Venison to help feed the needy

JEFFERSON, Ga. --- The families of Georgia's hunters often end up with more than their fill of venison by the end of hunting season.


That's where Georgia Hunters for the Hungry, a program that allows hunters to donate meat to local food banks, comes in.

A growing number of hunters in northeast Georgia are donating part of their take to Hunters for the Hungry through Sealey's Deer Cooler in Jefferson, one of the deer-processing companies that accept venison for the program.

Owner Donnell Sealey started accepting venison for Hunters for the Hungry in 2001 and reached a milestone this fall, when the millionth meal's worth of venison given to Hunters for the Hungry was donated at his business.

Because there are so many deer in Georgia, state law allows hunters to take 12 whitetails each hunting season -- though the state Department of Natural Resources says most hunters average about 1.7 deer.

With each animal yielding 60 to 100 pounds of meat, 1.7 deer would provide a five-person household with as many as 170 meals.

"Most hunters' families can't eat that much," Mr. Sealey said. "But the state wants (the deer) gone. That's where programs like this come in."

Officials with the DNR's Wildlife Resources Division have been running Georgia's Hunters for the Hungry program since 1993, said Melissa Cumming, a spokeswoman for DNR.

The program has grown almost every year, but this year it reached a new benchmark by collecting its one-millionth venison meal -- donated by a novice bowhunter named James Pirkle.

Each pound of venison is able to provide five meals.