At least two factors contributed to this year's sharp decline in the number of deer donated to Wisconsin's primary venison donation program, not the least of which are the economic hardships being felt by many Americans, including deer hunters.
Coordinators with Wisconsin's Hunt for the Hungry said overall deer contributions have dropped 40 percent from last year's levels. As of last week, the organization collected 1,350 deer, about 800 fewer than 2007.
"Deer hunters fortunate to get extra deer this year are giving the deer meat to relatives or other folks in need," program founder Lee Dudek told the Appleton Post-Crescent.
Tough economic times were only part of the reason for the significant drop-off, however. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported there was a 20 percent decrease in the state's firearms deer harvest this year-in a state that often has one of the largest annual deer kills in the country.
"Hunters did take less deer, which also contributes to the decline in donations," Dudek said.
The 2008 Wisconsin deer kill reflected the lowest number of whitetail taken there in 15 years.
The DNR reports that since the 2000 fall hunting season, hunters in Wisconsin donated more than 68,000 deer and provided more than three million pounds of ground venison to food pantries.