Well it wouldn’t be gender-friendly if I didn’t have a similar headline to last week’s headline, ‘Are You a Man Who Does It?’ Fair is fair.
Anyway, I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t do it. ‘It’ being hunting…killing little Bambies.
Yesterday marked the opening day for deer hunting season using muzzleloading (black powder) firearms. Archery use began earlier this month and firearm season begins November 13. Note there are exceptions to each season, locations, varying dates, animal sex, etc. For detailed info, visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website.
When I was young I use to walk the woods with my father and his hunting dog Rocky. I’d walk with him for hours and thought of the sport as a great time to be with my dad. Later we’d come home, and I’d go in the old dirt coal basement and watch him skin the animals, hoping he’d give me a bunny tail. As I look back at it now, it really does gross me out…I get squeamish just seeing road kill, but as a child it wasn’t “the kill” that made me happy, but rather the bonding with my father. I never did hold a gun or shoot it…it just wasn’t important to me. But for some young people, hunting is a sport that is readily embraced…and yes, even by women.
Take for example, Mary Apperson. Mary and her husband Billy own a Christmas tree farm in Croaker, and as you might suspect, it might as well be a deer farm. “The deer tear up our farm,” Mary said, adding they lose as many as 100 trees a year. Because of the nuisance animals like deer can present, some businesses or homesteads are given special hunting permits to shoot deer out of season. Mary, who works at York River State Park, is an animal and nature lover and typically wouldn’t dream of hurting an animal…but, when it came to the destruction they are doing to the tree farm, the Appersons have been left with little choice. Not to mention the fact that deer have become so overpopulated from over-breeding, the deer themselves are not as healthy as they should be.
Since Mary cannot use all the meat from the deer she shoots, after keeping a couple for her family and giving some to friends, she donates the rest of her kill to a non-profit organization called Hunters for the Hungry, who according to their website, “make use of natural resources to help those in need.”
Hunters for the Hungry began in 1991 when the founder, the late David Horne, heard of a similar program in Texas. According to Laura Newell-Furniss, director of Hunters for the Hungry, she and Horne worked together at the Society of St. Andrew, (a potato project-salvage produce.) Horne realized there were various food banks/missions that provided carb-type products, but these facilities were always in desperate need of protein. With this program it became obvious to Horne that they could easily offer the leanest of meat to those in need at a very low cost.
According to Laura, after the animal is processed, “a mature adult deer averages 50 pounds of meat.” With a donated deer, processing costs approximately $40 (from donated monies,) which produces very, very lean meat (protein) costing 80 cents per pound…much cheaper and leaner than any beef or meat anyone can buy.
One of the factors that has helped to make this program so successful is there is very little burden on the hunter donating the animal. The program in Texas required the hunter to absorb the cost of having the kill field dressed, cut up, packaged, etc., whereas with Hungers for the Hungry, only require hunters to field dress (gut) the animal before bringing it to a collection station, and of course get it tagged. (The program consists of approximately 15 collection points and 70 processors.)
If the hunter wants to remove the antlers or hide, etc., they are more than welcome to do so. The other element is of course the care of the animal as it does need to be turned in to the collection center as soon as possible where it will immediately be refrigerated. Garrett’s Grocery in Croaker serves as a collection center for the area and houses a refrigeration trailer provided by Hunters for the Hungry. (Garrett’s donates the electricity to refrigerate the trailer.) Store owner Steve White notes they are open Monday-Friday and until 1 p.m. on Saturday; however, if you have a donation after hours, call the store 757-566-3712 and leave a message and he will return your call. Steve says they get an average of 50 or so [deer] a year, though sometimes more or less depending on whether there is a controlled hunt. Mary Apperson noted there will be two controlled hunt events at York River State Park, November 8 and 9, archery and black powder, and December 6 and 7, firearms. (Call 757-566-3036 for info or to register.) If you are hunting in the Gloucester area, another collection point is Hunters Haven in Hayes, 804-642-9763.
After the deer are delivered to a collection station, a call is made to the local processor or slaughter facility. Locally, David Burks, owner of Burks Farm, New Kent County, is called. Burks has been working with Hunters for the Hungry since 1992 and cannot sing enough praises about them. “You don’t have meat donated to food banks,” said Burks, explaining it’s just too hard to come by, but with this program it’s possible. Burks noted the other feature that impresses him about the program is the venison is typically distributed locally, as close to where it was killed as possible. Laura confirmed the close proximity of distribution, noting they have churches, food banks, etc. that they work with in all areas. Thus, when they get a call from the processor, area groups are immediately called to pick up the venison for distribution to the local needy.
If you are closer to the New Kent area, Burks will also collect the deer for the program, but again, you are required to have it field dressed and must have a check number/tag according to Virginia law. Burks also provides services for other animals at his slaughter facility and can be reached at 804-366-2754.
So if you are a Virginia hunter who cares and would like to be able to feed more people than you could ever fit around your dining room table, without having to do the dirty dishes or pay an exuberant price, consider supporting this worthy cause. And whether you are an individual, a civic group, church, hunt club or business, there are many ways to participate in supporting Hunters for the Hungry. In addition, there is a variety of gift ideas on their website ranging from hunting hats, T-shirts, as well as a great cookbook with 224 cooking recipes for venison, only $12. Volunteering or any donation is appreciated, and as Laura put it, “Even $2 will feed pay for 10 quarter-pound servings for the needy.”
Their motto is, “together we can make a positive difference in the lives of those in need,” and that they have. In 1991, their first year, the group helped to provide 33,948 pounds of venison; last year they provided 405,340 pounds. Over the 19 years Hunters for the Hungry has been in existence they have provided 4,154,156 pounds of venison for the hungry.
For ideas or contact info, call 800-352-4868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for those of you who may feel sorry for the little Bambies, consider the damage they do to people’s yards, the spread of deer ticks and potentially Lyme Disease, and even worse the number of car accidents caused when those doe eyes hit the headlights, literally. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1.5 million car accidents involving deer occur each year, $1 billion in vehicle damage, over 10,000 personal injuries and approximately 150 resulting in human fatalities.
Have you had any unwanted experiences with deer, or do you have any tips to offer when it comes to keeping the critters off of your property? Feel free to share. Last and not least, this may not have been in the driver’s manual when you took your road test, but always, always yield to deer. Don’t swerve as that can often create an even worse accident, but as far as I’m concerned…when I’m driving, deer have the right of way!