Local deer hunters may take their donated meat to The Butcher Shop in Camdenton, Tom’s Slaughter & Meat Processing in Montreal, K & K Meat Processing in Richland, and Leinbach Custom Butchering LLC in Versailles.

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 their extra venison – from several pounds to the whole 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 online at mdc.mo.gov/share to find the participating processors) 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, K & K Meat Processing in Richland, and Leinbach Custom Butchering LLC in Versailles.

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 4 million pounds of venison have been distributed. In 2018 alone, hunters donated more than 259,400 pounds of meat, including 4,855 whole deer.

“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. Those sponsors include MDC, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Food Banks Association and United Bowhunters of Missouri. Hunters should contact individual processors to find out what funds are available. If funds for the full cost of processing are not available, it is the hunter’s responsibility to pay the difference, Swainston said.

While chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a deadly illness of white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family, there have been no known cases of CWD infecting people. However, 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.

Since 2012, Missouri has found 116 cases of CWD out of more than 100,000 deer sampled, so the disease remains relatively rare in the state. There is a CWD Management Zone consisting of counties within 10 miles of where CWD has been found. The 29 counties for this season include: Adair, Barry,, Cedar, Chariton, Christian, Crawford, Franklin, Gasconade, Hickory, Jowell, Jefferson, Knox, Linn, Macon, Mercer, Oregon, Ozark, Perry, Polk, Putnam, St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stone, Sullivan, Taney, Warren and Washington.

According to Swainston, if a deer has been harvested from one of the 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 located within or directly adjacent to the CWD Management Zone. These processors participating in the Share the Harvest CWD Testing Program can be found online at mdc.mo.gov/cwd under “Share the Harvest.”

If you harvest a deer from counties in the CWD Management Zone and would like to donate it, you must present the CWD barcode number provided at the sampling station to the processor as proof of sampling. If a sample has not been collected before donation, the processor will collect the sample or remove the head and submit it to MDC for sampling. Please refer to the 2019 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations for more information.

New this year, CFM is holding a Share Your Harvest photo contest for those who share their harvests. Before donating a deer to the Share the Harvest program, take a picture and upload it to confedmo.org/programs/outreach/share-the-harvest to be automatically entered into a contest to be held on Jan. 27, 2020.

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