Deer donated to food shelves can be processed at no or reduced cost to hunters.
The program is aimed at providing food to those in need while encouraging hunters to take additional animals to help manage the herd.
In the Bemidji area, hunters may donate their deer by dropping it off at Bemidji Locker and Fish.
"We recognize that hunters will not take more deer than they can consume," said Lou Cornicelli, Big Game Program coordinator for the Minnesota DNR. "The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs."
More details on the venison donation program, as well as a list of participating meat processors, are available at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/donation.
Processors who accept deer are paid $70 to process each animal for food shelf distribution.
"There are a few processors who are charging an additional fee to cover expenses so hunters should check with the processor prior to donating a deer," Cornicelli said.
Funding for the program comes from surcharges placed on antlerless permits and nonresident hunting licenses. Individuals have an opportunity to donate to the program when they buy their deer license or simply by informing a DNR license agent they would like to donate to the program. In 2009, $35,000 was collected through voluntary donations.
To donate a deer, hunters will need to adhere to the following guidelines:
Only whole carcasses with the hide on can be donated; processors will not accept cut and wrapped meat or portions of carcasses.
Information such as permit area of harvest and the DNR number will be collected for tracking purposes.
Processors can only accept carcasses for donation that are free from signs of illness, free of visible decomposition or contamination, and properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.
Processors will reject deer for the donation program that appear to have been mishandled in any way.
Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor prior to donating the deer. The list of processors accepting deer will be regularly updated as more processors register.