State's bumper crop of deer a blessing for those in need

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

For many Oxford residents, as well as countless hunting clubs, farmers and others suffering from excess populations of whitetail deer, the opportunity to turn a scourge into square meals for the hungry might be handier than they think.
Community food pantries operated by churches, civic groups and other concerned citizens are constantly in need of meat to provide for the hungry, and whitetail deer represent one of the healthiest, all-organic protein sources found anywhere.
As the deer population continues to increase across north Mississippi and begins to present difficulties as has become the case in Oxford, turning a problem into a solution can be a fairly simple matter.
Jimmy Allgood, Oxford’s director of emergency management and coordinator of the city’s well-publicized deer population control program, says the meat harvested by the hunters operating on depredation permits inside the city limits is all handled by a meat processor licensed by the state health department.That meat is ground and frozen, then made available for distribution through an area food pantry. Similar programs like Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Hunters for the Hungry, Hunt to Feed and others have used that general model to great success.
Bill East, a long-time volunteer with the West Point food pantry, says organizations like his are allowed to accept wild game that has been processed by certified processors or by private individuals, though most national programs do insist on processor certification of some kind.
According to a study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the shooting, hunting and outdoor industries, 11 million meals were provided through food pantries and soup kitchens in America last year. Hunters donated roughly 2.8 million pounds of deer, elk and pronghorn that went to feed people through shelters, food banks and church feeding programs.
“These figures are from confirmed sources, but annual donations could easily be double this amount of direct donations from hunters to friends and family could be included,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of statistics and research.
“Given our challenging economic times, hunters’ donations of venison have never been more important to so many people,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, president and CEO of the NSSF. “These contributions are just one way hunting and hunters are important to our way of life.”