MADISON – Wisconsin deer hunters will again be able to help manage the state’s white-tailed deer herd through their hunting efforts and donate venison they or their families can not use to state food pantries through a no-cost venison donation program.

“Since the fall hunting season of 2000, hunters have donated over 24,000 deer providing over one million pounds of ground venison to needy families through the venison donation program,” said Brian Woodbury, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist and agricultural damage specialist. “This program is possible because of a large network of volunteers including sports groups, church groups, civic organizations and food pantry staff working together to distribute the meat from the processor to the food pantries.”

Hunters can also choose to donate $1 to the Wisconsin Deer Donation program to help fund the program at the time they purchase their hunting license.

In 2004 there are actually two donation programs operating according to wildlife officials. The Wisconsin Deer Donation 2004 program is operating in areas outside of the CWD Disease Eradication Zone (DEZ).

The second program is a special donation program for those management units that are part of the CWD Disease Eradication Zone in south central and southeast Wisconsin. Deer shot in the DEZ cannot be donated to the Wisconsin Deer Donation program.

“Only deer registered with a silver tag can be donated at a participating processor outside of the DEZ,” says Woodbury. “Deer killed inside the DEZ have a different color tag and can only be donated at specific participating meat processors doing business inside the DEZ.”

A list of participating meat processors is available on the DNR Web site. This list is updated regularly as more processors sign on to the program.

“The process is simple,” says Woodbury. “Simply tag and field dress the deer as you normally would and register it. If you want to donate it, please call ahead to the processor to make sure they have room for it and are open. Then, when you drop it off they’ll ask you to sign a log indicating your intention to donate the animal. You must leave the entire animal but you can keep the head or antlers for mounting if you wish. The processor will do the rest.”

USDA – Wildlife Services staff, Department of Natural Resources staff and county wildlife damage staff also help administer this program. Hunt for the Hungry, is also a partner in the Wisconsin Deer Donation 2004 program.