There’s a lot of opportunity for hunters to get back in the woods this year between the holiday hunts and the muzzleloader season. After the nine-day gun deer hunt, the Wisconsin DNR actually expects another 25,000 deer to be harvested before the end of the year. And they’re hoping more folks are willing to donate their deer to a food pantry through the Deer Donation Program.
Wildlife Damage Specialist Brad Koele oversees the Deer Donation Program. He says there’s huge demand from pantries – and they’re looking for more hunters AND meat processors to get involved.
Deer donation numbers have been trending down, and this is partially due to limited meat processing capacity. Last year, 68 processors were involved. This year — 51. Koele explains that chronic wasting disease also plays a role in recent donation declines.
Regardless — there’s high demand from food pantries for the meat. And Koele encourages hunters to donate their Wisconsin-harvested deer. The program helps stock food pantries for the upcoming holiday season and supports residents in need throughout the state.
Since the program began in 2000, hunters have donated almost 100,000 deer, totaling more than 3.8 million pounds of venison distributed to Wisconsin food pantries.
Through the Deer Donation Program, the DNR works with partnering meat processors to distribute thousands of pounds of donated venison to Wisconsin food pantries.
“Whether you harvest an extra deer or donate the only deer you shoot, we thank all deer hunters, meat processing and nonprofit partners who help make this program a success for those in need,” Koele says.
Those looking to support the Deer Donation Program can also do so through a monetary donation when purchasing a hunting or fishing license or a Wisconsin State Park pass.
One in 12 Wisconsin households did not have enough food before the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, and research shows this number continues to rise, according to UW-Madison’s Food Security Project.
The Wisconsin Food Security Project reports that food insecurity makes it harder for children to thrive in and out of school, increases the risk of health problems for children and adults, makes it more difficult to manage chronic conditions and contributes to short-term and long-term stress for children and families.
Hunters interested in donating a Wisconsin-harvested deer to the DNR’s Deer Donation Program can follow these steps:
- Field dress your deer.
- Register your deer through Game Reg. Make a note of your registration confirmation number and keep it on hand when dropping off your deer.
- Test your deer for CWD if harvested from a CWD-affected county that requires testing before taking the deer to a processor. To find a CWD sampling location near you to submit samples from Wisconsin-harvested deer free of charge, visit the DNR’s “Sampling For Chronic Wasting Disease” webpage. Test results are usually available from the DNR within two weeks.
- Call ahead. Contact one of the participating processors before dropping off your deer to make sure they have space to accept it.
- Drop off your deer at a participating processor.