Muzzle loader hunters have already started their deer hunts as of Nov. 9, and rifle hunters start in a couple of weeks.
Not long ago hunters had few options on what to do with deer they harvested once their own freezers were full. Now, with Hunters for the Hungry, those sportsmen and sportswomen still eager for the thrill of the hunt beyond their personal needs can help hungry people in Ashe County.
The Ashe County Wildlife Club is now in its fourth year of local sponsorship of Hunters For the Hungry, a volunteer program where deer hunters legally harvest and tag deer then take it to a N.C. Department of Agriculture approved processor. That processor then prepares the meat for donation to local food pantries.
In Ashe County the processor is Joe’s Place at 638 Friendship Church Road, Jefferson (336-982-2766). The organizations receiving the processed deer this year are Ashe Really Cares (ARC), Ashe Outreach Ministries, Camp New Hope, Ashe County Sharing Center, and Freedom Farms. At least one of those charities, Ashe County Sharing Center, is applying for a grant to get a walk-in freezer in anticipation of storing the donated meat for clients to take home.
“Last year 67 deer were donated to Hunters for the Hungry in Ashe County. That translates to around 3,000 pounds of meat. That meat made 12,000 meals of quarter-pound portions,” said Bill Burkett, who coordinates the program for the Wildlife Club. “Over the whole state, more than 1,000 deer were donated to the North Carolina Hunters for the Hungry. That means hunters donated more than 160,000 meals to hungry families in our state. “
Residents do not have to be hunters to participate in this program. They can make financial donations to help process the meat the hunters bring to Joe’s Place. It costs $40 to $50 to process each deer into meat. The Ashe County Wildlife Club set aside a $1,000 donation this year from its treasury to fund the meat processing, but that is not enough to fund the entire program.
“We have four churches donating money to the program, either through taking up special collections, or from their operating budget,” said Burkett. “We suggest that anyone who wishes to help this program make a donation through the Ashe County Wildlife Club, P.O. Box 1229, West Jefferson, N.C 28694, and mark the check as a donation to the Hunters for the Hungry. That way, we know all of the money stays in Ashe County. “
Burkett said that the number of deer donated each year to Hunters for the Hungry has steadily increased as hunters who are not members of the Wildlife Club have heard about it.
“There are more hungry people in the county this year with a slow economy and lay-offs at some of our major employers. We need more hunters to bring in the deer, and more donors among individuals, churches and businesses to help pay for processing the meat,” said Burkett.
The Ashe Wildlife Club maintains a club house, rifle range, shotgun sports ranges, and pistol range at 3220 Big Peak Creek Road near Laurel Springs. Membership is $100 per year ($125 for new members). Month meetings start again in February 2014, but new members can still join before the meetings begin. Membership applications can be found at www.acwlc.org, or picked up in person from Weaver Equipment Company at 102 South Main St., Jefferson.