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Almost three-quarters of a million people hunt in New York. Now that the season is in full swing, one organization is asking hunters also keep in mind less fortunate families even while they provide for their own.

According to the Venison Donation Coalition of New York, the average deer yields 40 pounds of ground meat. That one deer can feed 160 people a nutritious meal.

“I think we’re instructed to share our best or give part of our first harvest,” Greg Fuerst, coordinator for the statewide Venison Donation Program, said, “and when you do that as a hunter – give away your first deer then worry about family later – the feeling is overwhelming. It’s very, very rewarding.”

Hunters can drop off legally-tagged, properly field-dressed deer at two Genesee County locations. Those processors then ground the venison, freeze it and call food banks, like Foodlink in Rochester, to add it to the menu.

Fuerst says it’s convenient and necessary.

“As the deer herd goes up and down the DEC issues varying numbers of doe permits every year to control the herd. That’s where the excess tags and the excess deer might come from. Hunters use it for their families, then the excess deer that need to be harvested to properly manage the herd get donated through the venison donation program. The average family probably uses one or two deer per year, so if he’s able to harvest five or six out of those nine tags he’s entitled to, he has an outlet.”

Hunters in Genesee County have donated about 4-500 hundred pounds of meat.

Fuerst says venison is a great option for food banks because it’s low in fat and cholesterol. Plus having it in ground form makes it easy to create many versatile meals.

Call ahead to local processors Back To Nature taxidermy in Oakfield and M&M Meats in Batavia. There’s plenty of information at venisondonation.org.

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KenBarrett
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