As firearm deer seasons across the United States take place near Thanksgiving, charitable hunters are making sure that needy families get a good meal on the holiday. While venison may not be traditional fare on turkey day, many thousands of pounds of deer meat are being processed and distributed to food banks courtesy of local hunters.

Last year in Michigan over 30,000 pounds of venison were cooked and served as 150,000 meals for the hungry. According to WLNS, Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger have been cooperating with meat processors for the last 20 years to supply these nutritious meals.

“[Sportsmen] can drop off the whole deer. They just drop it off and everything gets turned into ground,” said Linn Merindorf, owner of Merindorf Meats and More. “It goes to food banks and shelters.”

For charitable hunters, it can be an affrodable way to give back to the community. Many states allow donations of whole deer, saving sportsmen the extra expense of paying for the meat to be butchered. The distribution of donated meat in Missouri is sponsored by the state’s Department of Conservation, and department employees are hoping for a large turn out before firearms season ends on November 26.

“There are people everywhere who are struggling and need the help,” conservation officer Becky Robertson told “It does make you feel good to know that working for the department, not only are you doing the deer management side of it, but you’re also helping to feed people who need food.”

A hunting tag for a doe in Missouri costs around seven dollars, which Robertson says can go a long way towards feeding a needy family. A single deer can feed up to 200 people, so hunters with filled freezers are urged to donate extra deer.

More traditional fare on Thanksgiving is also provided by hunters who wish to donate turkeys. KSFY reports that members of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) in Sioux Falls have provided a local kitchen with 32 gobblers, just in time for the holidays.

“A lot of us turkey hunt and you know again we want to do something,” said NWTF member Ron Schauer. “A lot of people think Sportsmen’s clubs are just about hunting, fishing, the outdoors, but we try to do other things to give to those in need or help the community out.”

The annual donation by the NWTF is vital to keeping The Banquet, a volunteer-run meal center, open on Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving is a time when you shouldn’t have to worry about that. It’s usually a time for family and celebrating and things like that,” said Schauer.

File image from Steve Johnson on the flickr Creative Commons

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