What I wanted to know is would you continue to kill deer if the donation centers were not available? If so, what would you do with the deer you killed?
The short answer is yes. Venison donation has existed as long as there have been hunters. In a direct but discreet ways responsible hunters understand *BEFORE* they kill what they're going to do with the meat. In my case ... neighbors, friends, family and even our Pastor make it known before the season they'll take any venison I have that doesn't get donated. Some of this is what I call "recreational" venison as in preferred taste but not needed to survive but mostly it's sustenance. I'll often call them before a hunt to ask just to be sure.
In the last few years, it's been an absolute blessing and a heartache to have my neighbors who have lost jobs and nearly their homes swallow their pride and ask for meat. I cannot tell you what this does to your soul. My head hangs and man or woman I reach out and hug them. I know it must be hard to ask for help so I remove the do-gooder stigma and just hunt like I'm on fire because it becomes very personal. Being asked for help is humbling because I know there by the Grace of God go I.
If the formal donation process did not exist, the informal and direct process will always be there if you choose to look.
I believe they plan on hunters not utilizing all their tags when they make their herd reduction projections.
It's hard to generalize like this because each state is different. I know for a fact the deer team in New York State for example does ACTUAL projections and calculations. In other words, yes, they are counting on NY hunters to kill according to the tags issued. There is no fluff or numbers padding in NY.
Here in Virginia where I now live there is padding and fluff. Deer tags are liberal, over the counter and way more than could possibly be accurately relied upon.
Having said this though I also know the game officials have decades of data showing how realistic or unrealistic the goals are. It's a very slippery slope that most game officials play on. Across the board, hunter numbers have slipped while deer population numbers have boomed.
It is a losing battle unless we somehow boost recruitment. Fact is hunters are the ONLY effective wildlife management program we have in this country. Without our license fees to foot the bill for conservation programs and without hunters killing a variety of species we have a massive problem on our hands.
Obviously that does not apply to private land where QDM is practiced. Yes, you'll need to take care of population control yourselves--I understand that.
See that's just the thing. It doesn't matter if you're practicing QDM or not, private land or public land ... the point of the matter is possessing a hunting license in *ANY* state means you're automatically an important management tool who is counted on to maintain herd size and sex ratios in harmony with the habitat to support them. In most places deer densities have exceeded the carrying capacity of the land.
I'm curious what you would do with the deer killed if the donation centers were no longer accepting donations.
What I would do is what I've always done and that's make arrangements in advance to directly donate to people who need food. Back in the day before NY had a venison donation program I had a Priest friend in Rochester, NY take any venison he could get his hands on for his food pantry. We (my hunting buddies and I) would process the meat for him and deliver several hundred pounds each year and it was never enough. It came in the front door and 24 hours later it was gone.
Now Father Dan is supported by the Venison Donation Coalition which is more organized and routine than we were but sadly, he tells me it's STILL not enough. Demand has gone through the roof in the last 5 years.
I've heard that some the ones here will stop accepting them once they reach a predetermined number.
There are several versions of how these venison donation programs work but essentially they are ALL driven by a bottom line budget.
The approved processors either get paid per pound or per animal. Some of the more socially conscious processors reduce their per animal rates and therefore process more meat. Some process X number of free animals as a contribution to the programs. Some hold a hard line on what they need $-wise to process an animal because by and large these processors are small family run businesses. At the end of the day, when the $ that funds a particular venison donation program runs out, the wheels stop.
So, yes, you're right, late into the season it's always a good thing to understand who is tapped out and who is not but don't over complicate the matter. I may be unique in that I hunt in several states and several local counties. I hunt where I am invited and where some of my outdoor work takes me but largely we ALL hunt in a fairly confined perimeter of 100 sq miles. Within that box there is either a program or not or a processor (or not). If there is someone available, bingo. If there is not, sadly, you either drive farther than you'd like, donate directly or stop hunting.
Someday there will be a national network of MEAT (not just venison) donation instead of the grass roots, localized hodge podge of programs stitched together to fill a need but you know what? In this great country of ours there is a lack of will to fund such a program and in many cases a complete denial there is a problem with Americans going hungry. Behind the scenes you have animal rights organizations who are better funded and better positioned politically who will fight tooth-n-nail to make sure hungry Americans are not fed by the bounty of our wildlife. More to the point their ultimate goal is to strip away our right to hunt ANYTHING.
And just in case someone out there is thinking I'm a flaming liberal (I'm not) I'd like to recognize that yes, there are many people within the "system" that take full advantage of the generosity of hunters and gov't and state programs to carry their lives. These folks are forever dependent on hand outs and have no intention of ever getting back on their feet.
However, the majority of Americans relying on food donation programs are the working poor (people who have jobs that don't sustain daily needs), single Mom's left holding the bag with kids, unemployed people having a hard time getting another job and the list goes on. When you serve food to children the age of your own kids it changes you from the inside out. It changed me and when I whine about how cold it is or how unmotivated I am I think of the children I've served meals to who are just like my kids and somehow the boots go on and out the door I go.
This is not me patting myself on the back. This is me encouraging you to reach deep within and ask what you can do to help.
So I would need to call each day prior to hunting to see if I can still donate. Otherwise I would probably stop hunting for the season unless I had someone take what I killed.
This is true but keep in mind once you get in the swing of things you'll know what your donation center options are. I'm not a wealthy man but even if I show up and they can't accept any more deer they almost always will process the deer at a reduced fee and still make the necessary arrangements for the food bank to come by and pick up your deer for distribution. There have been times when I paid full freight for the processor to take the animal and put the meat through the system.
I asked my Pastor last year if we could pass the plate and instead of dedicating that money to our own food bank efforts we'd write a check to three local processors to keep them going. As it turned out 120 more deer were processed that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Lots of different ways to make the wheels turn if you're motivated enough.
Still very interested in hearing the rest of the story. I curious about where this one is going to go...
Understood. Although I suspect there may be some disappointment and anger at where this one is going to go.