Black Gold Sights - Pure Gold

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 ministry.

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 full time.

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 those concerned!"

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 public.

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 with Wilson.

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 sells!

FHFH has received cash donations and encouragement from many non-hunters and anti-hunters. One of the letters received by the Maryland program states:

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,
Kathy

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,
Tim


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.

 

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