Hunters donate 10,938 deer as venison for food pantries
MADISON, Wis. - Hunters donated enough deer this fall to provide nearly 500,000 pounds of venison for food pantries to feed needy people, a state wildlife official said Wednesday.
A record 10,938 deer were donated through the program administered by state Department of Natural Resources, meaning many food pantries will be distributing venison throughout the winter and into spring, coordinator Laurie Fike said.
Last year, 6,771 deer were given to the program. The previous record for donations, 7,765 deer, occurred in its inaugural year, 2000.
The DNR pays butcher shops about $50 for each deer processed in the donation program. The money comes from a $1 surcharge on all hunting licenses.
Fike and others pointed to the expansion of the state's earn-a-buck program this fall as a major factor in the increased donations. Under the program, hunters in some parts of Wisconsin were required to shoot an antlerless deer before killing a buck.
Following hunting in 2002, 5,646 deer were donated, compared with 3,921 deer in 2001, the DNR said.
According to Fike, 53 counties and 121 butcher shops participated in the program this year.
Johnson's Sausage Shoppe in Rio processed the most donated deer - 639 - followed by Brandon Meats & Sausage in Brandon with 426.