Wild Game Meat Donation Month
By Peter Churchbourne, HLF Director
Hunters sharing wild game they harvest with people outside their immediate family has been an important part of helping feed hungry Americans for a long time. That tradition has taken on new importance in the past 30 years with the development of structured programs to deliver game meat to needy, hungry Americans and with newly discovered facts regarding the attitudes of non-hunters towards hunters.
The early ’90s saw the development of organizations that would take donated game, mostly White-tailed deer, from hunters and process the animals into convenient edible meal-size servings for needy families. Today, about 48 independent such organizations are operating around the United States, as well as several programs administered by state fish and wildlife agencies, in what has become known as “hunters for the hungry,” or “hunters sharing the harvest,” or “hunters and farmers feeding the hungry.” There are many different names, but the mission is the same. These groups are operated autonomously from one another. Still, as of this writing, there are efforts to unify them into an organized association to bring more awareness and donations for their missions.
The second important fact about sharing wild game meat with non-hunters comes from newly completed research by the NRA’s Hunters Leadership Forum regarding Americans' attitudes toward hunting and the associated resource book “How To Talk About Hunting” (https://www.americanhunter.org/content/how-to-talk-about-hunting/).
Many new facts were learned about non-hunters attitudes toward hunting and hunters. Still, for the sake of this topic, this research proved that one of the best ways to grow and keep the support from the non-hunting community, which is about 95% of America, is to educate them on the reality of what happens once an animal is harvested. The truth is that hunters eat 99% of the animals they harvest and share 20% of their processed meat with others.
Many non-hunters still believe that hunting is mainly about a trophy – it’s a hunter’s job to educate them on the reality, and one way to do that is to share the great organic protein with them.
It's no secret that the NRA has been one of the leading advocates and supporters of the Hunters for the Hungry movement since the early 90’s. The NRA’s clearinghouse website (www.hfth.nra.org) was developed long before most independent organizations had those resources to help American hunters connect to their local groups and processors. Today, the NRA still maintains our steadfast support, with over $650,000 being donated to the various groups for the support of their mission.
To continue with the advocacy, support, and communication of this important social activity, the NRA’s Hunters’ Leadership Forum recently conducted two surveys and three focus group activities to quantify the amount of game meat shared and donated by hunters across America. The intention was to help the independent organizations understand how to reach more donors and quantify how much game meat is being shared or donated. The first survey called the Hunters for the Hungry (H4H) survey, was conducted with the support of 36 of the 48 independent H4H organizations. The second, called “Quantifying Hunters’ Donations and Sharing of Game Meat,” involved 5005 hunters from all the regions of the US that purchased a hunting license in 2022.
The H4H survey and focus group were completed mainly for the independent organizations and contained lots of interesting data shared with them. The information involved how they are funded, whether the state wildlife agency contributes money to their program, how they compensate their processors, how they communicate to the public, what the area covered by their organization, how old their operation is, how many staff and volunteers do they have, how has CWD affected their operations, etc. The biggest public takeaways from that survey included the total pounds donated, which is about two million pounds a year; the type of game meat donated -mostly White-tailed deer; and the fact that most did not receive enough donations of both game meat and money to complete their year mission.
The second survey that involved the 5005 active hunters also unearthed lots of information that can be used to help expand game meat donation programs and provide guidance on future communication strategies. The compiled and extrapolated data shows that 45% of hunters share game meat with friends, family, and others they know outside of their immediate household. In total, hunters share or donate approximately 20% of all game meat they harvest. We found that 4.3% of hunters donated some or all of their game meat specifically to an organization associated with the Hunters for the Hungry movement. Another 2.6% of hunters donated some or all of their game meat to a group or organization not specifically affiliated with a H4H organization. These would be churches, food pantries, and soup kitchens. Having been involved with the process of donating meat and helping start a few of these H4H organizations over the years, I was surprised and delighted to see this amount of meat being donated beyond the structured programs. Almost 70% of hunters agreed that helping feed others with some of their wild game was important to them, and the reasons for not donating were that they did not have enough for themselves (78%) or did not know where to donate (3%).
By spending the dollars to do the surveys (thank you, HLF donors) and providing you with this information, I am hoping to hear from those of you who read this article. Please find your local H4H group and make a financial contribution – they are working on shoestring budgets to help your fellow Americans. If you have the time and an extra tag, please plan ahead and harvest an extra animal for your local group. It will take you a few extra steps this fall, but it will make a difference for many people. And finally, this is something we all can do – share your game meat with a non-hunter and tell them the truth about hunters’ contributions to rebounding wildlife populations in America. Tell them the truth about hunters’ contributions to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Tell them the truth about our role in providing healthy protein for our families and those in need. Those non-hunters might one day prove to be our advocates.
To help you, the NRA has deemed November as “Wild Game Meat Donation Month” to draw attention to organizations working around the US. Please visit www.NWGMDM.nra.org for tools to help you help spread the word and to find the organizations in your area.
Image: National Wild Game Meat Donation Month
2023-2024 Voice of Leadership Panelists
Jon Zinnel, Federal Ammunition
Dan Forster, Archery Trade Association
Brent Miller, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Rick Brazell, First Hunt Foundation
Mark Peterson, Worldwide Trophy Adventure
Michelle Scheuermann, Bullet Proof Communications
The Voice of Leadership Panel is an appointed group of outdoor industry leaders who have volunteered to contribute their voices on crucial hunting and outdoor recreation issues to inform, inspire, and educate participants within our community.