Hunters help feed needy across Iowa

Jennifer Nacin

Deer hunting could offer added benefits for needy Iowans this holiday season.

In their efforts to help to control the state’s deer population, Iowa deer hunters have been given the opportunity to help alleviate hunger in the state.

Thanks to a recent program implemented by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Help Us Stop Hunger program allows hunters to donate deer to feed Iowans in need.

Ross Harrison, HUSH coordinator for the Iowa DNR, said the program, which is in its second year, aims not only to feed hungry Iowans, but also to decrease the deer population.

“This program is important because the deer population is a problem in Iowa,” Harrison said. “We are trying to issue as many deer permits as possible to allow for more hunters and more deer for more meals.”

The DNR is offering 34,000 extra doe permits this year, in hopes of bringing in more deer, he said.

Last year, hunters donated 1,600 deer, Harrison said. With one deer yielding an average of 200 meals, they were able to provide 320,000 meals to people in Iowa. The goal for the program this year is to reach 2,000 deer.

“This program is also great for hunters because they don’t have to pay anything besides the cost of a permit, and the people receiving the food get it for free,” Harrison said.

The program currently covers 55 counties in Central Iowa, and Harrison said the department hopes the program will be expanded state wide.

“The only way we can do that is an appropriation of the state Legislature,” he said, adding that HUSH would need a couple hundred dollars to finance the expansion.

Despite needed money for expansion, the program does receive support from financial contributors, including the Iowa Farm Bureau.

“Our financial support helps in a number of different ways,” said Aaron Putze, public relations director for the Iowa Farm Bureau. “First of all, it provides processors a fair price for their work. Our involvement also helps keep the hunters from paying a processing fee. And it also will provide money to the food bank of Iowa to cover administration costs of the program.”

The only cost in the program is a deer processing fee, which is $55 per deer.

Hunters can donate any field-dressed deer to any of the 30 participating Iowa meat lockers. A list of lockers can be found at the HUSH Web site,

“[Hunters] are just happy that they can have a place where they can shoot more deer and have a place for it to go,” said David McKenzie, a Ridgeport locker owner in Boone who brought in 80 to 100 deer last year.

In Boone, the venison is distributed by the Salvation Army and is split between the city’s two food pantries