks and a relaxing day in the woods dancing through their mind.

Hunters may kill plenty of deer in Alabama this hunting season, with a lot of it going onto kitchen tables and into empty freezers. But, what should a hunter when he shoots a deer and no longer needs the meat?

Hunters Helping the Hungry, a program that provides processed deer meat to local food banks, is here to solve that problem.

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The program allows hunters to bring in a field dressed deer to a participating processor at no charge. The processor will then process the meat, which will get donated to area food banks.

“It is a good program because there are a lot of people out there that hunt and don’t have anything to do with the meat, so instead of the animal just going to waste it gets put to get use,” said Nichols Deer Processing’s Chris Frith.

Frith said Nichols Deer Processing has been participating in the program for 13 years and will again in 2013-2014.

‘The state pays for the meat to be processed and it is ground into straight hamburger, no fat and nothing adding,” Frith said. “They pay the processors a dollar per pound for the meat. Roughly we do around 1300 pounds for them every year.”

Nichol’s Deer Processing isn’t the only local processor participating in the program. According to a list of participating processors furnished by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Central Alabama Deer Processing, run by Jamey Lee Lewis, is also participating.

Through the program around half a million pounds of ground venison have been distributed to food banks, according to Kevin Dodd, the Law Enforcement Chief with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Dodd said while the program is great for feeding the hungry, it also serves as a wildlife management tool for landowners.

“[Land owners] may be reluctant to kill additional deer because their freezes are full or their neighbors don’t want it, so they are reluctant to kill them on some properties that are overpopulated or have a high deer density,” Dodd said. “This affords them the opportunity to take the animal and harvest the animal knowing it is going to go to a good cause.”

The program started in 1999 as a joint project by the Governor’s Office, the National Rifle Association, the Phillip Morris Company, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation. It raises money through donations and through events like the Governor’s Hunt for Hunger benefit quail hunts.

“There is a little amount of funds and we are constantly seeking donations to fund this program,” Dodd said. “Anyone that would like to make a donation is encouraged to do so.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the program or find out more information about the Hunters Helping the Hungry program can do so by calling 242-3467. Processors interested in joining the program are welcome to sign up.

Nichol’s Deer Processing is located on 528 Jeff Davis Ave. in Selma and can be reached at 875-1333. Central Alabama Deer Processing is located on 108 Dallas Co. Rd. 477 in Selma and can be reached at 418-8560.