HomeOutdoorsNewsIllinois Hunters Encouraged to Donate Deer Harvest as Food Prices Skyrocket

Illinois Hunters Encouraged to Donate Deer Harvest as Food Prices Skyrocket

by Taylor Cunningham

Illinois hunters have harvested a shocking number of deer since hunting season opened on Nov. 18, which has local officials asking them to donate meat to those in need.

With food costs on the rise, the government is looking for ways to help feed those who are struggling to afford groceries. And after hunters took home an accumulation of 52,000 deer during opening weekend alone, officials are encouraging them to utilize a program that processes and distributes the animals for free.

That program, which was set up by the state’s Department of Natural Resources, is called Hunters Feeding Illinois. Thirty-one processors are involved, and they take field-dressed deer and prepare them for local food pantries and soup kitchens.

“Hunters have big hearts,” said Pam Smyers, owner of participating processor, Woodhull Lockers. “It doesn’t cost the hunters anything.”

The companies grind and package venison packages. And then Churches United or Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry ensure the product is delivered.

“We call Churches United in the Quad Cities,” Smyers added. “They seem pretty excited about it when they come down and get it.”

Hunters’ Deer Harvests Donations Go to Participating Food Banks and Soup Kitchens

Woodhull Locker processed 30 deer for the program in 2021. And Smyers said that the donations came from both new and old hunters. One family has even made it a tradition to hand over its first deer of the season each year.

 “I think that’s pretty cool,” she said.

She also said that her company gets a lot of deer from out-of-state hunters because they are located close to the border and hunters can’t take their harvests over state lines.

“They keep the rack or the head. They are glad to know that the meat will go to people who need it,” she shared. 

According to the Illinois Extension, one-in-ten state residents struggle to afford food. And locally harvested and processed food such as venison is not only healthy and wholesome, but it’s also easily and cheaply distributed.

For those of you who are interested in helping, you can find a list of participating processors on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Hunters Feeding Illinois page. Companies may not accept meat if they believe it is too old or otherwise questionable.

Even if you’re not a hunter, you can help by making a tax-deductible donation that helps cover the cost of processing. Checks made payable to the Illinois Conservation Foundation can be mailed to the IDNR.

If you live outside of Illinois and would like to help, check your local government website for similar programs.