From the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
-- State officials have joined representatives from local charities to highlight the Delaware Sportsmen Against Hunger program and to thank the Quality Deer Management Association and Sussex County Council for funding the purchase of a walk-in cooler for donated deer at the Gumboro Community Center.
“With a public-private partnership between state agencies and hunters, charitable groups and butcher shops, Sportsmen Against Hunger provided nearly 115,000 meals to Delawareans in need last year alone,” said Patrick J. Emory, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Since its formation in 1992, , Delaware Sportsmen Against Hunger has distributed more than 270,000 pounds of venison, or more than one million meals, to Delaware families in need. This year, 24 charitable organizations located throughout the state are signed up to receive venison through the program.
Hunters are the key to the program, as they donate extra deer they harvest. Field-dressed, registered deer can be dropped off at one of eight coolers located throughout the state. Division of Fish and Wildlife staff check coolers periodically; however, hunters are asked to call the phone number on the cooler when dropping off a deer to ensure that it will be picked up and processed in a timely manner.
Deer are transported from the coolers to the Sussex Community Corrections Center in Georgetown, where the Department of Correction operates a venison processing center for DSAH donations.
Since joining the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program in 2005, the corrections facility has processed more than 1,000 deer into 34,469 pounds of venison, including 7,216 pounds last year and 2,700 pounds so far this year. Offenders involved in the venison processing program are serving sentences in the facility’s Violation of Probation Center. Nearly 50 so far have completed 40 hours of training in basic butcher shop operations and meat processing.
Another aspect of the program is that the opportunity to donate extra deer to a good cause encourages hunters to harvest additional deer. Increasing the deer harvest in turn supports deer management, helping to keep herds at a manageable size.
In 2006, Delaware Sportsmen Against Hunger had a record year: hunters donated 44,500 pounds, equal to 175,000 meals. Donations were down last year, with 28,731 pounds.
“We wish Delaware hunters great success during the 2009-2010 deer season, and we look forward to their participation in Sportsmen Against Hunger,” Emory said.
DNREC’s eight walk-in coolers are located at the Augustine Wildlife Area in Port Penn, New Castle County; Woodland Beach Wildlife Area east of Smyrna and Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area near Viola in Kent County; and five locations in Sussex: Fish and Wildlife’s Mosquito Control Office in Milford, Redden State Forest Headquarters near Georgetown, Assawoman Wildlife Area near Bethany Beach, Trap Pond State Park in Laurel and the Gumboro Community Center.
Hunters may also take their deer to one of nine participating private butcher shops throughout the state. They can choose to donate an entire deer or just a portion of their harvest. Monetary donations are also accepted to help cover processing costs.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Wayne Lehman at (302) 284-1077 in New Castle and Kent counties, or in Sussex contact Rob Gano at (302) 539-3160. For brochures, contact Michael Friel at (302) 836-2541. Organizations interested in receiving donated venison may call (302) 739-9912.
For additional information on the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program, including the list of butcher shops that process venison for the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program, please visit www.fw.delaware.gov/Hunting/Pages/SportsmenAgainstHunger.aspx.