Game Donation Leaves A Somewhat Bitter Taste

You know, ever since Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry introduced the program of donating venison to local food shelves I’ve been a bit uneasy about the concept.   Granted, on one hand it’s always a noble and humanitarian thing to do to help those out who are less fortunate in our world.   Yet, on the other hand I was raised with the belief that YOU ate what YOU shot…and that if you didn’t intend to eat it then it would be wise practice for you not to be shooting at it.   I suspect I’m not alone in being taught that hunting philosophy during my formative years.

I’m growing more concerned that in today’s world this basic tenant of hunting does not have the same credence that it once carried for sportsmen.   In days gone by hunters took to the woods with a purpose in mind…and most often that purpose was to put food on the table for the family.   Now, that purpose may still exist for many, but for some it is diluted by the option of giving away the fruits of the harvest.

Just a few days ago the Minnesota DNR put out a press release stating that a new web site has been put up called Venison Donation MN.   It features a coordinated effort by the Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to develop a policy for hunters to make donations to the food shelves.   Again, I applaud the coordinated efforts by these two agencies to make for a better food donation program…but folks, we’re not collecting canned goods here.   Hunters who take to the woods solely with the intent of giving away the wild game they shoot just somehow feels inherently wrong in my book.   But am I alone feeling that way?

On the years when I have excess game I usually make it a point to give food gifts away at the holidays as a special treat to family and friends.   I’ve always done this and find it to be a festive way to share in the bounty of harvesting a game animal.   I suppose some might make the comparison to me giving away meat to family/friends with the donation programs, but there is a difference.   A big difference in my mind.   Sharing game, as opposed to donating all of the animal, legitimizes the hunt in my mind.

When a hunter goes out in the woods to kill a game animal and then chooses to let someone else worry about the entirety of the meat then the hunter’s purpose for being in the woods becomes suspect.   In other words, the activity becomes almost game-like with the hunt ending moments later after the kill.   The duty to care for the meat so that it stays wholesome is turned over to some meat processor who must then deal with the aftermath of the kill.   Could it be that some 21st Century hunters have lost a bit of the ritualistic connection to the fallen game animal?   Whereas game once killed by early frontiersmen and Native Americans was worshiped and thought of as being a gift from a higher being.   Now the game animal is, in some cases, an inconvenient by-product of a successful hunt.

Please don’t get me wrong…I am not attacking the existence of wonderful programs that accept donated game for the needy, but I am questioning the sudden popularity of such programs.   Indeed, there are many needy who benefit…I won’t dispute that.   I also accept the fact there are times when a hunter might not be able to properly care for the meat so a donation is the best possible alternative to prevent wanton waste.   I might even be willing to understand and reason that a hunter may have more game than his family can reasonably consume…which I’m sure happens all the time in certain circumstances.

I’m just troubled by the modern-day notion that you can participate in the kill but not also have to deal with the aftermath of the hunt.   I’m not saying it’s necessarily wrong…but in my mind it doesn’t seem quite right, either.

So how do you feel about venison donation programs?   Do you see any underlying problems with their existence?   Get beyond the fact they do wonderful things by feeding those who are less fortunate in our society.   Do you think they further allow hunters a quick, convenient, guilt-free way to dispose of meat legally that might have otherwise been discarded or wasted for the coyotes and crows to enjoy?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.