Venison meatloaf. It’s without question my favorite meal. I make it with an Italian twist — seasoned with breadcrumbs, chopped garlic and onions and a layer of provolone cheese and genoa salami rolled up in the middle before topping it with freshly made tomato sauce.

I look forward to hunting each fall partly to watch the woods come alive with the morning sunrise, partly because I get to fill my freezer with enough food to carry me through the next few months, and most rewarding, I get to share my harvest with those in need.

Hunters are fortunate to enjoy fresh venison each fall and once in awhile you can find it in a restaurant or two, but there’s even more Americans who find venison on the table at what might seem like an unlikely place — your local soup kitchen.

In 2009 alone, over 2.6 million pounds of wild game was donated by hunters to the poor and hungry. It was enough to make over 10.3 million hot meals for those less fortunate than us and just one example of how hunters give back.

Hunting in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut my family and I have donated our share of deer and watched the venison donation programs in action. As whitetail populations continue to explode in suburban areas, hunters are called in to control the populations and restore balance within the deer herd. This translates into longer hunting seasons and higher harvest goals.

In Connecticut, for example, archery season runs from September 15th through January 31st and hunters receive 3 antlerless tags and 3 either sex tags. On top of that you can turn your used antlerless tag in for a replacement tag and repeat the process. If you fill two replacement antlerless tags you can get another either sex tag — that’s 9 tags right there and 9 deer is a lot of venison for one person to eat.

Move across state lines into New York and you’ll find State Parks opening up to controlled hunts in an effort to control the deer population in what were previously large “deer sanctuaries.” With hunting now allowed in certain Westchester County Parks, the hope is that the deer population will fall within the carrying capacity of the land and give the forest a chance to restore lost habitat.

It’s a win-win for municipalities, hunters and soup kitchens. Deer populations get reduced, hunters gain access to hunt new lands and meat, the number one item needed at soup kitchens, is donated to provide hundreds of meals for those in need. Nearly every state has a venison donation program and I highly encourage you to participate. Not only will you help others in need and project a positive outlook on hunters, but you’ll also feel good about giving back. I know I do.

Here is a list of venison donation organizations near you. Make a copy of the listing and hang it up in deer camp. Help out a needy family this season.