Two events—one disappointing, the other disturbing—serve as a reminder that even though critics tend to focus on the (alleged) horrors of raising livestock, there is plenty of ire left over to direct at game animals, hunters and the complexities of our relationship with the mega-fauna with whom we share this continent.
First, to Georgia for the disturbing.
Two hunters who call the Peach State home, Daryl Bullock and Crawford McConnell, had lined up volunteers and butchering tools, ready to turn donated deer into food for needy families. What was missing, however, were the deer.
“I had 10 people ready to work [last] Saturday to butcher; we got all the equipment, but we don’t have people donating the deer anymore,” Bullock told the Augusta Chronicle. “Years ago, yes. Now we just don’t have that.”
According to the newspaper, Bullock and McConnell started the group Sportsmen Taking Aim Against Hunger in 2006, and began accepting deer donations from hunters and working with local meat processors to package the meat for charity. McConnell said they launched the group because of a need in the community and thought that hunters could help, since one pound of deer meat could feed six people when it’s made into burgers, chili and ground meat.
His suspect culinary calculations aside, the reality is that the group used to receive as many as 30 donated animals each hunting season. This year, though, McConnell said that’s dwindled to a single animal. Deer season closed last week in Georgia.
Why only one? Fewer deer sightings, and thus fewer animals available, is one reason. John Bowers, the assistant wildlife chief with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, noted that the state’s deer population has dropped from about 1.4 million in the late 1990s to only about million today, although he said the smaller deer herd is a more appropriate size.
The other reason cited was that more hunters are unable to cover the cost of processing a deer.
Whatever the reason, the result has been a serious drop in donations. Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta received 843 pounds of deer in 2012, compared with 2,069 pounds in 2010. David Iverson, the executive director of the Columbia County Cares food pantry just west of Augusta, said he didn’t receive a single deer donation this past season, compared with hundreds of pounds of packaged venison he’d received in the past. And the Georgia Hunters for the Hungry group said deer donations dropped from 25,228 pounds of venison in 2010 to 5,172 pounds in 2012.