I love Christmas, I really do. The time of year, the spirt that seems to be in the air, if only for a short time people treat each other a little nicer.While we are celebrating the birth of the Christ child many of us are out there going crazy trying to find gifts for each other. This is the part of Christmas that I don’t like, the shopping and anxiety trying to find something when we really don’t have a clue what the other person might like. Most of us have plenty and don’t need any presents, but the tradition says we must have a present for everyone, especially if we think we might get one from them.
There are those that do need things, like having enough to eat. Hunger is something that is not truly understood or experienced my most of us. We have so much food available that being really hungry for extended periods of time is inconceivable. If you have ever experienced this then you know feeding the hungry may be the greatest gift you can give.
The 2022 hunting season marks the 31stconsecutive year the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WDNR) Wildlife Resources Section has sponsored the Hunters Helping the Hungry program (HHH). Since the inception of the program, hunters, financial contributors, and participating processors have enabled the processing of over 30,000 deer. With their generosity and the assistance of two area food banks, over one million pounds of highly nutritious meat has been provided to needy families and individuals throughout West Virginia.
Hunters who decide to participate in the program take their deer to a participating meat processor, where the processor grinds, packages and freezes the venison. The Mountaineer Food Bank (Gassaway) and Facing Hunger Foodbank (Huntington), both members of Feeding America, pick up the venison and distribute it to the needy through their statewide network of 600 charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community centers, orphanages, missions, and churches.
I talked to Steven McDaniel who was then Director of WVDNR and is very passionate about the Hunters Helping the Hunger Program and what it could accomplish in the state. “Our hunters in West Virginia harvest tens of thousands of deer and sometimes we hear them say they will put a deer or two in the freezer and then they will stop hunting” he said. “Well, number one, we would like them to spend more days in the field, not less, and we have several antlerless seasons (doe seasons) during the fall and winter. In about half of our counties in the state we do not meet the harvest goals for antlerless deer. So what we are talking about here is hunters can continue to deer hunt, help with harvesting more does in certain areas, and help feed needy families all at the same time, it’s a win win. All it will cost you is the price of a doe stamp, the WVNDR pays for the processing, all the hunter has to do is deliver the field dressed deer to one our many processors around the state.”
Director McDaniel continued with this message, “I can’t think of better gift that sportsman could give than donating part of their harvest and helping the less fortunate, just the giving of one deer can help feed many families, the ground venison that this program supplies is the number one requested item at the food banks in West Virginia, this gift of helping to feed our fellow man is certainly better than getting a pair of socks!”
I could not have said it better. Almost every state has a similar program where hunters may donate deer to feed the hungry, if you are a deer hunter think about returning to the field this month, Virginia has several deer seasons archery and firearm, that extend through December and into January, Georgia has several days of deer hunting left with some counties extending into January, Pennsylvania has some counties open for archery hunting going well in January and some areas for flintlock muzzle-loading rifle. Tennessee has a similar set of dates for deer hunting with some seasons extending in January. (Please check your states regulations for locations and dates for these seasons in your area!)
These seasons will allow you to be in the woods doing what you love, hunting the whitetail deer. It will also allow you to give the greatest gift.