Packaged venison is prepared for distribution.
Pennsylvania’s Hunters Sharing the Harvest program is coming off a record year.
The program exists to take deer killed by hunters, shot for crop damage or killed illegally or by mistake and use them to feed the hungry. Animals are processed by participating butchers and donated to food banks and soup kitchens.
The year 2015 was the group’s 25th in existence. With a handful of butcher shops yet to report, preliminary figures suggest the nonprofit collected 104,582 pounds of venison, said executive director John Plowman.
That’s the most it’s ever handled, topping 2014’s mark by about one ton.
“We have exceeded all expectations,” Plowman said.
The program began in 1991 “on a shoestring budget,” he said. It’s really taken off in recent years since sponsors have been found to cover the cost of having donated deer butchered.
Previously, hunters were asked not only to give up a deer, but help pay the cost of processing it.
The program received about 3,000 donated deer last year. The 10-county southwest region of the state accounted for more than anywhere else.
Plowman said the value of those animals is tremendous for those in need.
“One deer feeds about 200 meals. So we can really stretch it out,” he said.
Hunters who donate a deer get a thank you letter, a decal and a measuring tape that estimates the weight of a deer based on neck measurements.
The number of participating butchers stands at about 130, meanwhile, and is “on the grow all the time,” he added.
More information about the program can be found here.