Wisconsin DNR encourages deer donations to help fight hunger

La Crosse's Hunger Task Force continues to work with DNR, meat processors to get venison to families in need

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – About one in 12 Wisconsin households struggle to place food on the table. That was before the pandemic. However, fall hunters can help solve the problem.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to donate Wisconsin-harvested deer every season. Between local processors and food pantries, the community helps get healthy food in the kitchens of those who need it. People face unstable livelihoods in the current state of affairs thanks to a pandemic and a rising cost of living.

“We are seeing folks in need who are struggling with low wages, high rents, things like that,” said Shelly Fortner, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse.

Many people worry constantly about whether their next meal will sit at their tables.

“We’ve been here for 20 years fighting this issue,” Fortner said.

“Food insecurity has been in our area and across the country since I can remember.”

Fortner sees the need with her own eyes. She also knows how people can help. Since 2000, hunters have donated more than 94,000 deer, more than 3.8 million pounds of venison.

“I think this is a terrific easy way to help your neighbors in need,” Fortner said.

As part of the Hunters to for the Hungry program, her organization works with the Wisconsin DNR and meat processors to deliver venison to families.

“We get about five to 8,000 pounds a year from this program,” she said.

“It’s very lean. There’s not a lot of fat on there. It’s very healthy.”

Hunters seeking that trophy deer Fortner said can also save a family from an empty table, just in time for the holidays. This costs money for the meat processors.
Any monetary donations along with the deer venison are also helpful.

How To Donate Wisconsin-Harvested Deer 

Hunters interested in donating a Wisconsin-harvested deer to the DNR’s Deer Donation Program can follow these steps: 

  1. Field dress your deer. Handle the carcass with care. 
  1. Register your deer through Game Reg. Make a note of your registration confirmation number and keep it on hand when dropping off your deer. 
  1. Test your deer for CWD if harvested from a CWD-affected county that requires testing before taking the deer to a processor. To find a CWD sampling location near you to submit samples from Wisconsin-harvested deer free of charge, visit the DNR’s “Sampling For Chronic Wasting Disease” webpage. Test results are usually available from the DNR within two weeks. 
  1. Call ahead! Contact one of the participating processors before dropping off your deer to make sure they have space to accept it. More processors may be added later in the season, so check back if you don’t see one currently in your area.If donating a Wisconsin-harvested deer that is being tested for CWD, inform the processor at the time of the donation and provide your CWD barcode number. The processor will hold onto the donated deer until results are known and before distributing to an area nonprofit.  
  1. Drop off your deer at a participating processor. 

Visit the DNR’s Deer Donation Program webpage to learn more. 

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