Finding a reliable funding source to feed the hungry and control burgeoning deer populations has been an effort for every state wildlife agency. The bottom line is coming up with adequate dollars to pay butchers for services.
In an unprecedented move, Tim Lambert, Maryland Sportsmen’s Association (MSA) – Past President, convinced Paul Peditto, Director of The Wildlife and Heritage Service of the Maryland DNR, to seek a $12 increase for Maryland’s basic resident hunting license that would include $1 from each license for use by programs that provide donated deer to feed the hungry.
This idea became MD Senate Bill 599, which reads: “The Department shall use $1.00 from the sale of each resident regular and full season nonresident hunting license to provide funding for the processing of deer for donation to the needy.” As the bill made its way through the state legislature with little opposition, it became clear that the inclusion of $1.00 for use in providing donated venison to the hungry helped justify the rest of the increase.
On April 25, 2002, MD Senate Bill 599 was signed into law. According to Peditto, “This bill will result in nearly $100,000 available for venison donation efforts in Maryland; while eliminating a major roadblock for hunters who want to take additional antlerless deer. We believe it sets a standard for other states with burgeoning deer populations. Hunters are providing a free public service, our deer populations will be reduced, venison donation butchers are being paid for their service and the hungry are being fed. It’s truly a winning combination for all those concerned.”
With the foundation laid in Maryland, the Farmers and Hunter Feeding the Hungry Organization (FHFH) began to work on developing chapters in other states. Currently the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin house over forty FHFH Chapters who have joined FHFH in the one goal of providing donated venison and other big game to the hungry. Last year FHFH presented their program model to the rest of the country by attending many of the major wildlife conferences and challenging other state wildlife agencies to follow Maryland’s lead.
A national membership campaign has begun with the help of many of the giants of the archery and hunting industry. The “Join FHFH Donation Menu” allows individuals to make a financial donation to the ministry and receive hunting gear and FHFH apparel valued at more than the amount of their donation. In addition, the hunter receives a membership card, vehicle window decal and “permission to hunt” cards that explain to the landowner that a portion or all of the deer and big game taken on the land will be used to feed the needy. A $25 donation yields over $40 worth of gear. A $1,000 donation yields $1,300 worth of gear. There are seven donation levels in all.
Those who participate will also be entered periodically into drawings for free hunts being video taped by camera crews from Mossy Oak, Scent-Lok, Bowhunter Magazine, North American Hunting Club, USA Outdoors and other television series. Buck Knives, Scent-Lok suits, Easton Arrows, Knight Muzzleloaders, API Treestands, Woods-n-Water Plotmaster, FHFH hats and shirts by Golden Specialties, Whitetails Unlimited prints, Loder’s Venison cookbooks and magazine subscriptions from Vulcan Publications are just some of products available on the Join FHFH flyer and website (www.fhfh.org). A toll free number, 1-866-GET FHFH, is also available to participate in the Join FHFH Donation Menu.