Local deer hunters may take their donated meat to The Butcher Shop in Camdenton, Tom’s Slaughter & Meat Processing in Montreal, and Leinbach Custom Butchering LLC in Versailles. Other participating processors throughout the state are listed in the 2018 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations found at permit vendors.

As hunters take to the woods this fall, not only will they be helping to manage the state’s deer herd, they can also help feed those in need. Thanks to Missouri’s Share the Harvest program, a statewide cooperative effort among the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Conservation Federation, Missouri food banks, meat processors, and the hunters themselves, meat is provided to those in need through donated venison.

“Hunting is both an economical and effective way to limit the size of the deer herd,” said Miller County Conservation Agent Eric Swainston. “While some hunters like to hunt to put meat in the freezer, there are some who enjoy hunting for only the trophy buck. Most people tend to agree it’s wasteful, not to mention illegal, to kill deer that won’t be eaten, so what can they do with the venison?”

Well, hunters can choose to donate part or all of any deer they harvest to the Share the Harvest program, Swainston said. All they need to do is take their deer to an approved meat processor (listed in the 2018 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations) to process the meat, where it is then packaged for distribution. Local deer hunters may take their donated meat to The Butcher Shop in Camdenton, Tom’s Slaughter & Meat Processing in Montreal, and Leinbach Custom Butchering LLC in Versailles. Other participating processors throughout the state are listed in the 2018 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations found at permit vendors.

Any Missouri family or individual needing assistance only has to contact the participating charitable agencies and then meat is distributed based on their supply, Swainston explained.

Since the program’s inception in 1992, more than 3.6 million pounds of venison have been distributed. In 2017 alone, hunters donated 289,292 pounds of meat.

“It’s easy to donate. Hunters just need to take their deer to an approved processor and tell them how much they’d like to donate,” Swainston said.

Hunters have the option of donating a few pounds or the whole deer. Processing fees are covered entirely or in part by numerous sponsors when hunters donate a whole deer. The Conservation Federation of Missouri reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated. This allows processors to pass this savings along to hunters, reducing processing fees. Many processors also have local money available that allows deer to be processed for free or at reduced cost. Be sure to contact individual processors to determine if funds are available. If they aren’t, it is your responsibility to pay for the processing, Swainston said.

According to Swainston, if a deer has been harvested from one of the 12 counties where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found, it can only be donated through the processors that are participating in the Share the Harvest CWD Testing Program. These counties include Adair, Cedar, Cole, Franklin, Jefferson, Linn, Macon, Oregon, Perry, Polk, St. Clair and Ste. Genevieve. Hunters can have their deer sampled for CWD before donating the animals. They must, however, present the CWD barcode number provided at the sampling location to the participating processor as proof of sampling. Hunters may also present their deer for donation to approved processors in or near any of the CWD counties, and the processor will collect a sample for testing.

While there have been no cases of CWD infecting people, the Cen­ters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends having deer tested for CWD if harvested in an area known to have cases of the disease. The CDC also recommends not eating meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

If you harvest a deer from certain counties in the CWD Management Zone during Nov. 10 or 11, 2018, you must take your deer -- or the head with at least 6 inches of the neck in place -- on the day of harvest to one of the following CWD sampling stations. The 31 counties for mandatory sampling are: Adair, Barry, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Cedar, Cole, Crawford, Franklin, Grundy, Hickory, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Macon, Madison, McDonald, Mercer, Moniteau, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren, and Washington. Please refer to the 2018 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations for more information.

For more information, contact Tisha Holden at (417) 532-7904 ext. 6341