This deer season the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has one solution for two very different problems.
The DNR is encouraging hunters to shoot as many deer as they like within the CWD management zone in southern Wisconsin. It wants hunters to donate deer they don't need to Target Hunger, a program that provides venison to food pantries.
"We're asking people to shoot more deer than they would ever use and as incentive to do that once they fill their freezers, why not go out and shoot one and help the needy out," explained Greg Matthews, DNR spokesman.
Target Hunger has been slow moving the last couple of years. Butcher shops say its procedures made it difficult for them to participate. Previously they had to keep the deer carcuses frozen while testing was conducted, which could take months. Many shops don't have the freezer space for that.
This year, the program has been revamped, so shops can process the meat before results come back, which now take only a few days. So far, Footville Meat Market has received 35 donations.
"In past years if a person shot a deer and they had no use for it, they might leave it rot outside or, you know, whatever. Now they have a place they can take it. It doesn't cost anything for them to drop it off and I think it helps people feel better about themselves to help other people who are in need," said Kim Hatlevig, Footville Meat Market.
The DNR is encouraging hunters to harvest extra deer through the reintroduction of the earn-a-buck program, where hunters must first shoot an antlerless deer before they can go for a buck. This helps the DNR with its CWD containment policy of keeping the herd in southern Wisconsin as thin as possible.
Target Hunter makes sure those extra deer harvested are not wasted. When the disease was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002, hunters say there was a lot of fear about it.
"That first year, they had it here, they had dumpsters set up at locations you could throw deer in. There was a fear about consuming the deer meat," recalled Andrew Olsen, a hunter. "If you're not going to consume you shouldn't be out there killing just for the killing sake. There's a dual purpose hunting and consuming. You can consume it yourself or give it away."
Those interested in the Target Hunger program can contact the DNR at 608-935-2326.