Deer hunting is a longstanding tradition in the South. Hunters plan their schedules around and count down the days until the start of deer season, which begins on Sept. 12 for archers and on Oct. 17 for hunters who prefer to use firearms.
Many people who hunt can provide food for themselves and their family this way. With the Georgia Hunters for the Hungry program, they can also help people in need.
Since 1993, the Georgia Hunters for the Hungry program, sponsored by the Georgia Wildlife Federation, has provided an opportunity for hunters to donate their harvest to local food banks from Oct. 17 to Jan. 10. All hunters are asked to do is bring in a field-dressed deer to an approved processor and tell them they wish to donate it to Hunters for the Hungry.
Last year, there were 19 processors who participated in the program. Together, they collected 15,360 pounds of venison that provided 61,440 “high-quality, protein-rich meals” to those in need.
The Meat Shed is a meat processor located at 235 New Phoenix Road that serves as a drop-off location for hunters in the Putnam County area who wish to donate venison to the program.
Owner Drew Copelan says he participated as a donor in the past and, when he opened his own deer processing company, he wanted to help others be involved and provide the opportunity for hunters to donate meat to people in need.
The meat is donated to a soup kitchen in Milledgeville called Café Central. He says he gets so many donations that he usually will take some meat to other organizations in the area that help feed others.
“It’s almost daily that I get a donation,” Copelan said. “We’re probably one of the largest in Georgia.”
According to Hunters for the Hungry program director Adam Schiavone, The Meat Shed donated 2,500 pounds of venison last year, and The Meat Shed and Steve Bishop Taxidermy in Covington are the top donors each year.
This year, there are only 13 approved processors in the program. Hunters for the Hungry is expecting to be able to fund about 7,000 pounds of donations at this time, but Schiavone says he is confident that more donations will come in to allow the program to pay for the processing of more poundage and allow the program to reach more people.