BUCKHANNON — Over the span of 30 years, hunters in West Virginia have helped provide over 1 million pounds of venison to families and individuals in need throughout the entire state via the “Hunters Helping the Hungry” program.
This marks the 30th year for the program that is sponsored through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Section. Through this program and several partnerships, they have had the ability to process approximately 27,500 deer since 1991.
Hunters Helping the Hungry is made possible by partnerships with hunters, financial contributors such as local businesses, churches, and organizations, and local meat processors, in addition to the Mountaineer Food Bank and Facing Hunger Foodbank. Hunters who participate in this program take their harvested deer to a participating meat processor that grinds, packages, and freezes the venison prior to the food banks picking up the meat. The packaged meat is then distributed to families throughout the state via charitable food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community centers, orphanages, missions and churches. According to WV Wildlife Center Director Trevor Moore, the DNR essentially acts as a liaison and organizer to provide hunters the information they need as far as what to do and where to take their meat for donation.
Participating processors in Upshur and surrounding counties include Waugh’s Custom Cutting in Upshur, Teets Meat Packing in Randolph, Syrews Custom Butchering in Lewis, and B&L Beef in Barbour. It is advised to call the processor to check for availability prior to dropping off a deer. There is not currently a processor in every county, but Moore noted he believes that is an eventual goal for the program.
Although an extremely generous and worthwhile program, it has cost an average of $42,953.64 over the last 7 years. The WV DNR is prohibited from using sportsmen’s license dollars to fund this program; therefore, it relies heavily on the generosity of individuals, businesses, conservation organizations, foundations and churches. Costs associated with the program do vary each year with processing and distribution, depending on the annual harvest and number of deer donated.
In addition to donations, the WV DNR also hosts annual fundraisers to help cover the costs of this program. During the first Sunday in November, the West Virginia Council of Churches holds the annual “Share the Harvest Sunday,” where approximately 3,000 participating churches ask their congregation to contribute $1-$5 (or any amount they desire) to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program. This program, in addition to the “Governor’s One-Shot Hunt”—an antlerless deer hunt that provides venison and funding—are two of their largest sources of funding, according to the WV DNR. If a church is interested in contributing to the program, they can contact Mountaineer Food Bank at (304) 364-5518 or the DNR District 3 Office at (304) 924-6211.
“I think it is an excellent way for our hunters to help provide and interact with their communities by using their hobby. A lot of the people that need this meat from the food banks can’t physically go get it themselves, so this is an amazing service these hunters are doing to help those around the state,” Moore added.
In 2020, they had 17 participating processors and 500 deer donated, totaling 20,104 pounds of venison. Unfortunately, the program has noticed a slight decline in the last three years, as there were 679 deer donated in 2019 and 685 in 2018.
If an individual, business, organization, or church would like to contribute to the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, monetary donations are accepted at any time by mailing to: “Hunters Helping the Hungry, WV Division of Natural Resources, 163 Wildlife Road French Creek, WV 26218.” Checks and money orders should be made out to “Hunters Helping the Hungry.”
For more information about this valuable program, contact Trevor Moore at (304) 924-6211 or by email at [email protected]