Venison – Tasty, Healthy
Inside the Outdoors, December 11, 2009

Now that deer rifle season is about over, many hunters either have harvested their deer or are still waiting to get one. But, according to Latrobe’s master archery expert Lou Sartoris, “It may take a while to get, but in the long run, it’s very dear meat!” What he is talking about is venison, the meat of the whitetail dear.

And how true those words are. After all, what flesh has fewer calories than beef, is antibiotic-free, low in fat, has a wonderful taste, comes from an animal that is not an endangered species, is 100% natural and is a high protein food source.

So, yes, it stands to reason just why deer hunting is so popular. People are looking to kill an animal that they can eat and yet not put on the pounds, so to speak. But better yet, hunters have a chance to partake in a sport they love so much, yet take part in a chartable act as well. What I’m talking about is the Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program.

Since 1991, Pennsylvania’s Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) has channeled hunter’s donation of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens, and needy families, via an integrated network of local contact and cooperating butcher shops.” Some of these include Espey’s Meat Market, Scottdale, Golden’s Market and Hoffers Ligonier Valley Packing, Ligonier.

According to the HSH website, www.sharedeer.org, “With approximately one million deer now living in this state, the need exists to manage population levels. Reducing the populations helps to lessen the toll of damage to crops, landscaping, and motor vehicles. Balancing populations with available habitat benefits deer by ensuring the availability of ample food, cover, and genetic diversity,” it disclosed.

“From its inception, the program has called upon hunters with extra venison to donate it and pay all or part of the processing fee. These donations, combined with the financial assistance of sponsors, are what make the entire process possible,” it was disclosed.

And would you believe, over the years, it has become recognized as one of the most successful among similar programs in about 40 states?

If you are a successful hunter and want to participate in this valuable program, this is how you go about it. “Take your deer to any one of the more than 50 participating deer processors throughout the Commonwealth,” the website recommended. “When you drop your deer off to be processed, just tell the processor how many pounds of venison you would like to donate. Keep in mind, the processors will handle the venison under sanitary conditions and provide cold storage until the meat is moved to the food bank. While hunters are responsible for processing fees, some HSH processors have agreed to process donated venison at a discount. Also, in certain limited situations, HSH may reimburse processors for venison processing from non-compensated donations in order to utilize the meat.”

According to HSH, monetary donations are being accepted for their “buck for the pot.” These contributions will be used to underwrite the processing and preparation of meat from whole deer for food banks and soup kitchens. Food banks say meat from just one deer can provide 200 meals for hungry Pennsylvanians.

A monetary donation of $25, which is tax-deductible, will cover the processing fee for one-half of a deer and provides enough venison for 100 meals. A $50 tax-deductible donation will cover the processing costs for an entire deer, which will provide 200 meals; $75 will help ensure 300 meals are provided to needy Pennsylvanians; and $100 will cover the costs for 400 meals. Checks should be made payable to: Hunters Sharing the Harvest. You can mail your check to HSH at: 6780 Hickory Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17112.

Executive Director John Plowman recently informed me that the HSH county coordinator is Sam Rugh, 7083 Rt. 819, Mt. Pleasant, 15666. One may email him at nsprugh@hotmail.com. One may call him at 724-455-7996. He told me his job is “to handle inquiries, recruit deer processors, represent the program with news media, sportsmen clubs, etc. He is also president of the Westmoreland County Sportsmen’s League, and that group is an HSH sponsor.”

Other past Westmoreland County sponsors include Keystone Automotive Operations, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Laurel Highlands Forest Landowners Association, Westmoreland Woodlands Imp. Assn. The Western PA board members include Mike Wolf, Johnstown, Kip Padgelek, Pittsburgh and John Hamilton, Ligonier. New Game Commissioner Bob Schlemmer, Export, is a strong supporter of the organization, Plowman noted. “HSH is also a supporting member of POWA,” he concluded.


- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email