With high deer harvest expectations this year, it should be another big year for the Share the Harvest program.
For successful hunters who would like to share what they harvest this season, Share the Harvest allows hunters to donate deer meat to families in need. This charitable program began back in 1992 and allows hunters to legally donate venison to people in need of food.
Twenty-eight years ago, two groups of sportsmen — the Columbia Archers and the St. Louis chapter of the National Turkey Federation — had a vision of the current program.
In those early days, Shelter Insurance helped finance the program. Today, the program is funded by several corporations, private donors and deer processors. Share the Harvest is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
In 2019, the season saw more than 6,800 whole deer, which translated to more than 348,500 pounds donated to the program.
Giving your gift of meat is easy. Hunters who want to participate just take their deer to an approved meat processor and let the processor know how much venison they want to donate. The processor will package the meat, which will be picked up by the local sponsoring organization and taken to a participating charitable agency for distribution.
Dave Harrison, Springfield, watched as his deer was donated at the Lockwood Packing Plant.
“I talked to a hunter who was donating his deer to the Share the Harvest program,” Harrison said. “He has been donating for the past five years and was encouraging other hunters to do the same. It’s a great program."
The amount of donated venison should be high since hunters report seeing more deer than in the past. When the season totals are added up, the number of deer taken will be well over the 200,000 mark, which was unthinkable back in the 1940s when the first modern-day hunt started.
Jack Taylor of Aurora recalled that back when he was in high school, seeing a deer was rare.
"Back then, if someone hit a deer with their vehicle and brought it to town, people would gather around to see it,” Taylor said. “Today, if you pull into town with a big 12-point buck, it wouldn't necessarily raise an eyebrow."
Former Governor Jay Nixon, a deer hunter and a participant in the program, spoke about the Share the Harvest program, saying, "For many seasons, Share the Harvest Program has been an important part of Missouri legacy of sportsmanship and conservation. Because of the work of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation and partners like the Ozark Food Harvest, this year will be even bigger than ever. I thank all the hunters who have made the Share the Harvest so successful."
Total deer taken this past weekend statewide were 80,886, and 1,489 in Cedar County.
To learn more about the program and CWD-Testing Program check the 2020 Fall Deer and Turkey booklet available where permits are sold. Or check online under the Share the Harvest tab at https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer