A lot of deer will become mighty good tablefare this week: Thanksgiving week, for thousands among us, is a time for celebrating the outdoors now that all the major seasons are open across our Sportsman’s Paradise.
The fishing, both in freshwater and the coastal marshes, is good, too, and, depending on the weather, there hasn’t been a time in two decades when offshore fishermen could pursue red snapper — and keep them.
While many of us can enjoy this bounty, many who live among us aren’t so fortunate. Check out the lines at local soup kitchens most any weekday and you’ll see there are lots of folks who depend on those sources for daily sustenance.
Two oft visited places are the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen near downtown Baton Rouge and Ozanam Inn in New Orleans. Don’t have the exact number, but it's a good guess just these two serve in excess of 400,000 meals per year.
The hope is you’ll see there’s a need here.
It must have been near 25 years ago, maybe more, when Richard Campbell (God rest his soul) called with the idea for a Baton Rouge area Hunters for the Hungry. It was easy to choose that name and just the thought of a Clean Out Your Freezer Day got about 20 folks involved, mostly husbands and wives, in an effort that continues to this day.
Don’t know who it was, maybe Richard, who brought an idea to the group about hunters donating freshly taken deer to help feed the needy. Hunters already were donating deer to the Baton Rouge SVdP kitchen, and high school-aged boys with experience in handling knives and deer prepared venison for a hearty stew. The young men earned their service hours, and the kitchen got a supply of healthy protein.
Within a year, Hunters for the Hungry had enlisted processors to butcher hunters’ donations of freshly taken deer and sent it along to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
It took several more years for H4H to “evangelize” others to this cause of feeding the poor and needy, and, today, Richard Campbell’s dream of a statewide network of “freezer day” collections and deer donations has taken root in every corner of Louisiana.
Here’s how this deer donation program works: Hunters take their deer to a processor listed on the H4H website — h4hla.org/processors. Hunters can keep the backstrap if they choose, and there is no cost to the hunter. The processor usually charges H4H a reduced processing cost, and H4H picks up that cost.
While some processors will take field-dressed deer, others require the deer to be field dressed and skinned, and it’s best to call ahead to the processor to find out the details. Phone numbers are listed on the website.
Julie Grunewald, H4H’s new executive director, said the program is adding new processors, and updated lists are posted as needed.
“We just want hunters to know Hunters for the Hungry slogan continues from the beginning — Hunters who care share! — and to let deer hunters know they can help the poor in their communities with a donation,” Grunewald said. “We’re not asking hunters to take food from their tables, rather to share their bounty.
“We want to let hunters know their donations remain in their communities. The processors have a list of the places needing venison and that’s where the donations go.”
Earlier this year Grunewald urged hunters (fishermen, too) to add a donation in a checkoff when purchasing their hunting and fishing licenses.
“The money raised from that checkoff goes directly into the Hunters for the Hungry fund to pay the processors for the work they do,” Grunewald said. “While we have corporate donors for this program, our work is to raise awareness among sportsmen in our state to donate one or more dollars with this checkoff to make this deer-donation program pay for itself. It’s a goal we know the hunters and fishermen in our state will support.”
Grunewald said the push for checkoffs helped increase this year’s fund, but it’s still not enough.
“If they want to donate now, there’s a box on our website (h4hla.org) they can click to make a monetary donation,” she said.
Outside these lines
Grunewald was all smiles Wednesday when Sysco, a major food provider here, donated 6,400 pounds of chicken and hamburger patties to the Baton Rouge St. Vincent de Paul kitchen, and added Sysco executives assured her it was the first of many donations.
The sad news about Ann Taylor came Wednesday. Ann, who family began the Louisiana Sportsman more than 30 years ago, battled pancreatic cancer until this wicked disease claimed her.
She was a most beautiful woman, loved her family, the outdoors and Louisiana, and her memory will live for a long, long time among those who knew her. Heartfelt condolences to her husband, Tony, her four children and her family. She will be missed, mightily missed.