Hunters helping the hungryGood news for North Dakota deer hunters this year is that the Sportsmen Against Hunger venison donation program is back in full operation. Last year, the program only accepted deer donated by bowhunters, because of concerns over the possibility of lead particles from bullets remaining in processed venison.
By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press
Good news for North Dakota deer hunters this year is that the Sportsmen Against Hunger venison donation program is back in full operation.
Last year, the program only accepted deer donated by bowhunters, because of concerns over the possibility of lead particles from bullets remaining in processed venison.
In North Dakota, the program works like this: Statewide the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit agency that serves low-income households, raises funds to pay for processing of harvested deer donated by hunters. Hunters take the deer they want to donate to a participating processer, who turns the deer into packages of ground venison.
Local food pantries offer it as an option to people who come in for help in meeting their nutritional needs.
In March 2008 Community Action voluntarily discarded several thousand pounds of donated venison upon recommendations from the state departments of Heath, Agriculture and Game and Fish, after an investigation discovered lead particles in donated venison at three different processing facilities. Lead is a toxic substance that even at low levels is dangerous to young children as it can inhibit neurological development.
“The venison donation program was growing nicely at that time and it was a big loss to our food pantries and the people who depend on them,” said Ann Pollert, executive director of NDCAP.
In the summer of 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested blood from more than 700 North Dakotans, most of whom had consumed venison taken with lead bullets, for lead levels. Test results showed that nearly all study participants had some detectable lead in their blood; however, none had a level high enough to require medical evaluation.
In addition, though the study did not include many children, nearly all the children in the study had detectable lead in their blood. The North Dakota Department of Health developed the following recommendations to minimize the risk to people who are most vulnerable to the effects of lead: (1) Pregnant women and children younger than 6 should not eat any venison harvested with lead bullets; and (2) older children and other adults should take steps to minimize their potential exposure to lead, and use their own judgment about consuming game taken with lead-based ammunition.
This year, Pollert said the program has enough funds to handle more than 700 donated deer. Processors will not accept deer shot in the hind quarters for the SAH program. In addition, donated deer will be processed individually, or only with other donated deer.
The list of participating processers is available at the Web site www.capnd.org. Hunters should contact the processer prior to bringing a deer in, to make sure there is still a slot available, as Sportsmen Against Hunger can only fund a certain number of deer in each local area.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department Director Terry Steinwand said the SAH plan is good news for state deer hunters. “The option for donating a deer means more opportunities for hunters,” Steinwand said. “Sportsmen Against Hunger is an excellent program and we’re glad it’s returning to full operation.”
In addition to accepting deer shot with firearms, SAH strongly encourages bowhunters to continue donating deer as well. “We had great support from bowhunters last year,” Pollert said. “Thanks to support from nearly two dozen wildlife clubs across the state we have enough funds to increase the number of deer we can accept this year, and our food pantries tell us they have a demand for all that we can provide them.”
This fall, if you have an interest in donating a deer, check out the CAP website for more information. Sportsmen Against Hunger is a great program and well worth our support.
— Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. E-mail him at dleier@ nd.gov. Read his blog at www.areavoices.com/dougleier.