Deer archery season is underway, with muzzleloader and gun seasons to follow, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and the TWRA are asking hunters to donate some of their venison to Hunters for the Hungry.
Now in its 15th year, Hunters for the Hungry has collected over 942,000 pounds of venison and distributed it to the state's needy, providing approximately 3,700,000 high-protein meals.
There are 75 deer processing locations across the state that cooperate with the program, including two in Wilson County: Lebanon Locker (444-0851) and North Lebanon Deer Processing (444-6524).
Here's how it works:
A hunter takes a freshly-killed deer to the processor (it has to be accompanied with a TWRA kill tag) and designate that the processed venison -- all or any portion of it -- be donated to Hunters for the Hungry.
Various processors have differing policies regarding cost. Some require the hunter to pay a portion of the processing fee, and others waive the fee for the donated venison.
Even if a processing fee is charged, it is generally discounted. Hunters can call ahead to see what the arrangement is at a particular location.
Under state regulations, Hunters for the Hungry can accept no venison that has not been commercially processed by a licensed processor.
Once the venison has been processed, the processor contacts one of a number of approved charities, such as Second Harvest Food Bank and the Nashville Rescue Mission, and the venison will be picked up and distributed.
Charities or church and community groups who would like to participate can contact the Tennessee Wildlife Federation through its website.
The amount of venison distributed through Hunters for the Hungry has increased over the years -- last year over a half-million meals were provided. The increase is due to the state's growing deer herd and liberal bag limits, combined with positive publicity given to the program.
As more hunters learn about the program and how it works, more and more are participating.
Hunters for Hunters is doubly-beneficial. It assists needy Tennesseans, many of whom are struggling through a lean economy, and it casts hunting in a positive light at a time when it is under fire from animal-rights activists and other anti-hunting groups.
Hunters for the Hungry casts hunting and hunters in a positive light, and it's good to see it getting more deserved attention and publicity.
It's a rewarding program, both for those who receive and for those who give.