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Food for thought: Sportsmen Against Hunger looks to thrive despite deer being down

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Bill Forbes finishes up making sausage at Dean's Meat Market on Wednesday in Dickinson. Dean's Meat Market has been participating in the Sportsmen Against Hunger since it first started in 2004.

The decline in deer licenses and recent hit of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in southwestern North Dakota might have taken a dip on deer season, but Sportsmen Against Hunger sights are still high.

Four local meat processors around southwestern North Dakota help in the SAH with distributing venison to local families.

"It's a really good program," said Dean Evenson, owner of Dean's Meat Market in Dickinson. "I hope it works out for everyone."

SAH joined with North Dakota Community Action Partnership in 2004 for a venison donation program. The program provides low-income families with a lean quality protein. Evenson is more than happy to help out families around Dickinson.

"I told them (Sportsmen Against Hunger) I would go on board with them," he said. "I thought it was a good idea. There are some people out there that aren't as fortunate as everybody else. This is one way for these people to go out in needy areas and sometimes that might be all they have."

The number of licenses this season for whitetail and mule deer hit a three-year low. Just over 110,000 licenses were given out this season, but three years ago 150,000 licenses were sold.

Locations in and around the Dickinson area are Dean's Meat Market in Dickinson, Belfield's Old Tyme Meat, Hettinger's Dakota Packing and New England's Yates Processing.

"There's just a lot of out of state hunters that had deer that they wanted to donate," Ed Verhulst of Dakota Packing said. "People were just looking for a place to donate their deer and we were willing to take it."

Dean's Meat Market has been processing deer since SAH first came into existence in North Dakota. Evenson has a separate cooler that will be turned on for the next three months.

Dakota Packing and Dean's process about the same number of deer each season, which is around 15-20 per year.

With only three people working at Dean's it can get a little overwhelming, but Evenson has helpful hints when bring in deer to be processed.

"We've been really busy with stuff," Evenson said. "With wild game the first thing people should do is bring five gallons water with them. It's so key when you shot that animal and start field dressing that you wash the insides out. Get the windpipe out and get as much out of the animal.

"If we could get everybody to that their meat would be much better, it would taste a lot better and it's surprise how many don't wash the animal out."

Evenson hasn't had any volunteers, but he doesn't want to discourage people from lending a hand. He said the young kids want to learn how to skin and process a deer.

"If you get a hunter out there especially most of your young kids, there's something you want to know about processing," Evenson said. "Me and my wife, Cheryl, are more than willing to show them."