“What a great opening weekend!” Kurt Thiede, DNR administrator
MADISON – “’Trophy’ can mean different things to different people; whether it’s the buck of a lifetime, a young buck, a first deer or an antlerless deer,” said Kurt Thiede, Department of Natural Resources administrator of the wildlife management program. “The important thing is that folks participated this past weekend and many were successful…that is what will keep our hunting tradition strong in this state.”
With another five days left in the popular gun deer season that includes what is a long Thanksgiving weekend for many people, there is a lot of hunting opportunity left according to Thiede. The traditional nine-day gun hunt runs through Sunday Nov. 27.
“If you hunt in an area where you saw a lot of antlerless deer on opening weekend, which may be in the chronic wasting disease management zone or in a herd control unit and you have an antlerless tag available, please consider filling that tag,” says Thiede. “Many units still have antlerless tags available and they can be purchased from our license vendors. In addition to the rest of this regular deer gun season, we also have the four-day early December antlerless gun hunt, the 10-day muzzleloader hunt, the late archery season, and in the CWD zones - the Holiday hunt. Food pantries are looking for donations.”
Thiede encourages hunters to donate deer to the state’s venison donation program. Early donations are running slower than in past years – perhaps because of having no earn-a-buck this year -- but demand is strong for the high quality food. Wisconsin meat processors and civic groups all across Wisconsin participate in the program. There is no cost to hunters other than transporting a deer carcass to a registration station and then to a participating processor.
“Your harvest can be donated to help feed the hungry or, it could mean a little extra free range and lean meat for your freezer, or maybe some always popular venison sausage,” says Thiede. “Also, it truly helps keep our valuable deer herd in balance and healthy.
Jerry Stoddard, owner of Stoddard Country Grove Market in Cottage Grove, and Dick Dickman, owner of Dick’s Quality Meats in Mt. Horeb, participate in the pantry donation program which provides venison to local food pantries.
“In the past, people have been really good about donating,” Dickman said. This fall, Dickman said that the number of deer being brought to his market during archery season have been good. “They’re out there,” said Dickman. “And they’re all big deer.”
Once the venison is processed, community groups assist in distributing the packages of ground venison to food pantries
Michelle Friedrich with the Southwest Community Action Partnership (SWCAP) in Dodgeville and the Target Hunger point person stresses the need for deer donation. “Being able to provide venison to needy families helps to fill a very real need,” she said. “When we have venison, it flies out the door.” Last year, Target Hunger received more than 58,000 pounds of venison from 1,300 donated deer. Their goal is to reach 2,000 deer donations this season.
A list of participating processors is available online. Hunters are encouraged to call ahead to check business hours and if the processor has space available.
Pantry donation locations within the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone (CWD-MZ) will also sample and register deer. The DNR recommends that hunters who wish to donate a deer that was harvested in the CWD-MZ take it to a processor who operates within the CWD-MZ as well.
“We skin them, bone them and freeze them in crates with the registration tags,” says Stoddard of a testing process that determines if the deer has CWD. If the test is negative the meat is ground into hamburger for distribution or if positive it is disposed of in an approved manner.
“It’s a great program and food pantries really, really appreciate it,” says Dickman who gives all of his donated venison to SWCAP. “It’s all being done right,” he adds.
“With the big opening day behind us, and as we look ahead to the rest of the fall and winter, please consider taking to the field with family and friends to extend the tradition a while longer,” says Thiede. “So as this deer season rolls on I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, and of course….Go Packers, Go Badgers, and Go Hunting!”