Who provided over a third of a million high-protein, low-cost meals to hungry Hoosiers this past fall and winter?
You may not have seen them anywhere at the food banks or in the media: most of the benevolent providers wore camo.
Indiana deer hunters, quietly through the Indiana Conservation Officer’s Sportsmen’s Benevolence Fund (SBF), donated a record 1,756 deer to feed the hungry from October 2014 to January 2015. Those deer provided a total of 81,715 pounds of venison for Indiana food banks that provided 326,858 high protein meals.
Statewide average deer processing costs were $60.61 — which averages to $1.30 per pound of venison and $.32 per meal.
“SBF is another way that the DNR Law Enforcement Division works closely with our ethical sportsmen and women to address issues of great interest within our state,” said Danny L. East, DNR Law Enforcement Division Director. “Our partnership with our hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts continues to be one of our top priorities. These numbers speak volumes on how well we are doing.”
Protein, fundamental in the development of the brain and body, is also the hardest commodity for food banks to get, noted Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, a nonprofit organization that partners with the SBF program in providing meat to the hungry.
The donation totals for the 2014-15 season totals are an increase from the 2013-14 deer season which saw 1,411 donated deer, 67,473 pounds of venison providing 269,892 meals.
While deer donation numbers were up, the overall deer harvested by hunters this past season was a decrease from the previous two years, according to data released by the DNR. Indiana hunters harvested 120,073 deer in the 2014 season, but the outcome is by design and reflects DNR efforts to reduce the deer population.
“Several years ago, we modified our management strategy to focus deer herd reduction in a strategically targeted manner to more adequately balance ecological, recreational and economic needs of Indiana citizens,” said Mitch Marcus, chief wildlife biologist for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “We are no longer managing for a stable to increasing deer herd, so the declines in harvest are expected.”
The 2014 total was a 4.4 percent drop from 2013 and an 11.9 percent drop from the all-time record harvest of 136,248 deer in 2012. To view the full report, go to www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/ and locate “2014 Deer Report” in the Hunting & Trapping panel.
Hunters in Indiana have harvested approximately 3.38 million deer since the modern era of regulated deer hunting seasons began in the Hoosier State in 1951.
“The DNR is proud of the hunting community for stepping up to provide for those in need through the SBF Program,” DNR Director Cameron Clark said. “I am proud of the strong relationship that continues to build between our agency and those who enjoy our vast natural resources.”
SBF received public funding in 2013 through a bill authored by Sen. Mike Crider and Sen. Brent Steele.
“I am very pleased with the growth of the SBF program, especially since the statewide deer harvest decreased this season, which shows great support of this program by our citizens,” Crider said. “I am also pleased that the program was once again funded in the state budget that just passed.”
For more information on the Sportsmen’s Benevolence Fund, visit http://www.in.gov/dnr/lawenfor/3987.htm.
Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.