For Billy Stewart, membership services coordinator for Backyard Bow Pro and local chapter coordinator for Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry, hunting is about heritage and community.
“Traditionally hunters would make a kill and bring it back to the community, not just keep it for themselves,” Stewart explains. “It is our responsibility, our heritage, to share what we harvest.”
Donation hunters like Stewart provide meat for underprivileged families and food relief agencies like MANNA FoodBank. One deer processed into ground meat can provide up to 200 meals, Stewart says.
For those wanting to join the effort, the first step is to complete a hunter education program. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission provides free hunter education courses throughout the year, which cover ethics and responsibility, conservation, wildlife and identification, first aid, specialty hunting and tree-stand safety. Courses are taught by wildlife officers, hunter education specialists and certified volunteer instructors. Schedules may be found on the commission’s website.
After passing this course, donation hunters must purchase an annual hunting license. In Western North Carolina, hunters should first purchase a basic statewide hunting license, followed by a big-game hunting privilege license in order to harvest up to six deer — two bucks and four does. Hunters may purchase bonus antlerless deer licenses that allow harvest of two additional antlerless deer per license.
Next, hunters need land to hunt, some of which comes from donation as well. “Some landowners will call and offer their land for hunting,” Stewart notes. “We have the landowner’s safety in mind long before we even knock on their door.” For nonhunting landowners, it’s a way to get overpopulated deer off their properties while feeding those less fortunate, he adds.
Once a hunter has harvested a deer for donation, the animal must be taken to a state-inspected processing facility. There are three such facilities in WNC: Henderson’s Meat Processing in Flat Rock, Williams Meat Processing in Marion and Little David’s Meat Processing in Burnsville. The hunters should indicate a desire to donate some or all of their harvest to charity, and the facility will contact Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry to facilitate the donation.