Paul Davis, the director of the Hunter’s Harvest program for the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, feels like the preseason goal of 25,000 pounds of venison donations to feed the state’s needy is within reach.
“It’s going really well,” said Davis, who couldn’t provide an exact total of donations at this point due to the extensive collection process. “We’re tapping into a new audience of hunters, younger hunters and the D-MAP clubs (state wildlife agency’s Deer Management Assistance Program). Those clubs are big donators.”
Despite a reduced antlerless deer limit in Mississippi this year, Davis still set the lofty goal, and D-Map clubs could be the easiest route to reach that number. D-MAP clubs often have higher antlerless harvest quotas, and receive permits to attain that goal.
“We’re getting a lot of help in that respect from our participating deer processors,” Davis said. “They are getting more into it now, because they are getting paid for their services, and at least are getting their expenses covered. They know their customers and can tell them something like, ‘hey doesn’t your club have a goal of 50 does this year?’ and then push our program.
“They’ve been marketing for us, and have gotten the word out with customers. We’re growing in that aspect.”
Davis has noticed an increase.
“We’re getting invoices in from processors every week, usually two or three,” he said. “Last year at this time we were getting maybe one a week or one every two weeks. Understand that these are big invoices for hundreds of pounds when they submit them.
“The biggest thing is that I feel like more people are aware and the program is growing. We’ve gotten more people talking about it, and that is what feeds the program, so to speak.”
Hunter’s Harvest has collected 60,000 pounds of venison since 2011, producing 245,000 meals for families, over its history.
“Mississippi is blessed with a lot of deer, but at the same time it is a poor state with a lot of people without a good, steady supply of healthy protein,” Davis said. “It is estimated that 400,000 Mississippians live below the poverty level, including 93,000 children.
“Hunter’s Harvest was founded to put the two together, venison from deer hunters, distributed by the Mississippi Food Network, to the people who need it.”
An updated list of participating processors is always available at the Mississippi Wildlife Federation website mswildlife.org/hunters-harvest/.
Hunters can contribute in several ways:
Pitch in a pound: Hunters can choose to donate a pound or two of ground venison at the time of pick-up. Participating processors will take donations and store them until distributed by the Mississippi Food Network.
Hunter Pays: A field dressed or quartered deer may be donated by a hunter with the hunter agreeing to pay the venison processing fee.
Hunter’s Harvest Pays: A deer may be donated and the processing fee can be paid through the Hunter’s Harvest program. Funding for this method of donation is raised through grants, businesses, and personal contributions. Some processors require deer to be skinned and quartered.
Financial Donation: Those who wish to make a financial donation to (or seek more information on) the Hunter’s Harvest Program may call (601) 605-1790, or send the donation to: Mississippi Hunter’s Harvest, 517 Cobblestone Court, Suite 2, Madison, MS 39110.