Venison Donation Coalition celebrates 18 years of feeding the hungry

Article written by Kathy Balbierer, for the New York Farm Bureau newsletter.

The Venison Donation Coalition has been feeding the hungry since its inception 18 years ago. It began in 1999 when Chemung and Steuben County sportsmen’s federations backed up the efforts of the Venison Donation Coalition with funds to pay two processors. Together, they distributed 1000 pounds of highly nutritious ground venison to those in need.

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Since that time, the Venison Donation Coalition has partnered with so many organizations and individuals that have made this program a huge success. The Venison Donation Coalition consists of representatives from sportsmen’s clubs, nonprofit organizations, regional food banks such as Foodlink and local food pantries — as well as local, state and federal agencies including the Farm Bureau, which aims to secure funding for the processing and distribution of venison to families in need. With the help of its partners, the Venison Donation Coalition secures funds to pay the meat processors for their services.

The program’s growth has been exciting. Since 1999, The Venison Donation Coalition has been highly successful in its goal to feed the hungry throughout New York State. Today eight regional food banks support the entire state with the distribution of the meat to those in need.

Through the generous donation of deer from the hunters and farmers, the Coalition has processed an average of 38 tons of venison each year and more than 4 million servings of highly nutritious meat has been served to individuals and children in need.

In 2015, the Venison Donation Coalition saw a very nice 20% increase in venison donation. It would be awesome to see at least that in 2016!

The Venison Donation Coalition is seeking additional support from farmers. Crop damage from deer is estimated at $58 million in New York State. If farmers will allow hunters to cull the deer on their property with the stipulation of the meat be donated to the program, it could be a win-win for all involved. Farmers will have reduced crop damage, hunters will have additional time out in the woods, and the food banks will have additional meat to distribute to those in need.

Here is a breakdown of hunting allowed on farms in New York State.

  • 6% allow NO hunting
  • 6% allow family members
  • 74% allow friends and neighbors
  • 6% allow strangers they thought trustworthy
  • 9% allow sportsmen’s clubs

Deer are best managed to acceptable levels through legal harvest during the fall and winter hunting seasons:

  • Populations are highest
  • Deer activity peaks
  • Fawns are weaned.

Fall harvest of antlerless deer, especially adult females, equates to 2-3 deer that won’t be in the crops during the next growing season. Farmers should require the removal of adult females at a rate of approximately 1 adult female per 25 acres of operation. For example, for a 500-acre parcel, remove 20 does if fewer deer are desired. Buck-only hunting does not reduce deer population or resultant damage. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) can provide the legal means, but individual management plans need to be implemented by the landowner. NYSDEC offers the following programs to landowners:

DMP (Deer Management Permit)

  • Issued to licensed deer hunters by lottery application
  • For use in select wildlife management units
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during Open Season only
  • Hunter may obtain up to 4 tags

DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program)

  • Biologists available to help implement site specific deer management programs
  • DEC issues a special permit and a determined number of deer tags to landowner
  • Permits can only be used by licensed hunters on landowner’s property
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during Open Season only
  • Hunter may obtain 2 tags from landowner

DDP (Deer Damage (Nuisance) Permits)

  • Issued on a case by case basis to landowners with deer damage
  • Landowner issued a permit that may be assigned to agents
  • Harvest antlerless deer only
  • Hunt during growing season
  • Three to five carcass tags issued

HOW TO GET PERMITS:

Contact the local NYSDEC office for additional information and applications for the DMAP and DDP permits. Apply for DMP’s at license issuing town clerks and retail outlets in early August through October 1 each year.

Another way to support the program is to donate financially. One dollar will feed up to four people. Financial donations are appreciated and since the Venison Donation Coalition is a nonprofit organization, donations are tax deductible. For every dollar that is donated to the Venison Donation Coalition, $.90 is used towards processing the venison. With approximately 500,000 deer hunters in New York State, imagine if every one of them donates just $1 and/or a deer how successful the program could be.

Financial donations can be made at your Town Clerk’s office or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold. Just inform the D.E.C.A.L.S. licensing agent that you wish to make a donation to support the Venison Donation Program. All donations through D.E.C.A.L.S. are deposited directly into the Venison Donation Fund. Donations can also be accepted through our secure website, www.venisondonation.org or send a check payable to: Venison Donation Coalition, Inc., 3 East Pulteney Sq., Bath, NY 14810.

Donation of deer is also appreciated. Any hunter or farmer interested in donating a deer, please call 866-862-DEER or visit the Venison Donation Coalition’s website (www.venisondaontion.org) to locate a processor near you. Please remember, you must call ahead before dropping off any deer for donation. All deer must be legally tagged and properly field dressed before taking in to a participating processor

Please help to keep the Venison Donation Coalition successful in your neighborhood. Donate today! One deer or one dollar goes a long way to help curb hunger throughout New York State.

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