For successful hunters that would like to share their harvest this season, an effective program appropriately called, "Share the Harvest" allows hunters to donate deer meat to families in need. This charitable program that started in 1992, allows hunters to legally donate venison to people in need of food.
Since the season started, hunters have already taken more than 200,000 deer, so donated venison should be much higher than in past seasons.
Dave Murphy, Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, said, "The program has reached more than 3,000,000 pounds of deer meat since it started back in 1992. Back then, two groups of sportsmen had a vision of the current program. The Columbia Archers and the St. Louis chapter of the National Turkey Federation."
In those early days, Shelter Insurance helped finance the program and today, the program is funded by several corporations including Bass Pro in Springfield, Mo., private donors and deer processors.
The program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Conservation Department. Last year, more than 6,000 hunters donated 317,882 pounds of venison. The 2010 season saw more than 5,500 whole deer that weighed more than 300,500 pounds donated to the program.
Donating is easy. Hunters who want to participate just take their deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison they want to donate. The processor will package the meat, which will be picked up by the local sponsoring organization and taken to a participating charitable agency for distribution. A list of the participating processors may be found in the 2012 Fall Deer and Turkey information booklet available at any of the vendors across the state or from the Missouri Conservation Department.
Dave Harrison, Springfield, watched as deer was donated at the Lockwood Packing Plant, where owner Allen Frickenschmid said, "More than 900 deer have been processed so far this season and 27 whole deer went to the Share the Harvest Program, as well as many packages of venison."
Harrison said, "I talked to a hunter who was donating his deer to the Share the Harvest program. He had done the same thing for the past five years and was encouraging other hunters to do the same. It's a great program."
By the time all portions of the deer season end Jan. 15, this could be another record harvest with the Firearms Deer Alternative Portion and the Late Youth Portion yet to go. When the season totals are added up, the number of deer taken will be well over the 200,000 mark, which was unthinkable back in the 1940s when the first modern day hunt started.
Jack Taylor, Aurora, recalled that back when he was in high school. "Then, if someone hit a deer with their vehicle and brought it to town, people would gather around to see it. Today, if you didn't have a big buck with a dozen points on its antlers, it wouldn't raise and eye brow," he said.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who is a deer hunter and participant in the program, said on a visit to Springfield, "For some 20 seasons, Share the Harvest Program has been an important part of Missouri legacy of sportsmanship and conservation. Because of the hard work of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Conservation Department and partners like the Ozark Food Harvest, this year will be even bigger than ever. I thank all the hunters who have made Share the Harvest so successful."