EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The hunt is over. Now bring on the venison! Just a day after the gun-deer season comes to an end, meat processing shops are keeping busy.
And in the season of giving, some hunters are going above and beyond by putting dinner on other family’s tables too.
The DNR’s Deer Donation Program has been around for 13 years now. Over that time, the DNR says hunters have given more than 83,000 deer or 3.7 million pounds of ground venison.
The DNR has a list of participating processors for the Deer Donation Program on its website. You can see the link to the list at the bottom of this story.
Mike’s Star Market in Eau Claire is on the list. Owner Mike Maier said his business has been a part of the donation program since it first got started in 2000.
“A hunter shoots a deer, drops it off and we take care of it from there and it’s no cost to the hunter,” said Maier.
That means no wasted leftovers from this year’s hunt and no dirty work for donators.
“You bring the whole deer. We'll skin it, cut it into steaks, all boneless, wrap it and grind the hamburger. Once we grind it into hamburger, it goes to Feed My People (Food Bank) and they distribute it after that,” said Maier.
Thousands of pounds of venison will be given out to pantries throughout Wisconsin, like the Salvation Army Food Pantry in Chippewa Falls.
Renee Wurzer is the pantry coordinator. She said she’s looking forward to see the venison come in through the program this year.
“It feels great to work with hunters who may get more deer than their families can eat. It helps alleviate that. Also, it helps families have something a little different than on their tables so the venison is an important part of the whole food pantry picture,” said Wurzer.
Maier says so far 25 deer have been donated at his shop, and for those hunters the donation is a win-win.
“They'll shoot another one just to donate it, or some people like to hunt but they don't necessarily like to eat the venison so then they just donate it,” said Maier.
And because of the freezing temperatures, Maier said people are taking their time in bringing in their deer.
“It's not a mad rush so they can bring them in at their leisure because it's cold. They can hang on to them,” said Maier. “It's a Wisconsin tradition to hunt deer its people like to do it. People love the taste of venison.”
The Salvation Army is also looking for donations for holiday cooking like sugar, flour, oatmeal and other baking supplies.