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Harvested deer can be donated to food shelves

Minnesota hunters can donate processed venison to food shelves at no or very little cost thanks to a program coordinated by the Minnesota departments of natural resources and agriculture.

The state's venison donation program provides a prized food source to those in need while encouraging hunters to harvest additional animals.

"We recognize that ethically, hunters will not take more deer than they know can be consumed," said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulation programs manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Simply asking someone to take another deer to manage populations provides only half of the picture. The venison donation program was developed to provide hunters an avenue to donate the extra deer they harvest without having to pay processing costs."

The processors in the Bemidji area which are participating in the donation program are Bemidji Locke rand Fish Company, Headwaters Meet Processing in Bagley and H&S Meat Processing in Shevlin.

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 by informing a DNR license agent they would like to donate to the program.

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.