Iowa deer hunters donated more than 7,300 deer this past season to a program that serves needy families. The program, called HUSH, stands for Help Us Stop Hunger and has existed for six years. HUSH coordinator Ross Harrison, with the Department of Natural Resources, says donations dropped this year by about 10% compared to last season.
"I think part of that is from a smaller harvest of overall deer, but also, we’ve heard from a lot of hunters that (because of) hard times and difficulties, they’re keeping some of the venison for themselves more than they normally would," Harrison said. Despite the dip in donations, Harrison says hunters helped feed a lot of less fortunate citizens.
He believes Iowa is second in the country in terms of donated deer. "And we’re not even close to number two in total number of deer, but our hunters are just cooperating real well," Harrison said. The HUSH program is open to any hunter that pays for an Iowa deer license. A one-dollar fee is included on all licenses to pay the meat lockers for processing costs. Harrison calls the HUSH program a "win-win-win" effort.
"Hunters get to shoot more deer, which helps the DNR achieve its management goal to reduce deer numbers, our needy citizens are provided with one of the healthiest sources of red meat found and Iowa lockers are given more business to help them through struggling times as well," Harrison said. The Food Bank of Iowa coordinates distribution of the venison to pantries and missions.