Iowa deer hunters donated 7,070 deer to needy families over the past year through the Help Us Stop Hunger – or HUSH – program. HUSH coordinator Ross Harrison, with the Department of Natural Resources, says this was the seventh year for the program.
Hunters deliver the field-dressed deer to nearly 90 different lockers around the state. “The lockers love it because it’s guaranteed business for them and it generates well over one million servings for Iowa’s needy,” Harrison said. The HUSH program is open to any hunter who pays for an Iowa deer license.
A $1 fee is included on all licenses to pay the meat lockers $65 per deer in processing costs. Harrison says donations to the program have been declining along with the overall harvest of deer in the last three years. “That’s indicating that we’re doing what we set out to do – reduce the deer herd back to 1999 levels. So, it’s working,” Harrison said.
The program benefits the meat lockers, low-income Iowans and hunters – who are given the opportunity to shoot more deer. Harrison credits the Food Bank of Iowa for making the HUSH program a success. “Not only do they help distribute the venison through more than 500 social service organizations scattered throughout the state, they also make administrative payments to lockers and keep the books,” Harrison said.