Though Tennessee’s deer harvest numbers were down this season compared to last year, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program reports strong numbers, including an increase in whole deer donations.
Hunters for the Hungry Manager Matt Simcox says Tennessee’s deer harvest for the 2014-’15 season totaled 164,638 deer, a decrease of around 2.5 percent over the 2013-’14 season, due mainly to inclement weather over several of the most historically active weekends.
“When you factor in the bad weather and the high price of beef we’re currently experiencing, it’s even more impressive that we saw an increase in whole deer donations,” says Simcox. “That tells me that Tennessee hunters made personal sacrifices so they could help their neighbors in crisis, even when they might need the venison for themselves.”
Simcox adds that the total venison donations this season will equate to more than 650,000 meals provided to food-insecure individuals in Tennessee, many of them children. Over the course of the program’s 17 year history, Hunters for the Hungry has provided more than 4 million meals.
“It would be impossible to accomplish this without the giving spirit of both our hunting community, the wild game processors in our program, and Tennesseans who help support our program,” says Simcox. “Every year, I’m amazed at this partnership.”
Launched in 1998, Hunters for the Hungry connects white-tailed deer hunters with area wild-game processors who prepare venison for free or at a reduced rate to the hunter. The venison is then picked up by local food banks or soup kitchens where they highly valued protein is often served in chilis or spaghetti sauces.
“In some cases, our donated venison is the only reliable source of protein these food banks get throughout the year,” Simcox says. “I can’t thank our hunters, processors, and donors enough for what they do.”