With the deer opener this Friday, Sportsmen Against Hunger in Fargo hopes hunters will donate venison.
The program uses the donated meat to benefit area food shelves.
"It is a legally-obtained game donation program," says Community Action Partnership Program Director Sarah Hasbargen. "We work with processors across the state where people can go in and donate their deer," she says.
But the decrease in the deer population and following one-deer hunting limit has directly impacted the number of donations given to the program.
"In 2010, we had about 300 deer donated, 2011 about 200 deer, last year we only had about 100," she says.
According to North Dakota Game and Fish, the number of gun and muzzle-loader licenses given out for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 deer hunting seasons were about 140,000. In the past three years, that number has decreased to 60,000.
With one deer per license, Sportsmen Against Hunger had to find another opportunity.
"We accepted geese in 2012 and it has been a remarkable success," says Hasbargen.
The daily hunting limit on snow geese, for example, is 50. The organization has already accepted 1,269 of snow, blue and Ross's geese. Canada geese are only able to be donated during the late-summer season, though North Dakota Game and Fish is working on expanding that opportunity.
"When you look at the number of snow geese that hunters are able to legally take, here is just a perfect scenario," says North Dakota Game and Fish Biologist Doug Leier.
Goose breasts are packaged in one-to-two-pound packages. Venison is ground into one-pound rolls. With a 50-goose daily limit and 100 to 200 pounds of meat on a single deer, that's a lot of meals.
"If you donate one, you just fed 100 meals. I mean, that's insane. It's so cool!" says Hasbargen.
"Think about it ahead of time instead of when you go in the freezer a year later and you still have deer from last year that you didn't utilize," says Leier. "Think about it now as we get ready for the season and if you don't think you'll be able to use that venison, consider donating it to Sportsmen Against Hunger. It's a great program," he says.
The game is hunted locally and donated locally.
"It's a way to do something you love and also give back to the community," says Hasbargen.