'It's a year-long passion': Hunters helping feed the hungry during deer season
It’s deer hunting season in Ohio. This year about 300,000 hunters will make their way into the state’s forests to hunt for deer, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There are many different reasons people hunt, but some do it to help feed those in need.
During the gun hunting season, Tim Fisher is usually up by five in the morning and fully geared up and out in the woods before sunrise.
For the last 10 years, Fisher has been donating some of the meat he collects through the non-profit Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH). He’s also the volunteer coordinator for the local chapter in Springboro, OH.
Typically, the local chapter relies on donations and fundraisers to coordinate with local butchers and pay for the fees to process the venison meat. The meat is later donated to churches, food pantries or soup kitchens.
Venison is as a lean, low-fat meat high in protein. Fresh meat can be expensive for some and hard to come by for organizations with a limited budget, according to Fisher.
For him, hunting isn't just a kill. It’s a year-long passion and a lifetime study of nature and wild animals.
“Spending time in nature it’s worth its weight in gold,” Fisher said. “It's that time in my life when it's not about getting that biggest animal to pin him to the wall. It's more about giving back. And in this instance, it's giving back to the hungry.”
The FHFH has helped donate over 20 million servings of of meat since its inception in 1997. During last year's hunting season, FHFH helped donate over 270,000 servings of venison meat in Ohio alone, according to FHFH records.
Even with a long track record, the biggest challenge is letting other hunters know the program exists. Sometimes an added obstacle is finding a local butcher that can ground the meat since this year, many butchers are struggling to hire enough workers. Some butchers the chapter typically partner with have had to cut operating hours too, according to Fisher.
“It really is a struggle for us, there’s just so many people that have no idea about us,” Fisher said. “And right now, a lot of butchers struggle with employment, finding quality employees to butcher animals, and it's sad.”
Fisher said all a hunter has to do is have a legal hunting license and a deer permit or deer tag. After that, he said the donation is just an act of kindness.
Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.