Some people know North Carolina’s white-tailed deer as a hosta-munching, crop-chomping, fender-smashing horde. Others see trophies for the wall and venison roast for the table.
Supporters of N.C. Hunters for the Hungry see thousands of servings of ground meat to feed people in need. And with the help of a walk-in cooler on wheels, they’re working to take advantage of the state’s abundant herd and long hunting season.
“We’d like to feed all the hungry people that we can,” said Hunters for the Hungry treasurer David Blake. “… We like to get 1,000 to 1,200 deer donated each year. … We’d like to get up to 2,000 deer.”
Although hunters donate the deer, the all-volunteer nonprofit must pay a discounted rate of $40 to $50 each for processing and freezer storage. This holiday season, Hunters for the Hungry is hoping donors will contribute toward the $60,000 to $70,000 needed to pay processing expenses at the 15 certified processors around the state.
Donations also would help collaborators to build and place mobile and stationary coolers that will make donating deer easier in areas like southern Wake County and Lee County that have many deer but are a long way from the nearest certified processors in Franklin, Wilson and Alamance counties.
Hunters are interested in doing the right thing and donating back.
Judy Gardner, volunteer
“Part of the idea is that hunters are interested in doing the right thing and donating back, but driving a deer 60 or 80 miles one way is just not reasonable,” said Judy Gardner of Fuquay-Varina, who, with husband Guy, has worked with and now volunteers for a variety of deer management and education programs.
The cooler project was launched in 2012 with part of a $150,000 grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to Farmers and Communities Manage Deer, an N.C. Wildlife Federation pilot project to reduce deer populations and crop damage and to support food banks. A $135,000 grant renewal extends the program until December 2016, said Liz Rutledge of Raleigh, project manager for Farmers and Communities Manage Deer.
A majority goes toward processing and coolers, and the original grant area covers a large portion of North Carolina east of the Triangle.
“I’m working with other groups outside of the grant area, but that just means we have to raise money for the funding,” Rutledge said.
Equipped with a generator, lights and a wrap of bright graphics and mounted on a trailer, the prototype cooler, which cost about $25,000, was donated by the federation to the state Wildlife Resources Commission this year and is based in Williamston. The cooler can be reserved on the commission website, www.ncwildlife.org.
In its inaugural season in 2013, the 6-foot-by-12-foot cooler was used at a variety of events to collect and transport about 10,000 pounds of venison.
A pound of venison provides about four servings, and Hunters for the Hungry is providing about 150,000 to 200,000 servings a year, Blake said.
The protein, typically packaged in 10-pound sleeves, or “chubs,” is distributed to organizations that feed the hungry. Demand remains high.
“We get (up) to 15,000 pounds of deer meat a year, although the last several years, it has been down significantly,” said Don Eli, director of food sourcing for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh. “Since we serve seven counties, we could easily receive everything (our processor) produces each year and distribute it. But I understand (Hunters for the Hungry) has many other charities … to provide for, too.”
Having more deer from the state’s 1.3 million deer population would help.
Kevin Keyzer of Grimesland, who was instrumental in getting the mobile cooler built and has used it for several events, recommends communities set up donation events over several days or weeks so a day of bad weather doesn’t prevent donations.
“We need a longer period of exposure,” he said, to persuade businesses to contribute funds and prizes and persuade hunters to donate an extra deer.
N.C. hunters are allowed to take six antlerless deer with bow, blackpowder and modern guns during various deer seasons between mid-September and Jan. 1. Bonus cards for additional deer are available for certain areas.
Blake, the Hunters for the Hungry treasurer, said the work of hunters and community members, even non-hunters, helps his organization and the others achieve their goals.
“It’s a high-protein food source, and we keep the deer herd under control as well as feeding people,” Blake said. “That is a win-win all the way around.”
N.C. Hunters for the Hungry
P.O. Box 99108
Raleigh, N.C. 27624
Contact: Dick Hamilton, 919-833-1923
Description: The process is simple. Hunters harvest deer from an overabundant population, meat processors produce high protein deer burger, food distribution networks distribute the meat to people who are in need. We use tax-deductible financial donations provided by corporations, organizations and individuals to reimburse meat processors for their expenses in producing the deer burger.
Donations: During deer hunting season, the group brings a mobile cooler to hunt sites to help hunters who want to donate. The deer is then taken in the cooler to a processor. Currently there is only one mobile cooler, but the goal is to have eight coolers located around the state. Donations are needed to help buy coolers and to pay for processing the deer meat.
$50 would buy: Processing of an entire deer, which equates to approximately 160 servings of protein or “meals.”
Where to donate deer
Throughout North Carolina, hunters can donate white-tailed deer that will be turned into ground venison and distributed to food pantries to feed people in need. Fifteen processors and four drop-off-only sites accept deer. Non-hunters can help out by donating money to cover processing expenses. Here are the processors nearest the Triangle:
▪ Alamance County
2174 Hwy. 87 N., Elon
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
▪ Franklin County*
Pearce’s Custom Processing
234 Perdue’s Road, Louisburg
Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
▪ Wilson County*
George Flowers Slaughter House
5154 St. Rose Church Road #A, Sims
Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7-10 a.m. and 6-9 p.m., Sunday 6-9 p.m.
*will skin deer
Map of processors statewide
Portable walk-in cooler
Nonprofit organizations and hunt clubs can use a generator-powered, trailer-mounted, 6-foot-by-12-foot mobile cooler for free to help collect donations of deer.
Reserve the cooler at www.ncwildlife.org/hunting.
Compiled by correspondent Teri Boggess