Venison may not seem like the most traditional Thanksgiving fare, but that doesn't make it any less amazing how hunters throughout the country banded together this fall to make sure that hungry families received high-quality meat for their 2013 Thanksgiving feasts. With hunting season coinciding with the Thanksgiving holiday, many hunters have made it traditional to be charitable around this time of year. In 2012, for example, hunters in Michigan donated some 30,000 pounds of venison to food banks throughout the state - meat that was turned in 150,000 meals for the homeless or hungry on Thanksgiving Day.
The organization that spearheaded that wide-scale donation - called Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger - has been working with meat processors to feed the hungry for over two decades now. Best of all, the organization is only one of many hunting-related institutions scattered throughout the country that have dedicated themselves to assuring that Thanksgiving is a day marked by warmth, good company, and great food for all.
The deer meat donation process works differently in different parts of the country. In Michigan, for one, hunters can drop off an entire deer at one of the food processors participating in the charitable arrangement. This way, the hunter doesn't have to shoulder the cost of having the deer butchered and prepared, and the charity gets a whole animal to use toward the feeding of hungry people - not just on Thanksgiving, but throughout the fall and winter seasons. Once the food has been processed, it is passed along to food banks, shelters, and other institutions that serve those in need.
Check out our recent post on gift ideas for deer meat processing.
Another state with an active deer hunter donation program is Missouri, where the state's Department of Conservation is in charge of leading the donation, butchering, and feeding process. Missouri also accepts and encourages donations of whole deer. The conservation claims that an entire deer can feed close to 200 people, and that each deer hunting license sold in the state - where they cost $7 - is another chance to hopefully boost food bank stores.
So how could states like Missouri and Michigan boost deer meat donations further? After all, most of us know what it's like to kill a sizable buck, and it's tough to want to donate the spoils of our victory, no matter the cause. However, state-approved perks, like free or expanded hunting licenses, higher bag limits, or extra hunting days scattered around the long Thanksgiving weekend, could go a long way in getting hunters to donate more meat. An overflowing freezer caused by an expanded bag limit, for instance, would be strong factor in encouraging hunters to drop an entire deer off at a participating butcher shop for donation.
Of course, hunter food bank donations around Thanksgiving aren't limited to venison. While deer hunting season is in full bloom around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend each year, some hunters prefer to go with a more traditional donation. Wild turkey hunters frequently hold a Thanksgiving tradition of donating a few of their kills to charity.