With a nearly to-date six-ton shortfall in donated deer, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is encouraging the state's sportsmen to participate in the annul Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program.
So far the program has seen 1,170 deer donated with a total processed weight of 58,500 pounds of venison.
Similar to-date totals last year included 70,250 pounds of processed venison while the all-season's contribution amounted to 104,400 pounds of venison.
Vicki Ervin, Wildlife Division spokeswoman, says donations are down from 2012, not only in Ohio but across the country.
“No one is sure why, either,” says Ervin.
Obviously Ohio's deer hunters have some ground to make up. Which is possible given that the remainder of Ohio's lengthy archery deer hunting season - which runs through Feb. 2 this year – as well as the statewide muzzle-loading deer-hunting season - set for Jan. 4 through 7 – are still in play.
Each contributed deer provides about 60 pounds of venison which offers around 200 meals, also says the Wildlife Division.
The program is national in scope but is run and coordinated by chapters within each states.
Ohio ranks fifth nationally in venison donations and has 33 Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry chapter coordinators. Each of these chapter go-to volunteer program managers work with a total 77 venison processors located across the state, typically butcher shops.
Ohio's involvement with the program began four or five years ago, Ervin says also, with the plan's floor plan calling for each chapter to work out the details themselves but within a general set of guidelines.
That locally run action plan includes rounding up processors, working out an agreed-upon processing price and then figuring out which food bank or food banks will become venison recipients.
“Some chapters are single county while others handle multiple counties,” Ervin says. “And the chapters themselves hold fund-raisers to help defray the expenses though many processors donate their services.”
Ervin says the current leading chapter is in northwest Ohio while a few chapters located in the the state's traditionally strong deer-hunting counties are not far behind.
“We always do well with (the latter) counties,” she said.
Also, says Ervin, the Safari Club International hosts ts own independent Sportsman Against Hunger as does Whtetails Unlimited.
And some counties have seperately run venison/food bank drives. This is the case in Lake County where Mentor butcher Joe O'Donnell accepts deer for processing at his Leroy Township business for later delivery to any number of local food banks.
Regardless of which venue a hunter chooses the processed venison is much-needed as well as much-appreciated, Ervin says.
“There's still plenty of time to harvest a deer and to donate it to one of these programs,” Ervin says. “We encourage hunters to spread the word and to make a donation.”
For further information about the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, visiting the organization at www.fhfh.org.
Meanwhile, the Safari Club's approach is available for review at safariclubfoundation.org and that for Whitetals Unlimted can be accessed at whitetailsunlimited.com.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn