Now that deer season is nearly over, it’s time to pursue another yearly tradition — hunting through the freezer.
For most Texas hunters, pursuing deer and other game is a two-pronged excursion. It’s about building memories and enjoying the company of others in the field while also providing for the family dinner table.
It’s a good bet that the average Texas hunter again had success this season in filling a number of their tags, and if that accomplishment carried over from last fall and winter, it’s also likely that there may not be enough room in the icebox. In that case, you should dig out whatever may be old — but certainly is still edible if it properly was cared for — and help out those who are not as fortunate.
Better yet, give them the gift of the fresh stuff, especially if you’ve filled multiple tags.
Texas’ Hunters for the Hungry program is a model of hunter-driven success and this year again should be a good one for the effort aimed at supplying high-protein venison to those who don’t have enough to eat during the holidays and beyond. The program annually accepts thousands of pounds of donated meat from hunters, and thanks to a large net of participating processors across the state, it’s an easy task to provide for others if you’ve already got plenty in the freezer. Since the program’s inception two decades ago, it has provided more than 2 million pounds of meat to those who dearly need it — roughly 10 million portion servings if you’re looking for the real impact.
Many hunters wait until the final two weeks of the doe- and spike-only season (which this year runs Jan. 6-19 in northern counties and Jan. 20-Feb. 2 to the south) to harvest animals and help control populations.
To participate, all you need to do is bring a legally harvested, tagged deer to a participating processor and pay a nominal fee for the processing of the animal. The fee usually is about $30 to $40 and could be tax-deductible depending on your financial situation. Once the meat is ground up, local providers of food assistance pick it up and give to the less fortunate.
The program accepts venison donations only, but if you’re looking to help provide other quality protein such as fish or other game, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other avenues for the less fortunate to get a good meal certainly will take them.
I once read a column speaking out about programs like this, the basic premise of it implying that they simply add to the number of animals harvested and you simply should donate canned items or a few dollars a week, but it’s a win-win for all involved, including remaining deer and their habitat. Not only does it remove animals from the range, which improves herd quality and lessens the impact of pressure on depleted food sources, it provides quality meals to those who need them and allows hunters to spend more time in the field.
It also helps pass on the notion to future generations of lending a hand to your fellow man.
I know your efforts will be appreciated.