Returning Hunters to Their Heritage as Food Providers
By C.J. Winand
Many older hunters can remember when seeing a deer track was a novelty.
Who would have thought that some day we would have too many deer throughout
North America? But the fact is, with liberal bag limits and extended
seasons many hunters are put in the position of being able to harvest
more deer than they can personally consume or give away. With this new
problem comes new management challenges and a question - exactly what
are we going to do with all these deer? A big part of the solution may
lie with a bow hunter from Maryland named Rick Wilson. During the late
90's Wilson formed a national, nonprofit feeding ministry called Farmers
and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) which brings farmers, hunters,
butchers, churches, and the homeless and hungry together into one feeding
The inspiration for FHFH came a few years ago when Wilson was driving
along a highway to meet with some hunting friends. With
only five miles to go, Wilson spotted a woman standing by her car with
the trunk open. Wilson states, "I was a little late and tempted
not to stop, but I'm glad I did. From her dress and the appearance of
her old car stopped along the roadside, it appeared she was not doing
well." When Wilson stopped, he asked if her car was broken down.
"No, but could you please help me over here in the bushes?"
the woman replied. Wilson immediately became alarmed, wondering if someone
was waiting to jump him. He cautiously followed the woman until he spotted
a road killed, six-point buck beside some brush. The woman asked, "Could
you please help me put it in my trunk?" When Wilson asked if she
had hit it with her car she said that she hadn't. He then explained
that unless she reported the deer to the State Police or a Wildlife
Conservation Officer she could be issued a citation for transporting
an untagged deer. The women looked squarely into his eyes and slowly
answered, "I don't care...my kids and me are hungry." Immediately,
Wilson realized he was guilty of too much talk and too little action
and helped load the deer into her trunk.
As she was getting ready to close the trunk Wilson asked, "Would
you like me to field dress the buck?" She replied, "No, since
my husband left, me and my kids are gettin' good at it at home...and
they just bleed all over my trunk anyway." As Wilson stood there
watching her drive away, an incredible feeling rushed into his very
soul. At that moment he knew that he had just looked into the eyes of
Jesus. He remembered that Jesus had promised that whenever we show compassion,
even to the least of his brothers and sisters, we are serving him. Wilson
knew that he had to do something...but what?
FHFH Is Born
That fall, Wilson began a venison donation program through his church
in Hagerstown, Maryland. With the help of hunters, several local butchers,
the local food bank and financial support from the community, 2 tons
(16,000 meals) of meat was donated, processed and used to feed the hungry
that first season. At the request of the MD Department of Natural Resources,
the program expanded statewide during 1998 and 27 tons of venison was
donated (216,000 meals).
An idea was birthed to give hunters the opportunity to donate a dollar
or more to the program when purchasing their hunting licenses. Maryland
became the first state to offer their hunters this option and it has
been quite successful. In 1999, hunters in Maryland donated $43,500
to FHFH through the optional $1 donation program enabling 58 tons (464,000
meals) of venison to be donated throughout the state. During the first
several years, this initiative helped provide over a million and a half
meals to the hungry of Maryland! At that point Wilson felt called to
this mission so strongly that he retired from teaching to head the ministry
Due to the increasing abundance of deer available to feed the hungry,
funding that relied on voluntary donations fell short of what would
be needed in order to accept all available deer donations during hunting
season as well as deer available during other parts of the year from
farmers and landowners using deer damage permits. In a unprecedented
move, Tim Lambert, Maryland Sportsmen's Association (MSA) President,
convinced Paul Peditto, Director of The Wildlife and Heritage Service
of the Maryland DNR, to seek a $12 increase for Maryland's basic resident
hunting license that would include $1 from each license for use by programs
that provide donated deer to feed the hungry. This idea became MD Senate
Bill 599. As the bill made it's way through the state legislature-with
surprisingly little opposition for such a dramatic increase-it became
clear that the inclusion of $1.00 for use in providing donated venison
to the hungry helped justify the rest of the increase!
On April 25, 2002, MD Senate Bill 599 was signed into law. According
to Peditto, "This bill will result in nearly $100,000 available
for venison donation efforts in Maryland; while eliminating a major
roadblock for hunters who want to take additional antlerless deer. We
believe it sets a standard for other states with burgeoning deer populations.
Hunters are providing a free public service, our deer populations will
be reduced, venison donation butchers are being paid for their service
and the hungry are being fed. It's truly a winning combination for all
FHFH Spreads Across America
With the foundation laid in Maryland, the organization began expanding
the program into other states. Currently the states of Alabama, Arizona,
Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana,
Kansas, Michigan, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri,
New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina,
Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin house nearly 40 FHFH programs
who share the common goal of providing donated venison and other big
game to the hungry. Last year FHFH presented their program model to
the rest of the country by attending all the major wildlife conferences
and challenging the other state wildlife agencies to follow Maryland's
lead. A national membership campaign has begun with the help of many
of the giants of the archery and hunting industry. The Join FHFH Membership
Donation Menu allows individuals to make a financial donation to the
ministry and receive in return hunting gear and FHFH apparel valued
at more than the amount of their donation. In addition, the hunter receives
a membership card, vehicle window decal and "permission to hunt"
cards that explain to the landowner that a portion or all of the deer
and big game taken on the land will be used to feed the needy. A $25
donation yields over $40 worth of gear. A $1,000 donation yields $1,300
worth of gear. There are seven donation levels in all. Those who participate
will also be entered periodically into drawings for free hunts being
video taped by camera crews from Mossy Oak, Scent-Lok, Bowhunter Magazine,
North American Hunting Club, Bass Pro Shops, USA Outdoors and other
television series. Buck Knives, Scent-Lok suits, Easton Arrows, Knight
Muzzleloaders, Woods-n-Water Plotmasters, FHFH hats and shirts by Golden
Specialties, Whitetails Unlimited prints, Loder's Venison cookbooks
and magazine subscriptions from Vulcan Publications are just some of
products available on the Join FHFH flyer and website (www.fhfh.org).
A toll free number, 1-866-GET FHFH, can also be used to take advantage
of the Join FHFH Membership Donation Menu.
Corporate Sponsors in the Archery and Hunting Industries
Matt McPherson of Mathews Archery is a major supporter FHFH and
has pledged his company's support to the national cause. Matt
would like to see the archery and hunting industry share in underwriting
the basic operating costs of FHFH so that all publicly donated
dollars can be used solely for program expenses. To date the following
industry leaders have pledged donations of up to $10,000 or more
each year: API Outdoors, Easton, Gander Mountain, the International
Bowhunting Organization (IBO), Mathews, Mossy Oak, Scent-Lok and
Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA).
Ken Watkins, President of IBO recently announced the formation
of an important alliance with FHFH. IBO began this partnership
with a $10,000 donation to FHFH and is encouraging each of their
600 clubs to ask each shooter to donate $1 with their registration
at each shoot. IBO clubs are also hosting a series of Charity
Shoots to benefit FHFH.
The North American Hunting Club (NAHC) has included full-page
monthly ads in their North American Hunter magazine asking their
members to donate. During 2001, contributions from NAHC members
along with matching donations from Mathews, Mossy Oak and Scent-Lok
yielded over $60,000! NAHC, QDMA, and The US and International
Archer are also printing editorials, regular news updates and
providing free full-page, full-color ads in their magazines.
QDMA President, Brian Murphy, has announced their support for
FHFH by giving a dollar from every catalog merchandise order and
by raising funding for FHFH at their banquets. The Pope and Young
Club has been providing annual grants during the past couple of
years of up to $5,000 per year, and has recently announced that
FHFH has been selected to be the 2003 recipient of the Pope and
Young Club's prestigious Stewardship Award. This is an award recognizing
a bowhunter or organization that, by their actions, has conveyed
a positive, good-citizen image to the hunting and non-hunting
Toxey Haas and Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland from Mossy Oak
Productions have produced and been running two 30-second FHFH
commercials on "The American Hunter" and "Mossy
Oak's Hunting the Country" which air on ESPN and The Outdoor
Channel. Mossy Oak Productions has devoted several entire half
hour episodes to FHFH. The programs have led to thousands of phone
calls, e-mails and faxes-many of which have developed into new
FHFH local programs.
Easton Outdoors, with the support of President Erik Watts, has
donated $35,000 in cash and arrows to FHFH. Paul Meeks, President
of API Outdoors, is donating a percentage from every treestand
they manufacture. During the first two years this has resulted
in nearly $20,000. Chuck Kidney, President of Tiger-Tuff, is doing
the same to help support the national movement of FHFH. The Gander
Mountain stores, Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World store in Maryland,
and Kinsey's Outdoors in Pennsylvania are asking each of their
customers to donate $1.00 or more to FHFH. Together they have
raised thousands of dollars. Kevin Kreh from Hawg's Limited Synthetic
Deer Scents has established an affiliation with FHFH and has included
the FHFH logo on all product labeling. Five cents from every bottle
they sell is being donated to FHFH. Suzuki has offered to provide
a 4-wheeler ATV to each of the FHFH programs at half dealer cost.
Suzuki has also donated several Suzuki QuadRunners for use in
FHFH national fundraising campaigns.
Chuck Buck, CEO of Buck Knives, supports FHFH with a wonderful
variety of knives that are used in fundraising efforts. The International
Trophy Hunting and Fishing Club is donating $1.00 from each of
their memberships. Whitetails Unlimited has donated signed and
numbered prints and ads in their quarterly magazine. LEM butchering
supplies has an optional donation line item set up for FHFH on
all their order forms.
Knight Rifles and Nature's Essence have been providing generous
amounts of their products to FHFH affiliate chapters and to the
FHFH Donation Menu. Loggy Bayou and Muzzy broadheads have been
making annual financial donations and Ameristep is raising many
dollars by including an FHFH National Giveaway donation envelope
in each of their products. Nature's Essence is also asking each
of their customers to donate every time they order. Bowsite.com
and Hunting.net have provided online banner ads to help spread
the word about the feeding ministry. Gerry Callouiette, host of
the God's Great Outdoors radio program, is spreading the FHFH
message by airing several interviews and promotional spots taped
These fine organizations and companies are surely a blessing
to all of us in the hunting community. They thoroughly believe
the future of our beloved sport will depend on organizations like
FHFH and dedicated people like Wilson. For those that contribute
money from each item sold, FHFH has produced a sticker that can
be placed on the products stating "Your Purchase Will Help
Feed the Hungry". Window decals have also been produced in
cooperation with a number of sponsors featuring the FHFH logo
along with the sponsoring company's logo that read, "I Hunt
and I Feed the Hungry".
Non-Hunters and Anti-Hunters Are Helping
It wasn't long ago that the fate of any given tribe was dependent largely
on the success of the tribe's hunters. Their purpose was simple-kill
animals or starve to death. Unlike the hapless participants of today's
"reality" TV programs, hunters were the providers that nourished
the tribe. With burgeoning deer populations across the nation, hunters
must return to yesteryear and re-claim their rightful role as food providers.
What can the anti-hunters say when they see pictures of homeless and
under privileged children being fed venison? We know all too well how
the hunting community seems to lose the battle of "emotions"
that those opposed to hunting push to the general public. The FHFH program
produces a win-win situation that even those opposed to hunting have
a difficult time criticizing.
Research has found that 80 percent of all non-hunters approve of hunting
as long as the meat is being utilized. This is reflected whenever a
deer sharp-shooting program must be initiated to help control numbers
of deer in a given area. Nothing addresses public concern for animals
like using the meat to feed hungry children and families. Again-emotion
FHFH has received cash donations and encouragement from many non-hunters
and anti-hunters. One of the letters received by the Maryland program
I have always been avidly opposed to hunting.
But your story really got my attention and gave me some hope for all
concerned (the animals, that won't die in vain to grace the wall of
someone's game room and those people who truly need help). My husband
was surprised when I told him I wanted to make this $100 donation.
Thank you for your gift,
The following e-mail arrived after Mossy Oak Productions aired the
FHFH story on TNN in the fall of 2001:
My name is Tim, and I'm a very liberal
person who lives in California. I saw one of your TV shows on the
TNN channel on Sunday the 16th of December. I've been a strong critic
for years about hunting. After seeing your show I've had a complete
change of mind and attitude. Your organization is fantastic. You guys
have changed me and opened my eyes to the reality of life and hunters
and the good you can do for people in need. I am now a big fan of
yours and will never criticize the hunters of this country anymore.
Thank you very much and keep up the good work you do.
With love and respect always,
Many worthy organizations have spent a lot of money in educating the
non-hunting public about the benefits of hunting. Some argue that these
pro-hunting organizations have done a good job, while others believe
that we are in a losing battle. Either way, most feel that the future
of hunting rests in our hands and many experts in the wildlife field
agree that donating extra deer and other big game to food banks is one
of the real keys to retaining the privilege to hunt.
Join FHFH and Return to Your Hunting Heritage
Most of the local and state programs across the country that use venison
to feed the hungry have relied on hunters to voluntarily donate some
of their meat to food banks and to pay the processing bill themselves.
This is a limiting factor that has caused many such programs to remain
small in scale or to fold completely, dashing the good intentions of
many individuals and organizations. Gathering the dollars to compensate
butchers so that hunters can donate deer without cost, and securing
funding to provide for a full-time director to coordinate the donation
and distribution of the meat forms the foundation for a large-scale
venison donation program. Successful programs in Virginia and Maryland
have shown this to be true. FHFH seeks to provide the necessary assistance
to establish venison donation programs in each state with solid funding
bases and full time directors to carry out the ministry.
A 100-pound deer yields approximately 200 meals and costs FHFH an average
of $50 to process, equating to $1 per pound or about 25 cents per serving.
For comparison, the retail costs of the same cuts of beef run from $3
- $9 per pound. Needless to say, this program is one of our most cost-effective
options for promoting the value of our cherished sport well into this
new century. Since 1997, hunters in more than half the states of our
nation have donated over 1,400 tons of nutritions venison and other
big game providing over 10 million meals to the poor. This could feed
the entire population of Washington, D.C. for two weeks!
FHFH invites you join the effort. FHFH is challenging individuals,
national hunting organizations as well as the archery and firearms industries
to help feed the hungry through promotional and financial assistance.
They are also looking for professional grant writers, area coordinators,
and other volunteers to help with their cause of feeding the hungry.
Obviously FHFH has the potential to revitalize our hunting heritage-a
heritage that began when early man hunted with a bowed stick and string
along with wooden arrows to feed his hungry village!
FHFH has only one business - Feeding
the Hungry. They have no other agendas. What we do now will
most likely determine the future of hunting which our kids will inherit.
If you are interested in becoming an FHFH Area Coordinator, call (301)
739-3000. If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution,
call FHFH at 1-866-GET-FHFH. Donations can also be
made and more information about FHFH can be found at www.fhfh.org.